copy the linklink copied!Assessment and recommendations

copy the linklink copied!Introduction

Since the OECD review of education in Turkey in 2007, the country has achieved a major expansion of school participation at the same time as significant improvements in the quality and equity of student learning outcomes. However, the gap in educational achievement compared with most member countries of the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD) remains wide and represents a constraint for future growth and productivity (OECD, 2016[1]). International data shows that while more students than ever before are reaching basic levels of numeracy and literacy, a large share of those entering high school still has weak foundations in these essential domains (below Level 2 in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA]). Conversely, only 1% of students in Turkey demonstrate, by age 15, the types of higher order skills needed to participate fully in a modern knowledge economy, and this share has not increased in more than a decade (Level 5 and above in PISA) (OECD, 2016[2]).

Turkey recognises that improving the quality of student outcomes is both a social and economic imperative. This objective has informed over a decade of major curriculum reforms, aimed at shifting the focus of schooling from the memorisation of content knowledge to a competency-based approach focused on active learning and higher-order skills. However, while the direction of change is positive, the impact of reforms on classroom instruction has been limited by assessment practices that have not evolved in line with recent reforms.

It was with a view to addressing the disconnect between Turkey’s ambitions for student learning and assessment, and this reality that characterises many classrooms, that Turkey commissioned this OECD review. Specifically, the country requested recommendations on how to improve teachers’ assessment practice so that it better supports student learning and is more aligned with the curriculum. The OECD was also asked to look at ways Turkey could enhance the positive contribution of national examinations to student learning, and reduce their negative impact, including with respect to student well-being and equity, by concentrating students from the most advantaged backgrounds in the country’s most prestigious schools.

copy the linklink copied!On-going reforms

This OECD review was undertaken at a time of significant change in Turkey’s education system. Following the review team’s missions to Turkey, major reforms were introduced to the examination system, and new systems for teacher appraisal and school evaluation were being developed. A new national plan – the Vision 2023 – was also developed (see Box 1). The direction of many of these changes reflects the recommendations in this review. However, in many cases, the timing means that it has not been possible to provide a thorough analysis of the planned changes. Equally, while the review has tried to address some of these reforms, it has not been possible to reflect all. Most notably, the plans set out in the new national vision have not been included in the main body of the report due to timing.

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Box 1. Turkey’s new Education Vision for 2023

In 2018, Turkey published an ambitious new vision to transform its education system. Central to the vision is creating a more student-centred approach to learning, where teachers adapt instruction to the needs and interests of individual students.

In order to achieve this vision, the country plans to use assessment to better support learning, which is also the focal point of this review. According to the vision, assessment will be adapted to focus less on marks and examination results and more on monitoring the development a student’s competencies, using the information to guide their future decisions and pathways, by:

  • Introducing a new “competency-based assessment system” to monitor students’ competency development.

  • Providing in-service teacher training to improve teachers’ assessment skills, led by a nationwide network of Assessment and Evaluation Centres

  • Implementing an e-portfolio to record student learning from early childhood to the end of schooling with a view to enhancing both academic and social competencies.

  • Creating a new system to monitor student learning, without grading, to inform decisions about students’ pathways and courses.

  • Reducing competition and pressure associated with the national examinations by addressing disparities across different schools and regions, and developing more flexible entrance systems. Over time, the number of students admitted to high schools via the competitive entrance examination will be reduced. Student placement will be based on their place of residence, regardless of exam scores.

  • Restructuring national examinations to prioritise the assessment of higher-order skills like reasoning, critical thinking and interpretation.

The vision also addresses other important aspects of the overall framework for student assessment:

  • Adapting the curriculum to be more flexible, modular and responsive to student interests.

  • Making greater use of existing data systems, including the creation of a Data Monitoring Unit in the Ministry of National Education to encourage more data-based policymaking and more data-informed school management. The Ministry is also making more analysis and data available to the public.

  • Reforming the teaching profession by making initial teacher education more practical and prioritising continuous professional development.

  • Restructuring school inspection, to include both inspection and guidance for school development.

Many of the planned actions are in line with the review’s recommendations. However, since the vision was published after the OECD review was drafted, it has not been possible to analyse these new initiatives in this report.

Source: MoNE (n.d.[3])Vision 2023 [2023 Eğitim Vizyonu]

copy the linklink copied!Main trends: Participation and learning outcomes have improved, but further progress is needed to meet national goals

Participation in primary and lower secondary school is now universal but student drop out in upper secondary students is relatively high

Many of the challenges related to the quality of teaching and learning in Turkish schools need to be understood against the backdrop of the recent, dramatic expansion of access to education. Over the past two decades, Turkey has achieved one of the fastest increases in school enrolment within the OECD. Participation in primary and lower secondary school became universal in 2015 and enrolment in upper secondary education increased by 70% between 2005 and 2015.

However, a relatively high share of students (20% in 2015) still leave school before the end of upper secondary education. This is the consequence of a number of factors, including the wide variations in quality across different types of high schools. It also reflects how assessment is used in Turkey. First, the absence of an examination that provides recognised certification of achievement at the end of compulsory education, which in many countries provides an incentive for learning and completion. Second, the small role that student choice and genuine aptitude have played up until very recently in determining the high school that a student attends.

Graduation from tertiary education has also risen dramatically

Tertiary graduation rates have increased threefold since 2000 (OECD, 2017[4]). Much of this growth has been enabled by an expansion of short-cycle programmes, with the share of new entrants to bachelor’s programmes (55%) well below the OECD average (72%) and far behind student demand (OECD, 2017[4]). This results in significant pressure on students to do well in the national examination that controls access to tertiary education. While over two million students on average take this examination each year, there are only places on the most sought-after bachelor’s programmes for approximately a quarter of candidates (MoNE, 2014[5]).

Student learning outcomes improved significantly between 2003 and 2012

The share of Turkish students who do not acquire basic skills by age 15 (below Level 2 in PISA) has declined substantially. Between 2003 and 2012, the percentage of students who lack basic proficiency in mathematics fell by 10 percentage points, the sharpest reduction among the OECD countries, after Mexico. However, learning outcomes remain low compared to the OECD average. Forty percent of students in Turkey do not demonstrate basic literacy by age 15 and more than half do not reach basic numeracy levels (below the PISA 2015 proficiency Level 2 in these two domains) (Figure 1). These rates are even higher in rural, disadvantaged areas, such as the eastern provinces of Turkey (UNICEF, 2012[6]).

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Figure 1. Percentage of low achievers and top performers in the PISA science and mathematics tests, 2003-15)
Figure 1. Percentage of low achievers and top performers in the PISA science and mathematics tests, 2003-15)

Source: OECD (2016[2])PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education

Selection for the most prestigious high schools accentuates disparities

While equity in learning outcomes has also improved over the past decade – in PISA 2015, students’ socio-economic background explained 9% of the variation in science performance compared to 16% in 2006 – the use of a competitive examination to determine high school placement contributes to disparities in educational access. Almost half of the students in the country’s most prestigious high schools – the science and social science high schools - come from the top quintile according to the PISA Index of Economic, Social and Cultural Status, while only about 10% of students are from the least advantaged quintile. Turkey’s recent change to high school placement, which means that most students will attend their local high school, aims to encourage more equitable access. However, the continued use of the High School Placement Exam will still result in inequities in access notwithstanding important efforts to expand the number of available places in schools where there is high demand.

