Prof. Dr. Vedat Özsoy
Faculty of Fine Arts
TOOB University of Economics and Technology
Ankara / Turkey
ISSUES IN ART EDUCATION AND ART TEACHER TRAINING IN TURKEY
Formal arts education in Turkey is realized as K-12. In primary education arts and music
courses take place as two hours in the first three years and one hour in the last five years. In
high schools arts and music courses are found in the two-hour elective courses list. Moreover,
there are high schools of fine arts, which have arts and music departments and provide an
education of four years. Arts teachers in the Departments of Fine Arts Educations, Faculties
of Education, are trained disregarding a distinction between the fields of primary and
secondary education. In addition, the graduates of arts and music departments of faculties of
fine arts can get the opportunity to become arts instructors by completing M.A. programs
without dissertation provided they succeed in the exams of the institutes of educational
sciences. In training arts instructors a standardized four year program is executed.
In primary and secondary education arts courses are not attached sufficient importance;
therefore, the time allocated is not enough. Moreover, arts classrooms are not equipped
sufficiently enough. Among the approximately sixteen thousand arts and music instructors the
number of those who try to improve themselves and their knowledge is little. They are
reluctant to become a member of vocational associations related to arts education, which were
founded with the aforementioned aim. High school students are admitted to universities with a
central examination. As there are predominantly science, mathematics and literature questions
in the examinations, arts courses are neglected at high schools. Thus, high schools of fine arts
have become important institutions for arts education, yet they are faced with the serious
problem of finding students. This is because parents prefer their children to move towards
popular occupations such as those in the fields of medicine, engineering or economics;
therefore, even though they see an artistic skill in their children, they don’t want them to
choose these schools.
As it does in the whole world, this understanding limits a creativity and innovation
based education in Turkey and in the middle-east.
The governments are expected to not only bring up their citizens as compatible
individuals with their society, but also provide them with information changing and
improving day by day, and while achieving this, they are expected to give weight to peace and
fellowship between countries. Attaining the aim of training each individual depending on his
own creativity, capability and ability and by this way, contributing to the humanity is merely
possible by being a participant of information and communication age. The formation of a
democratic educational system which considers individuals’ creativity and abilities as well as
basic rights and freedom can be achieved with the help of contemporary and well-rounded
education programs. Along with other fields, art and its training will provide a basis for the
education programs that will be prepared for 21st century in which the concept deeming
formal, common and continuing education significant also defined as “Lifelong Learning”
and “Continuing Education” and will dominate.
A Brief History of Art Education and in Turkey
With the collapse of Ottoman Empire, New Turkish Republic was established in
October 29, 1923. Ministry of National Education printed a series of books published in 1939
and the papers of foreign experts invited to Turkey in the very first years of Turkish Republic.
Of those, in the introduction of the publication John Dewey, Report on Turkish Educational
System, there takes place the names of many experts invited from 1924 to 1934 in the form of
6 articles (Dewey, 1939).
In this publication, American philosopher John Dewey’s coming to Turkey in 1924 as
the first foreign expert, preparing several reports about educational system by staying more
than one month in summer and delivering speeches to mediums about education can be
understood. Furthermore, it can be seen that the training of a professional educationlist takes
place under the heading of “Various Topics” constituting the eighth article of Dewey’s
report’s chapter, named “Fundamental Report” and in the second article of the report’s sub-
branches. It would be beneficial to have a look at the views coming up in the report so as to
mention the importance of arts in the earliest year of Turkish Republic and reach to the
rationale of art courses in the education programs.
“All the things I saw have persuaded me that Turkish youth have an above average
ability in painting, drawing and dying arts. It is effectual to develop this privilege in
order to protect both its own place and the nation’s place in the civilization with
regard to the assurance of the culture of Fine Arts. Moreover, it has an economical
value for the recreation of arts benefiting from other paintings and its development.”
With his expressions, Dewey has specified that he has been monitoring Arts education at
schools and talented Arts students. In the early year of Republic, it is known that at schools
especially at Istanbul Teacher Training School, there were courses about Fine arts.
(Baltacıoglu, 1932) By this way, Dewey emphasizes that Turkish youth’s artistic ability is
strong and on the condition that they are educated well, their contribution to fine arts will
have an effect on determining the degree of civilization.
Dewey said these about training of arts teacher:
“Despite all the difficulties, Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts does well. However, it is
too crowded in its inappropriate building. It will develop an educational step forward to be
organized for training arts teacher within the Academy of Fine Arts.”
