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Exeutive Summary of Report on Discrimination against Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education in Turkey
It is no coincidence that great emphasis has been placed on STEM education at the global
level recently and that references to STEM are increasingly being included in national
education policies. STEM education is important because it is one of the building blocks
that will determine levels of development, competitiveness and welfare in our own times
and years to come. Equal access to STEM education is therefore the most important factor
that needs to be considered with respect to poverty reduction and the equal distribution
of welfare. Yet the STEM subjects are domains in which gender inequality remains very
marked, both in education and in employment.
The first part of this report assesses and evaluates the international conventions to which
Turkey is a party, national policies, development plans, the STEM policies of the Ministry
of National Education, gender equality policies and the activities of the private sector and
civil society organisations in the light of the concepts of STEM education and gender.
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to “end poverty, protect our
planet and enable all people to live in peace and prosperity”, and to which 170 countries
including Turkey are signatories, are seen to have been included in national development
plans. The monitoring report prepared by the Presidency of Strategy and Budget (SBB) of
the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey in 2017 states that SDG4 (Quality Education) has
a strong influence on the other SDGs, that the need for quality education persists, and
that given the importance of digital transformation and the Industry 4.0 revolution, STEM
education needs to be addressed with priority. The development plans do not include any
plan for overcoming gender inequality in the context of SDG4.
The Strategic Plan of the Ministry of National Education for 2015-2019 aims to strengthen
STEM education but does not contain a policy which approaches the issue from a gender
perspective. Under a regulatory amendment published in the Official Gazette on
September 12, 2019, the Ministry removed the term “gender equality” from the scope of
activities. Civil society organisations and the private sector are observed to have been
conducting many activities with girls in recent years, both in schools and outside schools,
in order to overcome gender inequality in this area. The exclusion of “gender equality”
from the Ministry directive as of 2019 has removed the basis for carrying out activities for
girls in schools that make equal access possible for children studying in formal education.
Global surveys indicate that socioeconomic and gender inequalities in Turkey are on the
increase. If girls are not provided with the opportunity of equal access to quality
education, taking the inequalities in STEM education into account, female poverty and
gender inequality are likely to go on rising. Another point that needs to be emphasised is
that if cooperation and coordination is not restored at the level of public institutions –
and particularly between the Ministry of National Education and civil society
organisations – in STEM activities directed towards girls, then the inclusiveness of the
activities conducted outside schools will be reduced, they will no longer be able to reach
different socioeconomic segments, and new types of inequality will come into being.
The second part of the report contains the results of a survey that seeks to measure the
perceptions and knowledge of girls regarding the STEM domains. This is one of very few
studies that serve to remind us of the inequalities that exist at the national level in this
area. The results make it possible to develop a roadmap for activities to be conducted in
the future. The findings presented are from a field study carried out by the Flying Broom
Women’s Communication and Research Association among 15 year-old ninth grade
schoolgirls in 40 Anatolian high schools in 20 provinces in the 2018-2019 school year. The
study aimed to measure the girls’ knowledge and perceptions of science, technology,
mathematics and engineering (STEM). It offers a deeper understanding of the social
factors that influence the participation of girls in the STEM subjects and provides an
outline of the current situation in this field.
According to UNDP data, the proportion of women among graduates of STEM subjects is
34.7%, This points to the existence of a gender gap in participation in the STEM subjects.
The field data shed light on the social origins of this gap.
Girls are observed to be very interested in STEM subjects, but these subjects are most
commonly associated with the professions of engineer and scientist, and the variety of
professions related to STEM is not sufficiently well known. There are also striking
differences between findings from different types of schools, which draws attention to
In addition, a strong relationship is observed between knowledge of the STEM domains
and the desire to choose a profession related to STEM. From the point of view of activities
to strengthen the participation of girls, this finding demonstrates the importance of
promoting knowledge of the STEM domains. Meanwhile, the regional variations observed
in the level of interest in STEM-related professions indicate a clear potential for the
provision of support in this respect.
The report also reveals the reasons why girls want or do not want to become scientists,
based on their perceptions and attitudes. Negative attitudes to the STEM subjects and
negative views concerning the students’ own personal characteristics constitute the top
factors. Thus the negative views of schoolgirls regarding both the subject matter and their
own individual skills and capabilities are found to constitute an important element of the
social processes which adversely influence their participation in STEM subjects.
These constraints also reveal opportunities. While education policies in STEM subjects
should encourage girls to relate meaningfully to the STEM domains and to develop a
sense of belonging to them, it is also important to seek to reduce negative prejudices to
the effect that “girls are not suited to the STEM subjects”