In Turkey, the school closures started on the 16th of March 2020 and many grades didn’t step foot into a school again until September 2021. That was nearly 18 months of online education – and 18 months of parents dealing with many issues that are normally dealt with by educators. Roll on to February 2022, this is the time that the school where I work holds the entrance exam for potential students. The previous year the exams were taken online, but because Turkey had had undisrupted face-to-face education since September 2021, the school owners and administrators were waiting anxiously to see what the attendance would be. As an added point, Turkey had been going through an enormous economic crisis, with inflation at around 70% and the value of the currency rapidly declining, not a great combination for a fee-paying school. Exam attendance turned out as expected, but the content of the parent interviews that go along with the exams were completely different.

There are standard questions we get asked at these one-to-one meetings:

  1. What universities did last year’s graduates enter?
  2. How many students obtained an IB diploma and with how many points?
  3. How many extra hours do you give for study periods?
  4. Do the students enter Saturday morning courses?
  5. Do you give extra practice exams before the actual exam date?

We prepared for these usual questions – but this time the questions were completely different. At the end of day one we had an administrator meeting to discuss how the day went. The feedback received was very different from previous years and not what we expected. Instead of the usual questions, we were asked about topics such as projects which were done by the school both internationally and nationally, and extracurricular clubs such as Model United Nations, debates, or social responsibility projects. Parents now wanted to know whether or not their children would have the opportunity to attend conferences or be given the chance to give seminars.

What changed during the pandemic, of course, was that we all felt the need for more real social connection – and not through a computer screen. Extracurricular activities at schools give this opportunity to students. Being an IBDP school we get the chance to develop our Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) projects as well as our community projects through the MYP program. These projects were often seen by some parents merely as a necessity to complete the programs but not of any real use as they take time away from valuable study periods. This perception has changed completely, however, parents now appreciate the ethos of these projects and see their educational value, the understanding that learning does not have to take place in the classroom, and that learning through hands-on inquiry has much more educational purpose than reading from any textbook.

Since the pandemic, parents want to take greater interest in their child’s education. Online education showed parents that their children need to take more responsibility when it comes to learning. The IB philosophy of learning by inquiring, researching, and reflecting came to the forefront during the pandemic. Students did not have as much access to their educators and needed to become more independent. Because of the cancellation of exams, coursework became more important, and students were able to embrace the IB way of learning more. They had more time and were able to spend more hours on preparing projects that interested them instead of cramming for exams.

It certainly feels that parents learnt a lot. They learnt that exams are a way of testing but not necessarily the only way, and that maybe their children learned more through investigating. This is how their expectations when choosing a school for their child have changed. The exam average of the school or how many students went to top-rated universities are not the main priorities anymore. Instead it’s a rounded education with opportunities to develop socially, obtain inquiry and research skills as well as being able to reflect on what they have accomplished. When choosing a school for their children these factors used to be an afterthought but are now among the highest criteria. It is clearly up to schools in Turkey to adapt to parents’ new expectations and place less emphasis on exam preparation and more on providing students with a rounded education.

To read the 2022 issue of the International Admissions Bulletin, click here. If you are interested in contributing to our 2023 edition, please email
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