Also, Dewey conveys that there is a strong need for necessary equipment and building
which will be constructed according to its own goal and function for this mission. This shows
that educator foresees a separate program for training arts teacher.
German educator G. Stiekler’s report about arts education who is invited to Turkey in
1926 presents importance in terms of documenting the efforts during the early years of
Turkish Republic (Tonguc, 1932). In his report, Stiekler has suggested various things about
structuring and program in arts education.
“With art and craft, the students’ creative abilities will be developed and improved so
as to understand the value of masterpieces. It is not the art itself, but maybe educating
everyone towards art. Art itself can be achieved only by those who have the ability to create
in this field” (Telli, 1990).
Stiekler stressed the importance of that arts education is not only education of talent,
but also the education of individuals through art. Educator who wants this belief to be
dominant in the curriculum, which will be prepared, states that it is essential for youth to gain
some skills by manipulating their hands. Arts educator who emphasizes that environment,
civics and folk art should be taken into consideration in Arts and Crafts lessons wants Arts
and Handcafts to be covered in every stages of public education. Moreover, German expert
states that Arts education should be taught by field teacher who were trained especially for
this subject and that it is obligatory to train art teachers in the same duration with the teachers
of the other fields.
Stiekler’s views including this one as well as the other ones taking place in the report
related to the applications contributed to shaping the Turkish arts education as the ideas
emerging by the effect of educational philosophy devoted to arts education which depends on
Dewey’s “pragmatism” and “experimentalism” (Dewey, 1958).
It can be seen that Ismail Hakki Baltacıoglu, one of the first Turkish art teachers who
was sent to various foreign countries in the field of art teaching methods in 1910, conducted
several studies concerning arts education and teacher training in these years (Baltacıoğlu,
1932). As a result of both these studies and the reports, a “Course on Arts Teaching” was
organized in Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts in 1927. In this course, Baltacıoglu taught
“Methods of Art Teaching” to the academy students who want to become teachers (Özsoy,
1996). Before that, even in 1926, within the framework of preparatory work for the new
curriculum prepared by Ismail Hakkı Baltacıoğlu and Ismail Hakkı Tonguç, courses for
primary and secondary school teachers were organized in order to conduct arts and
handicrafts classes easily. Furthermore, a “Fine Arts Legislation” was prepared and a
commission that was charged with establishing and improving fine arts education in Turkey
was formed (Tonguc, 1932).
In the light of all this information, it is apparent that the importance of arts and
education has been emphasized not only by the Turkish educationalists but also by the foreign
educationalists who contributed to the structuring of modern Turkish education, and it has
been sensitively handled in teacher training as well as the curriculum which ensures educating
the future generations of a new country created out of nothing. While the philosophy of arts
education is based on a “pragmatist and experimentalist” conception, it has been envisaged
that the individuals should be educated through art; and in this way, their creativity and talent
should be taken into consideration and their sense of aesthetics should be improved.
“Village Institutes” are the schools which were operational between 1940 and 1954
with the purpose of training primary school teachers. Completely unique to Turkey, this
educational project was a model which was largely related to vocational training. Beginning
in 1940, “Village Institutes” were founded either in the villages that had fields convenient for
agriculture or nearby them. In order to train teachers for village primary schools, these
institutes were established in twenty-one arable districts which were far from city centers but
close to the railways. The teachers were expected to give the villagers formal education as
well as teaching them not only the basic knowledge and literacy but also the modern and
scientific agricultural techniques. Moreover, the teachers were supposed to teach unknown
agricultural species. Instead of “book-based teaching”, the “training for work, training within
work” principle was applied. Each village institute had its own fields, vineyards, beehives,
fatlings, and ateliers. 50% of the courses covered formal education while the rest was hands-
on training. In these schools, in addition to vocational training, arts education was effectively
included, as well.
This information shows us that in arts education, a modern beginning was made, goals
and objectives were favorably determined, and the applications were precisely initiated in the
very first years of the Republic. In the following years, however, the urge to develop an arts
education curriculum based on modern thoughts and to train art teachers was not as rapid as
expected because of the socio-economical and cultural structure and level of the country.
Nevertheless, it can be attained that such matters as how to give art training or to whom it
should be given were properly determined and scheduled.
The Situation of Visual Arts Education in Turkey at the beginning of 21st Century
Tried to be improved and universalized in limited conditions and opportunities for 86
years, the art education and teaching has made a certain progress in spite of the difficulties.