Students’ outcomes frequently reflect the type of high school that they attend

In Turkey, ensuring more equitable access to high school will help to ensure that students from all backgrounds receive a good quality education and have a fair chance to pursue the tertiary education opportunities that interest them. At present, learning outcomes across the different types of high schools differ significantly. In PISA 2015, students from the prestigious science high schools performed the equivalent of over three school years above their peers in vocational and technical high schools (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. Average reading score and average ESCS by type of school (PISA 2015)
Figure 2. Average reading score and average ESCS by type of school (PISA 2015)

Note: PISA ESCS is the PISA Index of Economic, Social and Cultural Status. The size of the bubble represents the sample size in PISA 2015.

Source: Authors’ calculation based on OECD (2016[2]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education,

Students in Turkey’s prestigious high schools are also much more likely to perform well in the national examination at the end of compulsory education that controls access to tertiary education. In 2016, 54% of graduates from science high schools went on to study for a bachelor’s degree, compared with 23% of graduates from general high schools and just 8% of those from vocational and technical high schools (MoNE, 2016[7]). The disparities in student outcomes across the different types of high school mean that the national examination in Grade 8 that is used to determine student placement to the different high schools carries very high stakes. It was reported to the OECD review team by students, parents and teachers that this puts considerable pressure on students and families to gain access to the best schools, and in the past has fuelled a large system of private tutoring.

copy the linklink copied!The role of student assessment in improving learning outcomes in Turkey

This review analyses how the different types of student assessment – teachers’ classroom assessments, national examinations and national system-level assessments – are currently used in Turkey and provides recommendations on how they can be improved to better support student learning (Table 1). In this, the review draws on the OECD analysis of policies and practices for student assessment in over 30 education systems (see Box 2). This work has identified approaches that are effective in advancing the learning of all students as well as the types of standards, capacity and tools that underpin these. It also looks at how countries use assessment data to inform policy and practice, and shows how the wider evaluation and assessment system can be developed to promote better assessment and, with this, better learning.

Since the 2007 OECD review, Turkey has taken positive steps to improve the integrity and quality of national examinations. These include introducing a common, centralised examination set by the ministry, Transition from Elementary Schools to Secondary Schools Examination (Temel Eğitimden Ortaöğretime Geçiş Sistemi, TEOG). Steps have also been taken to assess a broader range of knowledge and skills in the examination at the end of compulsory education. These include introducing some constructed response items (where only multiple-choice questions were used in the past) and items that assess problem-solving skills in authentic contexts.1

There have also been efforts to improve the learning value of classroom assessment. The new curricula introduced since 2006 have encouraged teachers to conduct formative and performance-based assessments as part of a more student-centred, competency-based approach to teaching and learning. National regulations limiting teachers’ use of summative assessment in the early grades of primary and multiple-choice assessments in the latter grades also aim to encourage teachers to use a broader range of assessments types and focus on how assessment can be used to support learning.

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Table 1. Types of student assessment

Classroom assessments

National or state examinations

National or state assessments


Designed and marked by students’ own teachers and implemented as part of regular classroom instruction.

Standardised examinations with a formal consequence for students (high stakes). Frequently designed and marked outside individual schools.

Standardised assessments without formal consequences for student progression through school or certification (low stakes). Frequently designed and marked outside individual schools. May be taken by a whole student cohort or by a sample of students or schools that is nationally representative.


To summarise learning that has taken place, for example at the end of a learning unit or grade (summative).

To check for understanding during the learning process to identify learning needs, provide feedback to students and adapt teaching strategies (formative). Frequently takes place in the absence of marks.

One type of formative assessment is diagnostic assessment at the beginning of a school year or learning unit to identify students’ starting points.

To mark or certify student achievement with formal consequences for students, such as impacting eligibility to progress to a higher level of education or to complete an officially recognised diploma (summative).

To provide teachers with diagnostic information about student learning in line with national curriculum standards (formative).

To monitor learning nationally and monitor trends over time (system monitoring).

Sources: OECD (2013[8])Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment; OECD (2015[9])Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators

During this review, Turkey also announced a number of changes which create opportunities to use assessment in ways that improve learning and equity. These include important changes to the national examinations for high school and tertiary placement. Plans to change teacher appraisal were also announced, and school evaluation was put on hold pending major reform. While the direction of these changes is positive in many respects, some changes have been introduced quickly and many questions about implementation remain. This review provides suggestions to help the country ensure that the planned changes have a positive impact. In doing so, the report identifies three overarching challenges in how assessment is currently used in Turkey, which should be at the centre of future reforms.

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Box 2. OECD reviews on evaluation and assessment in education

The OECD reviews on evaluation and assessment in education developed a conceptual framework for student assessment that identified four systemic features with respect to how assessment is designed and used (see Figure 3). These four features of assessment impact teaching and learning practices, and ultimately student outcomes:

  • Governance of student assessment systems: including the different purposes and objectives of student assessment and the frameworks in place to ensure that assessment results are used in a way that is consistent with these objectives.

  • Procedures and methodologies for student assessment: including the scope of assessment, i.e. the areas of learning that are covered by the assessment and the key procedural features of student assessment across countries, i.e. the mix of instruments used in assessment systems and the format of assessments.

  • Capacities to assess students and to use the results of student assessment: including the assessment competencies that teachers acquire in initial teacher education, and professional development and moderation arrangements.

  • How assessment results are reported and used for both summative and formative purposes: including the ways in which assessment results are used in different contexts to record information, provide feedback to students and make decisions about their further educational trajectory.

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Figure 3. Conceptual framework for student assessment
Figure 3. Conceptual framework for student assessment

Source: OECD (2013[8]), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment,

Aligning assessment practice with national learning goals

While Turkey has revised its curriculum to emphasise deeper learning and transversal, 21st century competencies, a decade after these changes were introduced, assessment is still far from reflecting these goals. Assessment continues to be used in a way that encourages memorisation and the acquisition of knowledge in discrete domains. This is exemplified by the heavy reliance on closed-format questions – both in national examinations and in classrooms (Kan, 2017[10]). In these kinds of questions, students have to pick the right answer, rather than demonstrate a depth of understanding and apply critically what they have learned by constructing their own responses.

The review suggests incremental improvements to the national examinations so they are better aligned with the country’s learning goals. Turkey has already started to experiment with different question items, and this review recommends making greater use of technology so that items where students must demonstrate more sophisticated, complex competencies can be introduced.

At the same time, teachers need more support to be able to assess skills and knowledge more deeply in the classroom. Clearly defining expected learning outcomes will help teachers to understand the changes that the curriculum implies for how they use assessment. Teachers should also be provided with more assessment resources, like how to use the new student e-portfolios that the country intends to introduce, to guide them in evaluating the development of the transversal competencies that national learning goals emphasise.

Achieving a greater balance between formative and summative assessment

Formative and summative assessments have a critical role in learning in all education systems. Summative assessment measures the learning that has taken place, for example at the end of a topic or level of education. In Turkey, national examinations provide an essential administrative function – allocating students to a limited number of prestigious high schools and tertiary education programmes. They are perceived to be fair and transparent, and there is public confidence in their integrity.

However, the national examinations’ high stakes mean that they are also a major influence on the practices that take place in classrooms. Educators and society focus on summative marks as a measure of success and educational quality. This creates an environment where there is an overreliance in summative tests and students may feel discouraged from revealing what they do not know or making mistakes. As a result, it is difficult for the most important type of assessment for learning – formative assessment – to flourish. Through regular and frequent checks of learners’ understanding, formative assessment provides information to help teachers and students adopt more effective strategies for learning.

