inGenious Teacher Of The Month: Meltem Bilgiç


Enthusiastic and passionate, Meltem Bilgiç is the inGenious Teacher of The Month for May 2013. Meltem is a natural sciences, biology, chemistry and physics teacher at Kerimbey Middle School, Samsun, Turkey. She has also been a very active inGenious pilot teacher since attending the inGenious summer school held in Istanbul in August 2012 – and is now something of an evangelist for the project and its benefits.

We asked Meltem about her about her job, her experience as a pilot teacher and her views on school-industry collaboration. She was also quizzed on the state of STEM education in her country. Here’s what she had to say.

Meltem Bilgiç

What do you like about your job and when do you feel successful as a teacher?

I like the creative part of my job. Science makes it possible to understand how nature works, broadens our horizons and allows us to understand and integrate new technologies into our lives. I have good days at school when I see that my students are becoming more and more genuinely interested in scientific processes.

The greatest achievement for a science teacher is seeing your students fall in love with science. I know I've done a good job and transmitted my passion for what I teach, when I see that the pupils are becoming more and more successful at planning their own experiments to observe the phenomena that interest them.

Tell us something about your experience as an inGenious pilot teacher.

I chose to become a pilot teacher because the project was good for my school and for the needs of my students. The school is located in an industrial area and most of our students' parents work in factories. I thought it would be great to broaden their horizons by giving them a new perspective on careers they could pursue in industry. And it's through inGenious that I try to make my students aware of, and interested in, the different job opportunities that industry offers.

At the same time, I can learn new things myself and enrich my teaching skills. As a pilot teacher, I've been able to meet key people from industry, managers, industry associations, vocational school teachers and so on. I've also visited a company in France and I was able to share all these experiences, and the knowledge I gained, with my colleagues and students. It was quite a precious experience for us all.

Meeting other inGenious teachers also helped my school to write and apply for a Comenius project – being a pilot teacher in a major European project, such as inGenious, made us more aware of the opportunities that the EU offers and encouraged us to get involved and seize them.

Would you recommend joining inGenious to other teachers?

Sure! In fact, my active role within inGenious goes way beyond what I've just described. I also spread the word about inGenious and promote its objectives in my district by organising workshops and presentations, together with some local vocational schools, and by liaising with other teachers. With the invaluable help of the inGenious team, I will soon be able to reach more schools in my province, too.

"My recommendation to other teachers is: join inGenious to improve your teaching, gain a better understanding of industry and help your students to broaden their horizons and appreciate the value of STEM subjects”.

Meltem Bilgiç, inGenious Teacher, Turkey

How would you describe the STEM situation in Turkey?

Lack of interest in STEM studies used to be a serious issue in Turkey. Both national and international indicators showed that science and technology education in Turkey was inadequate compared to other countries. In the last 13 years, though, the situation has started to change and traditional Turkish schools have started to give way to technologically-enhanced learning centres.

In 2012, the Ministry of Education, supported by the Ministry of Transport, launched the FATIH Project, with the overall aim of providing equal opportunities in education by improving technology in our schools and the efficient usage of ICT tools in the learning-teaching processes.

There are five distinct aims of the project: providing equipment and software substructure; providing educational e-content and management of e-content; effective usage of ICT in teaching programmes; in-class training of teachers; and – finally – conscious, reliable, manageable and measurable ICT usage.

Specifically, FATIH provides tablets and LCD Smart Boards to 620,000 state centres of preschool, primary and secondary education. There's further support in the shape of training for teachers, including instruction in how best to use the ICT equipment. Now, the educational e-content is going to be formed, by harmonising the current teaching programmes with the ICT-supported education.

What are the main challenges that have to be faced in Turkey in STEM? Which ones, in particular, are you are facing first-hand?

Although the Turkish Ministry of Education tries hard to provide equal opportunities to all schools, some problems still affect Turkish education in science and technology. The major ones that come into my mind are the insufficient training of the science teachers in the transition state of a new programme, the insufficient number of science and technology teachers' taking an active role in the preparation of the programmes, the huge numbers of students in the class and the general condition of schools that means there are not enough opportunities for laboratory work.

What I face on a daily basis in my school are mainly infrastructure problems. The physical conditions of my school should be improved in order to make us – science teachers – best able to teach and communicate our passion for STEM subjects to our pupils.

What is your view on school-industry collaborations?

I think that school-industry collaboration is fundamental for the promotion of STEM studies and careers and that it must be increased. I still don't see that many industries having education departments aimed at providing students with information about what they do and working actively in creating a link between industry and education. School-industry collaboration shouldn't be reduced to ordinary student visits to factories, but should include a variety of initiatives.

Through this collaboration, schools can enrich their curricula and collect best practice, besides showing their students the practical use of STEM in industry. In fact, sometimes the theoretical knowledge and the practical use of STEM subjects simply don't match. The students need guidance in understanding just how many possible practical applications there are for what they learn in class. Schools can also learn from industry how best to integrate different approaches to STEM subjects into their curricula.

What makes a school-industry co-operation successful?

I think that a sincere, enthusiastic, ambitious and keen approach between school and industry will make the school-industry co-operation successful. The key for success is developing strong and continuous relations.

My experience in school and industry co-operations started with the inGenious project, so it's quite new for me now. That said – from my experience in the past month – I can say that, with a sufficient effort and willingness to collaborate coming from both sides, it can provide a significant added value to pupils' learning process.

Published: June 2013