Basic Education and Capability Development in Turkey

The value of education is commonly measured in terms of its ability to improve economic growth or the earnings of individuals. According to that approach, education enables society or individuals to accumulate a stock of human capital, which can then be used to generate macro or micro level income growth.1 In this chapter our aim is to examine education in Turkey based on the human capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and, more recently, by Martha Nussbaum (Sen, 1999; Nussbaum, 2000). The capabilities approach rejects a development strategy based on human capital, firstly, because it does not require that all individuals receive a sufficient education and, secondly, because it is based on an impoverished metric of human well-being. In the first place, an approach to development that is based on human capital may postpone extending a basic education to some children if that is the optimal strategy for expanding economic growth or combating income poverty. It may be argued, for example, that the social conditioning of gender roles means it is more costly to expand the educational attainment levels of female children. Thus, prioritizing investment in the length and quality of education available to male children may be seen as a more cost effective way of driving economic growth. The postponement strategy may be further defended on the grounds that income poverty can be best overcome by letting the fruits of growth trickle-down or be redistributed to the poor, rather than by directly improving the earnings potential of the poor. According to the capabilities approach each individual has a fundamental right to at least a basic education because without it they lack the necessary preconditions for doing things and achieving results that they have reason to value. In other words, society has a duty to ensure that each individual can acquire at least a sufficient education, irrespective of their relative ability to contribute towards income growth..
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