This review recommends steps Turkey might take to reduce the weight of national examinations and achieve a better balance between formative and summative assessment. This involves changes to the structure of schooling, in particular encouraging greater flexibility between pathways to reduce the stakes of examinations, as well as the introduction of a school-leaving examination that is designed to certify the learning of all students and includes classroom tasks aligned with the curriculum. It also includes practical strategies to embed formative assessment in classroom practices, such as the introduction of a diagnostic assessment in primary education. Turkey has already taken steps in this direction with the recently introduced Student Learning Achievement Monitoring Assessment, Turkish Language Skills Study and Common Examinations initiative2.

Using the wider evaluation system to encourage good assessment practice

The wider evaluation system – teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation – can be an important source of support for transforming education (OECD, 2013[8]). Through the goals set for teachers, schools and the education system overall, it focuses attention on what matters for teaching and learning. In Turkey, however, the wider evaluation system, like student assessment, is not aligned with what the curriculum values. In the absence of reliable and valid data on learning outcomes, system evaluation uses classroom test results to monitor performance. This information is not reliable and encourages the perception that high test results matter, rather than learning across the breadth and depth of the country’s curriculum.

This makes Turkey’s development and implementation of a new national assessment – Akademik Becerilerin İzlenmesi ve Değerlendirilmesi (ABİDE) – very important. ABİDE has the potential to provide the means to understand better what is impeding some students from making good progress. A national assessment can also help to improve teachers’ assessment skills – providing an external benchmark of student learning and examples of how to assess 21st century competencies and higher-order skills. The new assessment initiatives mentioned above are intended to further support these goals by providing teachers and schools with more reliable, comparative information on student learning.

copy the linklink copied!Promoting national goals for student learning

Turkey’s learning goals focus on the mastery of competencies in order to prepare students to be productive citizens in the 21st century. Teachers are expected to engage in student-centred instruction and use formative assessment techniques to continuously monitor and improve student learning. While the direction of the curriculum reforms since 2006 has been positive, there is considerable evidence that the intended changes have not fully taken effect in Turkish classrooms. National research (Topcu, 2014[11]) and OECD interviews signal that teaching and learning processes remain focused on knowledge memorisation instead of competency development. This report argues that while this is explained in part by gaps in teachers’ knowledge and skills and the predominance of high stakes examinations, it is also a consequence of a lack of clarity and consistency within the curriculum and how it has been communicated.

Notably, while the curriculum should orient teaching and learning practice, it sometimes lacks clarity and consistency with respect to national learning expectations. Interviews conducted by the OECD review team revealed that many educators need to be better supported to understand what is meant by a constructivist pedagogical approach, which is not explicitly explained in curriculum documentation. The same is true of other central concepts, such as 21st century competencies. There is likewise a tension between the way learning outcomes are described in national “gains tables” – in a way that is often prescriptive, with specific lists of what students should know and a timetable for when this knowledge should be acquired – and a constructive, competency-based approach to learning.

There is also scope for stronger public communication around national learning goals. Turkish parents and society more broadly place great value on education, with parents investing significantly in private tutoring for children and following their grades in real time through mobile phone applications. This drive to demonstrate success in national examinations needs to be matched by more attention to the deeper learning that the country’s curriculum aims to foster. International experience shows that investments to explain and make visible desired changes in learning can provide valuable support for curriculum reform, especially by showcasing success at the school level. Bringing technical support for instructional improvement closer to schools is also an important lever for change.

Policy issue 2.1. Developing a curriculum framework to give greater coherence and clarity to national learning goals

While the direction of curriculum reform in Turkey has been positive – in terms of focusing on the competencies that are important in modern economies and encouraging a more learner-centred approach – the curriculum needs to better help teachers and schools to understand and apply these changes. In particular, the curriculum should help teachers to understand the rationale for focusing on competency development and constructivist pedagogy, and what both mean for teaching and learning in Turkey’s schools.

Alignment across different domain and education level curricula could also be improved. In Turkey, these curricula are developed by different General Directorates in the Ministry of National Education. The review team’s analysis suggests that this has resulted in curricula which are not always aligned in terms of expectations for student learning. It also means that support for transversal competencies – which each subject needs to contribute to – is not always consistent or as strong as it might be.

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Box 3. Recommended actions for a curriculum framework

2.1.1. Develop a unifying national curriculum framework to improve the coherence of the overall curriculum and help teachers to understand the value of a competency-based, constructivist approach and what it means for their classroom practice. This can be achieved by:

  • Including a vision statement that sets out Turkey’s overarching goals for learning, consolidating ideas that are currently spread out across different national education documents.

  • Explaining the differences between knowledge-based learning and competency-based learning for classroom teaching and the importance of competencies in modern economies.

  • Explaining what is meant by 21st century competencies and providing a list of the most important competencies in the Turkish context.

  • Explaining the theories that underpin constructivist pedagogy and providing examples of how this approach differs from traditional, behaviourist approaches.

2.1.2. Use the curriculum framework to guide future revisions of individual domain curricula and materials such as textbooks and assessments. Future revisions of the curricula for different domains should include detailed examples of suggested classroom activities aligned with constructivist pedagogy so that teachers are clearer about what they are expected to do to promote more student-centred teaching and learning.

Policy issue 2.2. Developing learning standards to help teachers understand what students are expected to know and be able to do

In Turkey, teachers rely on “gains tables” that set out expected learning outcomes by month and week to ensure that teaching and learning follow national objectives. The prescriptive nature of these gains tables does not support a student-centred, competency-based approach where teachers need the flexibility to be able to respond to students’ different starting levels, how quickly they master content and their interests. The outcomes in the gains tables also frequently focus on knowledge that should be acquired, such as specific lists of items that students are expected to know, rather than students’ ability to draw on a range of different knowledge and skills to demonstrate competency in different contexts. In contrast, many of the OECD countries that have succeeded in embedding a competency-based approach to teaching and learning have invested significantly in developing learning standards that clearly set out what students are expected to know and be able to do at key stages and in core domains, alongside more detailed outcomes for individual topics or units of learning.

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Box 4. Recommended actions for learning standards

2.2.2. Develop learning standards which define what students should know and be capable of doing in core subjects by individual grades. Learning standards should also set out the levels of aptitude at which students might demonstrate competencies (e.g. basic, proficient and advanced). This would encourage teachers to assess student progress towards integrated learning goals, rather than focusing on whether a student provides the correct response or not to a discrete question. Learning standards would also provide a consistent point of reference as to what should be assessed in both teachers’ classroom assessments and national assessments and examinations, helping to enhance validity and reliability across the assessment system.

Policy issue 2.3. Communicating national learning goals to society to build trust and support for change

The change in teaching and learning that is envisaged by Turkey’s learning goals is profound. While the 2017 curriculum revisions included public consultations, the importance of competency-based learning and constructivist pedagogy are still not widely understood and parents and society continue to associate student success with being able to recall a set body of knowledge as measured by time-pressured, multiple-choice questions in national examinations. Helping the wider public to better understand Turkey’s learning goals will mean that schools and teachers feel more supported and trusted by their communities when they introduce changes. Schools would also benefit from more local technical support on how to implement the new approaches for teaching, learning and assessment in often challenging local contexts.