By appraising the talented with the help of Faculties of Fine Arts and Departments of Art and
Craft Education, whose number has been increasing year after year, it has been aimed to
create a conscious and art-sensitive society. While Gazi Institute of Education, Department of
Art and Craft Education, which produced its first graduates in 1935, was the only department
to train art teachers, the number of Departments of Art and Craft Education founded within
the scope of Faculties of Education has reached twenty-six by 2009. There are as many
Departments of Music Education as Departments of Art and Craft Education, and teachers of
art and music are trained in these departments. In parallel with this, the number of Faculties of
Fine Arts, established within the scope of universities that have become widespread
throughout the country and reached 108 in number, has increased in 2009. At present, there
are totally 44 Faculties of Fine Arts, 35 of which are in state universities and 19 of which in
private universities. Moreover, in four of the Institutes of Education Sciences that are included
in some of these universities, there are “Graduate (Master) Programs without a thesis
requirement” aimed at training art and music teachers. The graduates of Faculties of Fine
Arts, Departments of Arts and Music can apply to these teacher training programs, and they
are accepted according to their performances in the exam.
As of July 2009, in Turkey the population of which is 78 millions, there are 33.769
elementary schools giving eight-year compulsory education and 419.345 teachers serving in
these schools, 8.674 high schools giving at least a four-year education and 193.255 teachers
serving in these schools. Also, there are nearly 7800 visual arts teachers. In the first five years
of elementary school, the art and music courses are taught by class teachers. In the rest of it
and in high schools, these courses are taught by art and music teachers. In high schools, the
visual arts and music courses are in the curriculum only in the first year as elective courses.
There are 51 High Schools of Fine Arts. Among the students having finished elementary
school, 50 students are accepted (24 students to Departments of Art and 24 to Departments of
Music) to these schools according to the results of an aptitude test. The education process is
four years. Some gets free boarding students (MEB, 2009).
Whereas these developments are accepted as positive in terms of quantity, some problems
occur when analyzed in terms of quality. However, in an optimistic attitude, the final point
can be seen as the evidence of the acceptance of art education in the society right along with
the development of general education in spite of its not being in a desirable extent.
The importance given to visual arts courses in preschool, primary and high school has
graphed a bumpy chart during 86 years. It sometimes proceeded positively by means of the
interest of the authorities but generally negatively due to the apathy of them. Nowadays, the
interests and sensitivity of the authorities of Ministry of Education, school managers, teachers
and students, and parents to art courses is not enough. It beyond doubt that this is caused by
three basic reasons as not bringing in the necessary art education, not improving the artistic
sensitivity and not making people conscious of the importance of art education while bringing
them up the problems of visual arts education and visual arts teachers can be basically
handled by the topics below:
A. Related to the necessity of visual arts education and teaching:
I. The acceptance of art courses just as an ability course in a Turkish society and the
problems of this situation.
II. Some government notables, the authorizes of Ministry of Education, politic
parties, the dons of the universities, school managers, pre and primary school
teachers, some visual arts teachers, students and parents’ still not getting the aims
of the courses, or not believing or being convinced for the benefits of art courses
and the necessity and the reason of its education in schools.
III. The acceptance of the high school students to universities by a central exam, and
as there are physics, mathematics and language questions in the exam, postponing
and ignoring art and music courses in high schools.
IV. The preference of parents for popular professions like medicine, engineering, and
economics for their children, and for this reason children’s not giving credit to the
Fine Arts Schools despite the artistic ability of their children, and therefore these
schools’ having a serious problem to find students.
V. Some branches of professional education, technical education and mass
education’s not having art education programs and preventing the graduatees of
those schools from having the required aesthetic and design education.
VI. Not implementing the artistic and aesthetic education of the public by means of
widespread region art centers, nursing homes, child art museums, public art,
profession and design fairs, festivals and hobby clubs.
B. Related to Education, Teaching and Programs:
I. Some factors that prevent the development of the teaching programs in preschool,
primary and high school visual arts courses according to new approaches by not
taking the theories and techniques of contemporary art education into
consideration (economic, bureaucratic, political)
II. Some people’s not knowing the developments of theories and contemporary
applications in visual arts education and teaching, being ignorant of the features
and accuracy of program development, and preparing educational programs and
course books by bringing their artistic personalities in the foreground.
III. The programs of the organizations training preschool teachers, primary school
teachers and visual arts teachers not having the necessary amount of lessons and
teaching hours for art teaching.
