Quality Education in Developing Countries and Gulen Schools – Fethullah Gulen

Quality education is one of the most leveraged investments for catalyzing development, promoting global health and reducing poverty and universal education is one of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.  Despite this, there are still hundreds of million children and young people not in school.

Recent numbers from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics and the Global Monitoring Report [1] suggest that despite advances in improving access to and the quality of education since 2000, progress is stalling.  To address this challenge of access and completion, evidence suggests that quality may be more severe than we thought. For example, recent studies estimate that nearly 200 million children are still unable to read despite spending several years in school, and in some regions of the world poor quality education causes parents to take their children out of school before they complete primary school [2].

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by governments and donors.  There have been countless hours of meetings at the global, regional and local levels on education.  And new policies, strategies and plans have been worked and reworked.  There are over 20 current education-relevant global initiatives, campaigns, processes or opportunities organized by multilateral institutions, bilateral donor agencies, civil society and country actors. These activities have the potential to raise the profile of international education goals. [3]

One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is a project supported by the Miami-based One Laptop per Child Association (OLPCA) and the Cambridge-based OLPC Foundation (OLPCF), two U.S. non-profit organizations set up to oversee the creation of affordable educational devices for use in the developing world. [11] One Laptop Per Child was a good idea, a noble and ambitious one at that. Originally proposed in 2006, OLPC aimed to build an inexpensive laptop that would be sold to governments in the developing world and made available in turn to the children in those countries via their respective ministries of education.[4]

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): In 2000, the member countries of the United Nations set out eight global development goals to be met by 2015, one of which is to achieve universal primary education [5]

Fast Track Initiative (FTI): In 2002, the world community established the FTI to help the poorest countries progress toward the education MDG through both financial and technical support. In 2003, the Netherlands, whose economy is 1/20 the size of the U.S. economy, took the lead among developed countries and contributed $220 million to an initial fund dedicated to the FTI. Norway, Italy, and Belgium have also contributed to the fund. [6]

Although the level of activity is exciting, the multiple activities run the risk of uncoordinated messaging and duplicative—or even contradictory—efforts. While debate is healthy and necessary, better coordination is needed to remain connected at a strategic and functional level. Otherwise, standalone activities may not galvanize the political and financial attention needed to meet collective challenges.

Today. 25 million laptops later,”  The Economist: “A disappointing return from an investment in computing.” OLPC is a classic case of a development program more tailored to the tastes and interests of its funders, than the needs of the people it was supposed to help. [7]

Yet, 61 million children are out still of primary school. While the global number indicates that we may have made no progress from 2009-2010, regional numbers show an even worse story.

Despite the findings, the study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences said the goal of providing a high-quality education to all children could be achieved at a reasonable cost with more support and funding from governments worldwide. “There’s no question that it’s possible,” said David Bloom, one of the authors of the study. “It’s a question of financial resources and it’s a question of political will.” “We … need to pay much more attention to education access at the secondary level and we need to pay attention to educational quality,” Bloom said. “It’s not just a question of getting kids into schools, it’s also a question of what you do with them once they’re in school.” The study attempted to lay out a vision of what the world would look like, “how much better the world would be if instead of using our resources for military purposes we used them to get every kid in the world into school and provide them with quality education.” [8]

While some governments and donors have been straggling to reach their education goals, Gulen inspired schools all over the world have been demonstrating an unprecedented growth and success.

The Gülen-inspired schools, both in their originating country Turkey and abroad, have attracted the attention of scholars due to their continuous academic accomplishments and emphasis on universal ethical values. The provision of quality educational service is evident not only in less developed countries, but also in advanced economies which have an internationally comparable advantage in supplying high standards of education.

The educational perspective of Gülen is the illumination of the mind to science and knowledge, and the lighting of the heart in faith and virtue. This can be accomplished though teachers who are committed to devoting their lives, time and knowledge to teach the younger generations in these educational institutions.

And, the recent findings are speaking about the extraordinary achievement Gulen inspired school demonstrated so far. There are currently more than 1000 Gülen-inspired schools in more than 110 countries around the world. In the European countries, there are at least a dozen Gülen-inspired schools, and more than 150 smaller educational and cultural centers. Generally, Gülen-inspired schools are low fee schools due to the limited wealth of supporters of these educational projects . Students of these educational initiatives have come first in national and international intellectual competitions and Olympiads [9].

Fethullah Gülen states that a good school is not only a building where students learn theoretical information, but also an institution or a laboratory in which students are to be prepared for life by educators.

A high standard of education offered at Gülen-inspired schools is a key factor in parental choice. To Gülen, the schools are to promote respect for other cultures and views. Thus, students in Gulen-inspired schools gain an appreciation of other faiths and cultures as well as their own, in order to harmonise the global modern values with their local cultural traditions

To list the offerings of this school type;

ENVIRONMENT: Private ( on some counties semi-government) School and dorm Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities. Thus, Gülen encouraged business owners to open dormitories where students remained and studied, guided by dedicated teachers. Many students stay at the dormitories in order to study regularly in the evenings under the guidance of their teachers and tutors, who are mainly graduates of the Gulen-inspired schools, to assist students with their homework after schools hours and on the weekend in dormitories.

THE TEACHERS : One of the main factors behind the success of these schools is the role of committed and dedicated teachers at these schools. These teachers,Gülen are dedicating themselves to serve the students. They graduated from the most prestigious universities in Turkey and could get a reasonably good job in their country, yet they prefer to work at Gülen-inspired schools around the globe. The teachers’ unique approach to the education of their students has constructive impacts and has assisted them to be motivated towards their studies with positive influences on their attitudes. inspired by the philosophy of thinker Fethullah Gulen.

TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS : For Gülen, to reach superior education in educational institutions, teachers are to be prepared excellently. Therefore, teachers are regularly trained by in-service training programs given by educational professionals during holiday times through workshops, observations, seminars and conferences

EXTRA-CURRICULAR AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES : Gülen emphasises that “A school must be as perfect as possible”. Hence, teachers in Gülen-inspired schools strive to achieve academic perfection. One of the key factors that accelerate students understanding of concepts is an increase in their problem solving, analytical and practical skills in each subject area, which therefore leads to the outstanding results achieved by the schools

FAMILY VISITS AND PARENT-TEACHER RELATIONSHIP : Fethullah Gülen emphasises the cooperation of the school and family in order to cultivate well educated and morally behaved generations. While the schools should be as perfect as possible as regards the curriculum, exemplary teachers with knowledge and values, and in the overall physical condition of the school, he stresses the necessary role of a family in the provision of a warm and quality environment at home. Visiting student’s families in their homes assist teachers to build trust, to learn about each student’s studying environment at home, to discuss and offer some recommendations to parents related to their child’s education

Gülen-inspired schools provide a unique case in this regard, by opening schools that emphasize sound education. The success of the schools inspired by Gülen’s philosophy is renowned worldwide, and has been recognized and acknowledged by scholars, journalists, intellectuals and government authorities


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