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Box 5. Recommended actions for communicating national learning goals

2.3.1 Make national learning goals more visible through a communication campaign that explains the rationale for the changes in teaching and learning to build societal understanding and support. Showcasing examples of schools that are successfully implementing these changes can help community members to better understand new learning approaches and build momentum for reform. Matching a national strategy with provincial campaigns will be important to show how Turkey’s vision is achievable in diverse contexts and ensure that rural and isolated areas of the country are not left behind. The 2023 Vision Media Campaign has the potential to make national learning goals more visible.

2.3.2. Expand local support for schools to improve the responsiveness of assistance to schools as they implement curriculum reform. For example, provincial and district education directorates can provide more technical support to local schools on how they can introduce changes to teaching and learning. Provincial directorates might also be expected to work horizontally to promote peer-learning networks across regions, and to encourage the creation of similar school-level networks within provinces.

copy the linklink copied!Improving teachers’ classroom assessment practices

Since Turkey introduced a competency-based, constructive curriculum over a decade ago, teachers have been encouraged to conduct formative and performance-based assessments. However, teachers indicate that they still prefer to use “short, easy and practical” assessment methods like multiple choice tasks, and are not aware of the importance of using a broad range of assessment types (Kan, 2017[10]). Moreover, while the curriculum and school regulations provide teachers with considerable autonomy in terms of the assessments that they use – only specifying minimum and maximum numbers of assessments to be conducted and encouraging diversity in terms of the assessments used – teachers rarely exercise this autonomy and frequently rely instead on centrally provided tests such as those in textbooks (Kan, 2017[10]). In contrast, in many other OECD countries where a competency and learner-centred approach is well-established, teachers frequently adapt and develop their own assessments to respond to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.

In recognition of the challenges that teachers in Turkey experience in using assessment in ways that best support learning, the Ministry of National Education has recently developed a number of promising projects. These include the development of a new online portal – EBA – which encourages teachers to share assessment resources with each other, and a pilot school portfolio to help teachers document a wider range of students’ academic achievements as well as extra-curricular activities over the years. A different project is also underway, led by the General Directorate of Measurement, Evaluation and Examination Services in the ministry, to build confidence and capacity among teachers to help them to use formative assessment.

This review provides recommendations on how these initiatives can be further developed to expand the range of quality assessment resources across more subjects and in particular help teachers assess the more complex learning outcomes valued in the curriculum. It also suggests how continuous professional development and initial teacher education can be improved so that teachers develop a stronger understanding in assessment and have opportunities to practice with different assessment tasks.

Policy issue 3.1. Providing teachers with richer assessment resources that support competency acquisition

Teacher classroom assessments have a powerful impact on student learning. When well designed, they can be instrumental in helping learners to engage with the full breadth and depth of the curriculum, and ensure that no student is left behind. In order for teachers in Turkey to use classroom assessments in these ways, they need more support than is currently available.

More guidance and examples are particularly important to help teachers check that students have understood and mastered content before moving on. Many students in Turkey reach high school without strong foundational competencies. National regulations have been very effective in reducing repetition in primary and lower secondary education, which is now far below the OECD average (OECD, 2016[12]). However, once these regulations are relaxed in high school, repetition increases sharply – with 7.7% of students in high school having repeated at least one grade, more than four times the OECD average (1.9%) (OECD, 2016[12]). While this is shaped by many factors, one is that teachers lack alternative strategies to support struggling students. In addition, until very recently schools in Turkey also provide students with limited study help outside of classroom instruction time in comparison with many other OECD countries (OECD, 2016[12]). New measures to provide more support include new support and catch-up classes introduced in 2018 and a Remedial Education Programme introduced in 2017 to support students from Grades 3 and 4 with major gaps in key literacy and numeracy competencies.

Another critical area is helping teachers develop and use assessments that support active learning and the full breadth of the curriculum. During interviews with the review team, teachers said that they need more support to develop and implement assessments where students are required to apply what they know to solve problems, rather than choosing the right answer among a set of predetermined options.

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Box 6. Recommended actions for teachers’ assessment resources

3.1.1. Help teachers to monitor learning in line with national standards by introducing assessment tools like diagnostic assessments, especially in the early grades of primary education. These assessments should be linked to the curriculum and have a clearly defined formative function to help teachers identify and support students at risk of falling behind. Schools with a high concentration of struggling and low performing students should receive additional resources and be encouraged to provide additional learning time out of regular classroom hours.

3.1.2. Provide teachers with tools to assess a wider range of competencies. Notably, Turkey might consider introducing a student portfolio, drawing on the lessons from the pilot currently underway. To help teachers use the portfolios effectively, the ministry can provide guidance on what kinds of work and tasks should be included, how teachers can discuss students’ portfolios with them, and from lower secondary onwards, how to use the portfolio to start discussing with students their future pathways. Other useful tools to be developed include nationally validated assessment items and an assessment map to help teachers select the most appropriate methods or tasks for given learning outcomes.

3.1.3. Redesign the EBA portal to provide a broader range of better-quality resources. The ministry should take a lead role in redesigning the portal and ensuring the quality and relevance of the assessment resources provided. Resources to be provided via EBA as a priority include the diagnostic assessments and guidance on new student portfolios. Teachers should be closely involved in this work to ensure that the resources are useful. In the future, as assessment literacy grows, teachers would take on more of a leading role in developing and validating materials.

Policy issue 3.2. Using formative feedback and reporting to better support student learning

In Turkey, teachers make significant efforts to regularly assess students and provide them with summative numerical marks. However, the review team’s interviews indicated that teachers do not regularly use assessment results to give formative feedback to students. High-quality classroom feedback can accelerate learning significantly, in particular among lower achieving students (Wiliam, 2010[13]). It is also important for fostering motivation and other essential “learning to learn” attitudes and skills.

In Turkey, teachers and schools regularly communicate student performance to parents and students via report cards, parent-teacher meetings and sophisticated online systems that provide real-time information on grades. However, reporting does not follow consistent national standards, which means that students and parents do not know if marks indicate that national expectations are being met or not. Another issue is that report cards and online systems do not allow for qualitative feedback, including what students need to do in order to further their learning. This kind of qualitative feedback about students’ performance and progress is particularly important in grades where students do not receive numerical marks based on summative assessments, as in Grades 1 to 3 in Turkey (Nusche et al., 2011[14]).

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Box 7. Recommended actions for formative feedback and reporting

3.2.1. Encourage more formative feedback in the classroom by providing teachers with visual demonstrations of good feedback through videos or written examples, and ideas of how they can tailor feedback to their classroom and school context. For example, in large secondary school classrooms, teachers might make greater use of peer assessment and ask students to record the feedback they receive from teachers and peers in their portfolios.

3.2.2. Use reporting to help parents and students better understand where they are in their learning and next steps by clearly defining levels of performance aligned to the national learning standards. Report cards should also provide space for qualitative reporting to help students and parents understand their strengths and areas for improvement.

