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Burcu Benderli, Manager for Turkey, Benelux, Switzerland & Wider Europe, was in Ankara recently visiting Bilkent Laboratory and International School (BLIS), which is a part of the Ihsan Dogramaci Foundation and also connected to Bilkent University – the first private and non-profit university in Turkey, Bilkent. The school is on course to become the first Cambridge PDQ centre in Turkey.
The President of the Foundation is Professor Ali Doğramacı – son of the late Professor Ihsan Dogramaci, founder of Bilkent University. Burcu spoke to him about his school’s work and mission, and how the Cambridge curriculum is supporting their ambitions to offer an international education.
Tell us about Bilkent’s education foundation
We are linked to Bilkent University, which was established not only to provide an environment for learning and intellectual growth, but to serve human welfare and foster peace on earth. Our K12 schools are designed to prepare the students for higher education with those values at the forefront of our mission. And all Bilkent schools (BLIS, Bilkent Erzurum and Bilkent Erbil) have always been, and will continue to be, truly non-profit institutions.
We are international. Bilkent students and teachers are connected to the world. The world we live in is rich in diversity. There are different ways of life and different ways of thinking. Bilkent schools promote respect for and understanding of this diversity. We encourage students to be participative and constructive individuals and critical thinkers, so that they will be able to take full advantage of university training whether in their own country or elsewhere. In addition to this, compulsory international exams such as the Cambridge IGCSE enable us to assess our students with respect to world-class standards.
Was the choice of Cambridge IGCSE linked to a requirement to strengthen students’ English language skills?
English is used as the medium of instruction in all our schools, as it serves as a connection to the world more than any other language. Language is a most important prerequisite for international peace and understanding. Our students need to master the language of their own country as well as at least one language which connects them to the rest of the world. Bilkent students learn to speak and think in different languages in order to be able to express their thoughts effectively and understand how others think.
What is the value of giving students a summative test at the age of 16?
It gives student, the parents and the academic counsellor a basis for deciding or recommending how the student should proceed in their studies. In Bilkent Laboratory & International School Ankara as well as in Bilkent Laboratory School Erzurum, Cambridge IGCSE is used as a prerequisite to advance to the last two years of these high schools. We use Cambridge IGCSE to assess whether the students are ready for the rigor in the remaining two years of the high school where they will prepare for leading universities of the world.
Cambridge IGCSEs also serve as an external benchmark by which to judge the value of the education provided, and the standing of one school’s students as compared with students in other schools and countries using the same programs and qualifications.
What do you see as the opportunities for international education in Turkey in the future?
People in Turkey are striving to better connect to the rest of the world, in all areas including academics, business and trade, and politics. International understanding is a necessary condition for people in Turkey to succeed in these aims. Therefore the demand for international education is likely to increase several fold.
Many of our students want to go abroad to study, and since Turkish education at any level can often be unfamiliar to other countries’ educators, standardised qualifications would be useful for evaluation by a receiving institution.
Cambridge qualifications can also strengthen language learning in countries where there is much room for improvement in foreign language teaching in the schools.