As Turkey celebrates Teachers’ Day with numerous events, the country continues to lag behind member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with teachers in the European Union receiving between $40,000 and $75,000 annually while a Turkish teacher makes between $15,000 and $18,000 a year.
Teachers’ Day in Turkey is celebrated on Nov. 24, which marks the day when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, was declared the nation’s head teacher (Başöğretmen) 84 years ago. Yet, this year, teachers’ celebrations are bittersweet as they have been victims of discrimination caused by the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Ministry of Education.
69 percent of teachers are ready to quit their jobs while 95.1 percent find Education Minister Nabi Avcı ineffective. A full 62.1 percent of survey participants live in rented apartments and 73.5 percent of respondents have credit card debt. Noting that economic problems have negatively affected their family lives, 38.4 percent of surveyed teachers think they are unable to take good care of their families.
In addition, according to a 2014 report released by the OECD, although teachers in Turkey work more than their colleagues in Europe, they are paid almost 40 percent less. While the average working hours in OECD countries was calculated as 1,725 annually, the figure is 1,924 in Turkey.
Many educators — including school principals — across Turkey went on strike on Teacher’s Day in protest of the wide range of long-standing problems such as low wages, the failure to appoint qualified principals and teachers and violations of employees’ individual rights, demanding permanent solutions to the problems.