Policy issue 3.3. Reinforcing in-service training on assessment

The challenges that teachers in Turkey face in being able to use assessment effectively to support learning suggests that they need many more quality learning opportunities on assessment. However, professional development in Turkey is limited both in scale and quality. Teachers participate in professional development far less than teachers in other OECD countries (OECD, 2016[12]). And participation in assessment-related professional development is especially low – between 2012 and 2016 less than 1% of teachers in Turkey attended courses and seminars on classroom assessment (MoNE, 2016[15]; MoNE, 2017[16]). The OECD review team’s interviews with teachers suggest that low participation is due to the perceived low quality and relevance of courses, and to the fact that it is disruptive, with training tending to take place outside the school during classroom hours. Studies in Turkey confirm this view (Günes et al., 2011[17]). This review suggests how Turkey can significantly increase both the availability and the quality of professional development so that more teachers benefit from immediate support to improve their assessment practice.

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Box 8. Recommended actions for teachers’ in-service training on assessment

3.3.1. Make training on classroom assessment a top professional development priority. All teachers should be required to undertake training on assessment, with teacher appraisal used to identify development needs. At the same time, the quality and availability of training provided needs to be significantly improved and refocused towards more hands-on learning opportunities. Using online materials blended with face-to-face training has the potential to greatly expand provision in a way that is cost-efficient and inclusive, especially important given Turkey’s large and geographically dispersed teaching population. Developing standards for professional development will be important to ensure quality across different providers and platforms.

3.3.2. Develop school-based professional learning on assessment. Schools will need external impetus and support to create collaborative learning activities. One way to do this is by designating experienced teachers as assessment leaders in schools and deploying the 81 new provincial assessment and evaluation centres established across the country to provide these leaders with training on how to direct group activities on important topics, like moderating student work. The ministry can further encourage school-level groups by requiring teachers to devote a certain proportion of their time to collaborative activities, as is increasingly the case in many OECD countries.

Policy issue 3.4. Improving teachers’ initial preparation in classroom assessment

Good quality initial teacher preparation ensures that teachers start their career with a sound understanding of different assessment approaches and the confidence and skill to use them. It is also a powerful vehicle for education reform in Turkey because the expansion of the education system means that a significant number of new teachers will need to be recruited in the coming years. While initial teacher education programmes include a measurement and assessment course, national research shows that graduates of these programmes do not know how to use different types of assessment in their classrooms (Aksit, 2016[18]; Eren, 2010[19]).

Turkey’s Council of Higher Education is now developing a new module on classroom assessment for initial teacher education programmes. At the same time, the MoNE’s Teacher Strategy 2017-23 states that efforts will be made to provide teacher candidates with more practical learning opportunities. However, governance challenges make it difficult to ensure that initial teacher education provides sufficient coverage of classroom assessment. This is because the separate bodies responsible for tertiary education and initial teacher education programmes – the Council of Higher Education – and for teacher training, classroom assessment policies and the curriculum – the Ministry of National Education – do not necessarily work together.

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Box 9. Recommended actions for teachers’ initial preparation in assessment

3.4.1. Ensure sufficient coverage of classroom assessment in initial teacher preparation. First, gaps in the new teacher competencies on assessment – like the absence of specific expectations for beginning teachers’ assessment knowledge and skills – will need to be addressed. Second, the revised assessment competency should be incorporated into accreditation requirements for initial teacher education programmes, and accreditation systemically implemented, which is not currently the case. Finally, Turkey should consider creating an advisory committee to address the governance challenges of initial teacher education.

3.4.2. Ensure that initial preparation in classroom assessment is practical and connected to the school curriculum. As well as ensuring that the new initial teacher education module on assessment and evaluation that the Council of Higher Education develops provides teachers with a strong foundation in assessment, the following should be considered:

  • Reviewing the teaching practicum to ensure that it gives teachers multiple opportunities to put what they have learned about classroom assessment into practice and receive feedback.

  • Through accreditation, requiring initial education programmes to model the assessment methods teachers are expected to use, to help develop teacher candidates’ understanding of these methods.

  • Building initial teacher education providers’ expertise in student assessment and their understanding of the realities of Turkey’s classrooms. For example, by encouraging university faculty and school staff to meet regularly and collaborate on assessment-related research projects, and through accreditation requirements that encourage initial teacher education providers to employ faculty who have studied evaluation and assessment at an advanced level.

  • Including professional development on assessment in trainee teachers’ induction programme.

copy the linklink copied!Ensuring national examinations and assessments positively influence the learning of all students

Turkey’s two central examinations are designed to place students in different upper secondary and tertiary programmes and institutions based on ability. However, the limited availability of quality learning options leads to a large number of students trying to access a limited number of places in the most prestigious high schools and bachelor’s degree programmes. The acute pressure on high school and tertiary places results in teachers and students devoting considerable time to preparing for the central examinations rather than the competencies like effective communication, critical thinking and problem solving that are central to Turkey’s curriculum and the country’s development as a modern knowledge economy.

In recent years, and most recently during the course of this review, Turkey reformed its examinations with the aim of reducing some of their distorting consequences for teaching and learning. This review provides recommendations to support those reforms, by suggesting how the examinations’ design and questions can be further improved so that selection into upper secondary and tertiary education is as objective and fair as possible in the current context and has a more positive influence on student learning. It also suggests options to better align examinations with national goals for universal completion of upper secondary, through the introduction of an examination that helps certify student learning at the end of compulsory education.

Ultimately, however, reducing the pressure and distortions created by the examinations will require reducing the stakes associated with selection in Grades 8 and 12. This means creating more flexibility for students to move between high schools and tertiary pathways. It also means addressing the deep disparities in the quality of different high school types and tertiary programmes. Here, an important measure will be fully developing the national assessment, ABİDE, in addition to the initiatives on Student Learning Achievement Monitoring, Turkish Language Skills and Common Examinations, to provide reliable information on learning at the system, school and student levels to support more equal standards.

Policy issue 4.1. Enhancing the school placement and selection process at the end of Grade 8

Reform of the examination and student placement system at the end of Grade 8 is closely related to the current high school offer in Turkey, and the challenge the country is facing in managing the transition from an elite to a universal system of upper secondary education. Turkey has an established body of prestigious high schools where entry is determined by examination results. The wide variations in student learning experience and outcomes across these schools mean that placement at the end of Grade 8 carries very high stakes.

Over the past 15 years, Turkey has implemented a series of reforms to try to reduce these variations, complemented by successive changes to the placement mechanism at the end of Grade 8. In 2013, the compulsory Transition from Elementary Schools to Secondary Schools Examination (TEOG) was introduced to determine the placement of students across all high schools. The system had the merits of being transparent and objective. However, by making entry to all high schools dependent on examination results, the TEOG also exerted a powerful and negative backwash effect on education. Under the new system introduced in 2018, students will select their preferred high schools within their local area, with criteria to manage oversubscription. Placement in the most prestigious schools and programmes (approximately 10% of all high school places) will continue to be determined by student performance on a centralised examination.

These changes bring Turkey closer to the practices of other OECD countries, where systems that offer different upper secondary programmes draw on a wide range evidence to determine student placement, in particular, student preferences and school-based assessments, and avoid relying heavily on the results of national examinations alone. However, while the intention of the current reform is positive – in terms of reducing the pressure on students and basing transition decisions on student interests and performance in school rather than a one-off examination score – the policy was decided quickly, with little time for analysis and preparation. This is likely to create challenges in the first years of implementation, not least oversubscription at the schools perceived to be the best. In addition, while only 10% of school places will now be determined by the Grade 8 examination, at the time that OECD review was drafted the ministry predicted that the vast majority of students – 1 million, out of a cohort of 1.2 million – will take the examination, meaning that it will continue to exert significant influence on the education system. This makes it important that Turkey consider measures to mitigate negative impacts on equity, and teaching and learning.

