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Enabling Effective Implementation of Competence-Based STEM Curriculum in Turkey

Early this year in March, IBE-UNESCO (IBE) visited Istanbul: Republic of Turkey (Turkey) to launch a STEM Education initiative in collaboration with MEKTEBIM COLLEGE and INTED. The initiative sought to develop a Best Practice STEM curriculum for a chain of 25 MEKTEBIM Schools; premier private schools in Turkey. IBE constituted a team of eleven world-class STEM experts to transform the current curriculum into a Best Practice STEM Curriculum, working closely with the MEKTEBIM team of curriculum and STEM experts.

The skill-mix and experience of the IBE team includes competence-based curriculum; futures curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment; research; 21st century STEM curricula; different dimensions of STEM—science, mathematics, technology, AI, ARs, robotics, mathematics, engineering, and design.

Adopting an integrated approach that ensures a competence-based K-12 STEM curriculum, the IBE team has articulated an initial draft K-12 STEM curriculum that will be piloted in September when the academic year commences. Inputs from teachers, head teachers, and principals of MEKTEBIM schools will further guide the team towards the articulation of a final draft in 2020.  As the work progresses, the team will receive technical reinforcement from IBE private sector partners from technology sector, just to buttress the future-relevance of the new STEM curriculum.

As the IBE-UNESCO Director noted in her opening remarks, “until operationalized through effective teaching and learning, curriculum is just a document on a shelf”.

Seven of the team of eleven IBE experts, including the IBE-UNESCO Director are in Istanbul these two weeks to facilitate an initial 60-hours professional development program for MEKTEBIM schools STEM teachers, and an initial 12-hours course for school principals.

The teachers’ program seeks to improve effective teaching of the new curriculum, which is an indispensable curriculum implementation process. It will heighten teachers’ understanding of the new curriculum, making explicit its demands on teachers, and how teachers should meet such demands.

Working collaboratively with MEKTEBIM curriculum experts and teachers, the program is ran as a professional exchange and peer learning that enriches both sides of the team. It is as rich as it is demanding. Examples of topics covered in the 60-hours teachers’ program including: articulating a common vision and conceptual understanding of STEM; integrated STEM curriculum for I4.0; intergrating STEM daily; computational thinking (CT) through problem solving; from curriculum to CT competence; exploring creative computing; active learning across the curriculum; learning design for decomposition; making STEM relevant and accessible; cognitive silence principles in practice; lesson design for abstraction; using robotics to facilitate collaborative learning; supporting learner engagement and motivation; facilitating deep and lasting learning; enabling learners to build conceptual frames and to develop future generic and STEM-specific competences; supporting learners to adopt a STEM-perspective in their learning, life, and work; articulating developmental progressions from beginners to STEM experts; using developmental progressions to guide assessment; focusing on assessment as integral to effective teaching and learning; using assessment to gather evidence on developmental progressions and to encourage progression; learning progression in STEM; AI in education; implementing AI in teacher lesson planning; gamification in learning; machine learning; etc.

School administrators, managers and leaders—mainly principals, head-teachers, specialists—create enabling or disenabling environments for curriculum implementation. To this end, principals and head-teachers of MEKTBIM schools are going through a 12-hours exchange with the IBE team, focusing on their critical role in ensuring effective implementation of the new curriculum.

Both professional development programs will be followed by the piloting of the new curriculum. This will be used to collect detailed feedback from teachers and principals. Follow up professional development programs will be ran in January 2020. They will start with a show-and-tell of each school experience in piloting the new curriculum, structured feedback and proposed remedial actions. The 2020 sessions will begin to shift the professional development programs from the current induction approach to a demand-led approach.

The professional development programs were officially opened by the President of MEKTEBIM College, Dr. Fuat Sancak and the IBE-UNESCO Director, Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope. Also in attendance were the President of INTED, Dr. Gokhan Coskan, Director of Education for MEKTEBIM College Mr. Erdem Ḉiplak, and the initiative coordinator on MEKTEBIM side Dr. Feridun Ḉaki.

The official opening was followed by a courtesy visit to the Honorable Minister of Education, the Chair of the Education Committee of the NatCom and other senior government officials in the capital city Ankara, by Dr. Fuat Sancak, Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope, Dr. Coskan, and Dr.  Ḉaki. The Honrable Minister reiterated his support and indeed the government’s support of this initiative, as indeed did his senior officials.