This review provides recommendations on how these challenges might be addressed in the immediate term. It suggests that the likely mismatch in supply and demand for certain schools make it critical that the criteria used to place students when their preferences are oversubscribed are transparent. Over the medium term, developing a fairer and more effective placement system will also require providing more and better-quality information to students and their parents about the pathways that are likely to match their interests and abilities, and creating more flexibility across pathways and into tertiary education.

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Box 10. Recommended actions for the selection process at the end of Grade 8

4.1.1. Consider the system for high school placement to manage demand, including clear criteria on how places will be determined when there is oversubscription. Current proposals to balance classroom marks with objective and transparent factors like student age and having a sibling in a school seem positive, as do proposals to categorise classroom marks broadly (e.g. A, B, C, etc.) to avoid undue pressure on individual scores.

4.1.2. Provide more information to guide student choice, while improving flexibility between pathways. Under the new placement system, students will need more information and guidance when choosing their high school. This might be provided by:

  • Developing further the pilot student portfolio to help students reflect on their interests and abilities across a range of domains.

  • Providing schools with more support on how to discuss future pathways with students and parents, including by building a cadre of trained school counsellors, encouraging visits to local schools and dedicating some school time to careers guidance.

  • Making available information on a wider range of high school outcomes like labour market outcomes and the kinds of competencies that employers look for.

Greater flexibility across upper secondary programmes, for example by giving high schools more discretion and encouragement to accept students from different programmes up until the end of Grade 10, will help to reduce the stakes of initial selection. In the medium to longer term, stakes can also be reduced by structural changes like providing provincial education directorates with autonomy, increasing the number of comprehensive high schools and encouraging the graduates of technical and vocational high schools to pursue higher education degrees.

4.1.3. Reduce negative distortions created by the high school entrance examination. Ensure a better match between what is assessed and the curriculum’s learning goals by introducing more examination items that require students to perform complex tasks in authentic contexts. Given the large number of students expected to sit the examination and the few school places available, efforts to improve its discriminatory capacity will be important. Pre-tested sample items can be used for this purpose. Results analysis can be used to improve the examination’s discriminatory power over time. Since selective schools tend to enrol students from the most advantaged socio-economic groups, Turkey should consider measures to ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have a fair chance of getting a place.

Policy issue 4.2. Ensuring that examinations at the end of compulsory education serve effectively the functions of certification and selection

While Turkey has a school-leaving diploma for students who complete upper secondary education, this does not effectively serve a qualification and certification function. The diploma is based solely on classroom assessment marks without any standardised measure of achievement. In contrast, the majority of OECD (21) countries have an examination that provides all students with the opportunity to certify their achievements and demonstrate that they have met the minimum requirements of compulsory schooling (OECD, 2015[9]).

Another concern for the university placement examinations in Turkey is that while they serve their primary administrative function of placing students in higher education programmes well, they dominate teaching and learning throughout high school. Students, parents and teachers devote significant time and energy to preparing for examinations. These examinations have been evolving to give more focus to the higher-order competencies that are important for tertiary success, but remain reliant on multiple-choice tasks. Although school marks are included in the university placement examination, providing scope for a range of different assessments that can cover more of the curriculum, in practice the classroom assessments in high school duplicate the narrow assessment tasks of the central examination. Using classroom marks from Grades 9-12 also puts pressure on students from their first term of high school while they are still adjusting to a new phase of their schooling. This review suggests ways in which the university placement examination could be redesigned so that it has a less negative backwash effect on student learning.

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Box 11. Recommended actions for the examinations at the end of compulsory education

4.2.1. Develop a national examination to help certify achievement at the end of compulsory education. The examination can build on the existing two-stage university placement examination with the Basic Proficiency Test – Temel Yeterlilik Testi (TYT) developed to serve a certification function and remain the first filter for university placement, and the Field Qualification Test – Alan Yeterlilik Testleri (AYT) continuing to be the final selection and placement tool for tertiary education. To better cover the breadth of the curriculum, some open questions and a small share of teacher-assessed work could be included. In the future, Turkey might move towards a single, dual-purpose examination like most other OECD countries, although this is technically challenging given the need to ensure reliability across the full ability range.

4.2.2. Enhance the validity of the university placement examination. Similar to the Grade 8 examination, using optical character recognition technology for scoring the examination would mean that a greater variety of item types capable of automatic scoring could be introduced. The grades that contribute to the university placement score might be reduced to Grades 11 and 12 to give students more time to adjust to their new school and create more space for formative assessment. While the university placement is transparent and largely objective – both essential given high demand for places – as access expands, a wider range of sources might be included to better reflect student aptitude and motivation for different tertiary programmes, like interviews, applicants’ work experience, volunteer work, recommendations and a written statement from the applicant.

4.2.3. Improve the reliability and validity of school-based assessments. The ministry should provide more detailed instructions to teachers and schools on how and what they should be assessing for school-based work that contributes to central examination results. Steps are also needed to ensure greater reliability in the school-based marks, for example through the provision of scoring criteria and greater use of moderation techniques. In the first instance, the new assessment centres in the provincial directorates might perform external or statistical moderation of schools; as teachers’ assessment capacity improves, school-level groups for moderation can take on a greater role.

Policy issue 4.3. Developing and making available better-quality data on national learning outcomes

Creating a fair high school placement system that does not distort teaching and learning will ultimately mean reducing the stakes associated with placement by ensuring that all students can attend a good school. A crucial step in improving school quality will be making available more and better-quality information on the learning outcomes of Turkish students. This is important for effective policies at the system level, and for improving practices in classrooms and schools.

Policy makers and schools in Turkey have very little national data that can be used for these purposes. In an understandable desire to avoid exacerbating the highly competitive atmosphere that surrounds examinations, the ministry restricts the examination data made available to schools. School principals can see the results of their own students but not those of other schools. This means that they cannot evaluate their own performance with precision nor can they make meaningful comparisons. As a consequence, most schools focus on their examination scores as an indicator of quality. But since students’ examination performance is influenced by a range of factors beyond a schools’ control this is unlikely to be an accurate indicator of quality. Providing teachers and schools with more comprehensive and contextualised feedback on examinations would help them to better understand how they are doing and what they can do to improve.

Providing schools with more data on examination results will still leave gaps in the availability of reliable information to monitor learning. Turkey currently uses classroom assessments marks from Grades 5 and above for school evaluation and system monitoring purposes, but these marks are highly variable in all countries and especially in Turkey where teachers report difficulties in determining students’ levels of learning in line with national expectations. New assessment initiatives such as ABIDE and other instruments introduced more recently, have the potential to provide schools, provincial and central offices of Ministry of National Education with more reliable data to monitor students’ learning progress across the school cycle.

Across the OECD, the vast majority of countries (30) have national assessments to provide reliable data on student learning outcomes that is comparative across different groups of students and over time. When accompanied by background questionnaires, such assessments also provide insights into the factors that are influencing learning nationally and across specific groups. Turkey’s recently introduced assessments, such as ABIDE, have the potential to play this role.

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Box 12. Recommended actions for data on learning outcomes

4.3.1. Provide schools with meaningful examination data to improve teaching and learning. Making a more secondary analysis of the large amount of valuable data that the university placement examinations yields would help schools better understand the factors impacting the learning outcomes of their students. The ministry and ÖSYM should provide schools with accessible examination data so that they can understand how their school’s results compare regionally, nationally and with similar schools. Providing teachers and schools with analytical reports with test score distributions and student response statistics for all items will enable them to adjust their approach to teaching problematic topics in the future.

4.3.2. Implement ABİDE as a fully developed national assessment in primary and lower secondary education to address a major gap in national data. As the first step, Turkey should create a high-level representative steering committee to provide guidance to the Directorate of Measurement, Evaluation and Examinations as it develops Turkey’s new national assessments. The committee would help to raise the status of the assessments nationally and promote the use of their results. This review recommends that this should include delivering reliable information on system performance for policymaking and for evaluating progress towards national education goals. It also recommends that ABİDE is used to provide formative information to teachers and schools to enhance learning. In order to do this, the assessment will need to be implemented as a full cohort assessment that provides data on every child in at least primary or secondary education. Once the purpose is determined this will also guide other decisions like how frequently the assessments are conducted, and the subject areas that are assessed.

copy the linklink copied!Using the evaluation system to promote better assessment and learning

The wider system for evaluation – teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation – can significantly influence teaching and learning practices (OECD, 2013[8]). When the wider evaluation system is well-designed and well-aligned with national goals, it provides powerful levers for transforming the instructional system and promoting the use of high-quality assessment practices that support higher-order learning outcomes.

Turkey already has established processes for evaluating teachers and schools. It also uses strategic planning to set and monitor education goals. However, two factors prevent these processes from supporting improvement in teaching and assessment effectively. One is the heavy reliance on summative test results to evaluate quality. This raises concerns with respect to the fairness and reliability of evaluation judgements and reinforces teachers’, schools’ and society’s perception that high test scores, rather than the curriculum’s broader learning goals, matter. This review suggests how appraisal and school evaluation can be developed to focus more centrally on the progress that students make in their learning, as a more meaningful measure of instructional quality. Developing a regular national assessment will also help to ensure that when outcomes data is used to inform evaluation, including for system monitoring, the inferences are fair, reliable and reflect the curriculum’s learning goals.

Second is the extent to which teacher appraisal, school and system evaluation remain focused primarily on compliance and provide limited feedback and encouragement to teachers and schools on what they can do to improve the quality of learning and assessment practices. A stronger focus on the quality of teachers’ assessment practices and on school-wide policies that encourage teachers to continually develop their assessment skills would ensure that evaluation is used more effectively to support improvements in teaching and learning. More analysis from the ministry and guidance from provincial directorates would also enable schools to better understand the factors currently preventing many students from making good progress and identify strategies in response.

Policy issue 5.1. Using appraisal to encourage and support teachers to employ good assessment practices

By assessing teachers and providing feedback on their performance, appraisal can have a significant impact on teaching, learning and assessment practices. Turkey has systems for probation and regular appraisal, however the review team’s interviews with teachers and national research on teachers’ assessment competencies (Kan, 2017[10]) suggest that appraisal is not currently serving as a lever to develop and modernise teaching. Appraisal for probation, although recently introduced, also does not seem to be ensuring that all new teachers enter the profession with the necessary teaching skills, including for assessment.

One reason for this is a lack of alignment between the education system’s objectives for learning, teacher competencies and appraisal criteria. While Turkey published revised teacher competencies in 2017 that are more streamlined and operational than the previous version, links with the curriculum’s expectations for learning and teacher appraisal remain underdeveloped. At present, the teacher competencies and criteria for appraisal seem to exist separately and both miss key aspects of teachers’ competencies for using assessment. Appraisal criteria also focus on how frequently teachers display individual assessment practices, encouraging teachers and evaluators to concentrate on discrete activities in a compliance-oriented exercise, rather than considering the quality of assessment practices or how they interact to support student learning.

Another reason is that while both types of appraisal include classroom observation, the OECD review team’s interviews suggest that principals do not have a good understanding of the importance of their role in undertaking classroom observations or of how it should be performed, limiting its contribution to the improvement of teachers’ assessment practices. At the same time, the use of other sources of evidence like student marks from classroom assessment and examinations should be reconsidered, since they may not provide a useful reflection of the quality of teachers’ assessment or teaching practices overall. A final reason is that appraisal is not providing teachers with helpful feedback or links to professional development to develop their assessment competency.

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Box 13. Recommended actions for teacher appraisal

5.1.1. Ensure that teacher appraisal reflects the breadth and depth of assessment competency important for learning. First and critically, Turkey should ensure that the new teacher competencies published in 2017 are aligned with the curriculum and the new learning standards that this review recommends (see Recommended action 2.2.2). Once revised, the teaching competencies should guide the development of new guidelines and criteria for teacher appraisal. The latter should address gaps in the current appraisal criteria like teachers’ skills in developing their own assessments and providing student feedback. Introducing levels of teaching proficiency as part of appraisal (e.g. insufficient, basic, proficient and distinguished) would help to focus on the quality of teachers’ assessment practices, rather than how frequently they demonstrate prescribed practices, as is currently the case. Finally, as part of national plans to introduce a new performance-based career path, Turkey should set out how assessment competency is expected to progressively develop in order for teachers to reach higher stages of the teaching career path.

5.1.2. Ensure that evaluators focus on authentic measures of teachers’ assessment practice during appraisal by:

  • Developing national rubrics for classroom observations that guide evaluators to focus on a few indicators for assessment where there are known gaps in Turkey like the use of different types of assessment and regular checks for student understanding.

  • Providing schools with guidance on what to include in e-portfolios like marked examples of student work and lesson plans.

  • Encouraging teachers to informally ask students for feedback at the end of lessons and using the results formatively for future lesson planning.

5.1.3. Use appraisal results to develop teachers’ assessment competency by providing evaluators with pointers on how to provide descriptive feedback for teachers on their strengths and learning needs. To ensure that the intention to introduce professional development plans for teachers leads to a meaningful exercise, Turkey should provide training and significant guidance to principals on how to work with teachers to identify their professional development goals and identify specific objectives that are directly related to classroom practice.

Policy issue 5.2. Revising school evaluation to support learning and effective assessment practices

The framework for external school evaluation – called school inspection in Turkey –focuses on test scores from classroom assessments and examinations. These cover a narrow range of learning goals, compared to the broad competencies emphasised by the curriculum and provide a summative judgement that does not capture progress in learning, which is an essential aspect of school quality. The process indicators on assessment practice in the framework also focus predominantly on ensuring compliance with requirements to undertake summative assessments, rather than ensuring that assessments is used in a way that supports learning.

The frameworks for school self-evaluation also focus on reporting against national requirements for undertaking assessment, rather than encouraging schools to engage in a broader, deeper, collective discussion about what is working well and where improvement is required. Turkey also has multiple self-evaluation systems for different types of schools, which creates duplicates for some schools and means that self-evaluation does not ensure that all schools are working towards common national goals. At present, while some of the self-evaluation systems do pay attention to how assessment is used to support learning, which is positive, they do not encourage schools to review key aspects of the quality of their assessment practices like the use of different types of assessment and the quality of student feedback. A final issue impeding schools from using self-evaluation for improvement is that the centralised framework for self-evaluation leaves schools with no scope to adapt the self-evaluation framework so that it reflects their own context and priorities.

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Box 14. Recommended actions for school evaluation

5.2.1. Align the new school inspection framework with national objectives for learning and assessment. The new system of school inspection should address important gaps in the current framework by including indicators on:

  • Learning against national standards and the progress that students make at the school.

  • The quality of school-wide assessment practices like the use of formative assessment and support for teachers to use a broad range of assessments.

  • School policies to support improved use of assessment like providing professional learning on assessment.

To make the new inspection framework a more practical tool for improvement, examples of effective practice could be included. This would help schools understand what they should be working towards, and encourage greater consistency across evaluators. Inspection reports should also include detailed feedback and a “to-do list” of actions.

5.2.2. Use self-evaluation to focus schools on developing their assessment capacity. The different systems for self-evaluation should be revised to create a single framework based on the same core indicators as the inspection framework. Providing schools with the space to add to the core indicators will enable them to adapt self-evaluation to their own context and priorities.

To encourage schools to use self-evaluation more for critical inquiry, the new framework for self-evaluation might also include “challenge” questions, like how well the school supports all students to make good progress and what can be improved. Inspectors should also review school’s self-evaluation practices to look for evidence that it is being used to set specific goals for improvement.

Policy issue 5.3. Using system evaluation to help improve teaching, learning and assessment practices

System evaluation draws on information from across the education system to monitor progress against national goals and identify where improvements can be made. Countries use a combination of qualitative and quantitative information about what is happening across their education systems for this purpose, such as data on students, teachers and schools, and information on school quality and student achievement. Over the past decade, Turkey has focused on expanding the information that is collected and reported. The MoNE’s Information System (MEBBIS) now provides extensive data on school inputs and conditions, and the e-School Management Information System enables continuous monitoring of children’s school attendance to help reduce drop-out (UNICEF, 2012[6]).

The focus for system evaluation should now shift towards making greater use of the information that is collected to drive improvement in the quality of schooling and student outcomes. This will require greater analysis of information to see what it reveals in terms of the teaching and learning challenges in Turkey’s classrooms and using these insights to direct support back to schools.

One remaining but critical gap for system evaluation also needs to be addressed. In the absence of other data sources, the current strategic plan uses students’ end of year marks from classroom assessments averaged across all subjects and all students in Grades 5 to 12 to monitor learning and sets a goal to increase the average for each grade to 80 out of 100 by 2021 (MoNE, 2015[20]). While this gives national prominence to the importance of student outcomes and what happens in the classroom, classroom test scores are not a reliable indicator of learning.

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Box 15. Recommended actions for system evaluation

5.3.1. Ensure that education targets and public information about schools reflect national priorities. Creating prominent national goals for learning (rather than high test marks) will help to galvanise change by focusing education actors and society on what matters for teaching and learning. Targets should focus on demonstrating progress against the curriculum’s learning standards and use assessment data that is valid and reliable such as:

  • Long-term goals like reducing the share of 15-year-olds who do not develop basic competencies (i.e. below Level 2 in the PISA framework) by 2030.

  • Medium term goals like increasing the share of students in primary and lower secondary education who meet national standards over the duration of the next strategic plan using data from ABİDE.

Students and parents will need more qualitative information about schools to help them to identify which high schools are best suited to their needs. Turkey might make school inspection reports and summaries of self-evaluation reports available to prospective students and their parents, and ensure that information of particular interest for parents and students – like how the school supports students to make good progress – is easily accessible.

5.3.2. Help schools use evaluation information for improvement. The ministry can undertake much more analysis of assessment data and information from school evaluations to identify school-level factors impacting performance. This information can inform national planning and policies, and be shared with provinces to help them better understand the challenges that schools face.

School principals also have a central role to play in making greater use of evaluation information to identify their school’s development needs. However, this will require principals to take on greater leadership of assessment and pedagogy more generally. As principals are developing their roles as pedagogical leaders in Turkey, sharing assessment roles across the school will mean that they can draw on the knowledge and skills of experienced teachers. Provinces can also encourage school improvement by publicly recognising schools that develop effective and innovative processes to improve teaching and learning, and providing ways for these schools to share their strategies with others.


[18] Aksit, F. (2016), “Implementing portfolios in teacher training: Why we use them and why we should use them”, Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 62/62, pp. 97-114,

[19] Eren, A. (2010), “Consonance and dissonance between Turkish prospective teachers’ values and practices: Conceptions about teaching, learning and assessment”, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 35/3, pp. 27-48.

[17] Günes, T. et al. (2011), “The perceptions and needs of science and primary school teachers about in-service training”, Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 15, pp. 1102-1109.

[10] Kan, A. (2017), Teacher Capacity Building School Classroom Assessment: Workshop Report.

[16] MoNE (2017), Son 5 yılda düzenlenen (2012-2016) Hizmetiçi Eğitim Faaliyetlerinin Konularına Göre [The Topics of In-service Training Activities in the Last Five Years, 2012-2016], Ministry of National Education, Ankara.

[7] MoNE (2016), Millî Eğitim İstatistikleri Örgün Eğitim [National Education Statistics: Formal Education], Ministry of National Education, Ankara,

[15] MoNE (2016), National Education Statistics 2015-2016, Ministry of National Education, Ankara.

[20] MoNE (2015), 2015–2019 Strategic Plan, Ministry of National Education, Ankara.

[5] MoNE (2014), Higher Education Statistics 2013-14: Number of Students at Higher Education by Sex and Level of Education, Ministry of National Education, Ankara, (accessed on 5 March 2018).

[3] MoNE (n.d.), Vision 2023 [2023 Eğitim Vizyonu], MoNE,

[14] Nusche, D. et al. (2011), OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Norway 2011, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[4] OECD (2017), Education at a Glance 2017: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[1] OECD (2016), OECD Economic Surveys: Turkey 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[2] OECD (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[12] OECD (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[9] OECD (2015), Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[8] OECD (2013), Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[11] Topcu, M. (2014), “The achievement gap in science and mathematics: A Turkish perspective”, in Closing the Achievement Gap from an International Perspective, Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht,

[6] UNICEF (2012), Turkey Country Study - Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children,

[13] Wiliam, D. (2010), “The role of formative assessment in effective learning environments”, in Dumont, H., D. Istance and F. Benavides (eds.), The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Publishing, Paris,


← 1. Following the completion of the analysis for this review, the OECD was informed that a new item development approach had been adopted for the high school and university placement exams. This approach reinforces previous steps taken to situate questions in real-life contexts and assess higher order thinking skills. The Ministry of National Education is publishing each month sample questions to help students familiarise themselves with this new style of assessment.

← 2. The Student Learning Achievement Monitoring assessment was introduced under the Ministry of National Education’s 2023 Education Vision. It is intended to provide schools with diagnostic information on students’ strengths and weaknesses in Turkish, mathematics and science. As of mid-2019, some 300.000 students in grades 4, 7 and 10 have participated in the assessment. The Turkish Language Skills Study assesses the competencies of students in four areas: listening, reading, writing and speaking. It has so far been conducted in 15 provinces prior to the nationwide placement exams, providing students with feedback on their Turkish language proficiency and suggestions on areas where they need to improve. The Common Examinations initiative refers to newly introduced joint examinations conducted at the provincial level. The purpose is to provide large-scale, comparable data on student performance as well as information for students themselves to better understand their proficiency gaps. The Ministry of National Education expects that the results obtained from these initiatives will be examined at the school level and used to inform the design of weekend courses to help students address areas of weakness. These initiatives were introduced after the analysis for this review was completed and are therefore not addressed in this report.

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Assessment and recommendations