IV. The programs of mass education associations and professional and technical high
schools’ not having the art and design courses by reason of their having ‘ability
C. Related to Schools and Teachers:
I. Not having enough art courses in primary education programs, and pre and
primary school teachers’ not being trained duly and truly.
II. Despite the two hours of visual arts courses in a week (1 course hour is 40
minutes) in the education and teaching programs covering the first three years of 8
years of primary education, the rest five years’ being limited by just one hour in a
III. Classroom teachers not having the required qualities of art education for
conducting the topics of the current Elementary Schools’ Curriculum of Fine arts
IV. Despite Fine Arts High Schools to where those who have special abilities can go,
generally not having the art teaching classes and programs based on ability
education in common as a separate branch like mathematics, physics, social
V. Not being any separate classrooms and special fixture where the art lessons can be
conducted in all pre school, primary school and high school associations
VI. Most visual arts teachers don’t have enough information in the field of teaching
techniques of contemporary art. They also fail in following improvements in arts
teaching, and don’t consider the necessity of becoming a member of professional
associations. The fact that teaching profession isn’t contractual but permanent and
there is not an assessment system based on performance encourages this situation
in a negative way.
VII. The Ministry of National Education lacks in providing in-service training
opportunities for visual arts teachers.
VIII. There is not any periodical related with teaching arts, so there is not any tool to
exchange and follow improvements and scientific studies in the field of arts
teaching and training.
D- With regard to Education Faculties:
I- The department’s content is restricted since it is still misnamed as “Arts
Teaching”. However, department’s program covers both theoretical courses
intended for teaching arts and main art courses that lead and ensure students to
become more interested in the arts’ problems by providing more intense education
in one specific branch.
II- The number of theoretical and practical teaching art courses that combine different
branches of art consistently and ensure this combination to address pre-school,
primary and high school level students is very limited as well as the number of
academicians who can give these courses.
III- Some academicians in the Department of Art and Craft Education are indecisive
and have conflicting ideas or manners about whether they give arts education or
painting education, and whether they are artists, art educators, painting teachers or
IV- There are problems about academicians’ professional qualifications and studies.
E- With regard to employment areas:
I- Department of Art and Craft Education departments are included in the structure of
education faculties of universities without careful planning.
II- There is no effort to determine how many visual arts teachers are needed for each
year in the country and also there are not five-year plans that determine quotas
allocated for Department of Art and Craft Education of Faculties of Education in
order to train visual arts teachers.
III- Today, most graduates of these departments are not appointed for teaching by the
Ministry of Education because of limited cadre.
IV- In departments, there are some academicians who are subjectively hired, and this
process creates many problems.
V- While choosing graduate students for M.A programs for arts education, juries do not
handle this process delicately enough.
The solutions for visual arts education’s problems summarized above should be
considered in the organization of both common and arts education. However, the real solution
is to make responsible people believe in the necessity of arts education and teaching, as
What Kind of Art Education and Art Teacher Training in the 21st Century
It is possible to mention many important points which emphasize the necessity of fine
arts education. People communicate with each others by either writing or talking. This is the
most common way. People also share their feelings and thoughts with others. They use
written and oral words for transferring messages. Communication can be achieved through
fine arts as well. There are also certain languages to express feelings and thoughts that
cannot be explained with words used in daily life and fine arts is one of the most prominent
Fine Arts can go beyond the language borders of different countries. Someone who does
not know Turkish can easily comprehend what the functions of “Anıtkabir (Atatürk’s
Mausoleum)” and Topkapı Palace while visiting these places, or what happens in the
painting of Osman Hamdi called “Gun Merchant” The folkloric dance of Artvin region or
the language of movements in the ballet “Lake Swan” can be understood all over the world
and spectators do not need oral explanation. Fine Arts even contribute to communicate with
creators who are possible to live in other worlds. Indeed, NASA scientists constructed the
space shuttle named Pioneer 10 which was the first to go beyond our solar system in 1972 in
USA, and placed a special plaque on it. There were a drawing of one man and woman
besides a diagram showing our solar system on that plaque. Scientists working at NASA
thought that those visual symbols can be the best way in order to try to communicate with
other creatures existing in universe (Ragans, 1995). When this is considered, the necessity
felt for one of the functions of arts shows itself strikingly. Thus, art becomes a universal
language although providing communication is just one of its characteristics.
By saying “The power ruling people’s lives and performance is creativity and ability to
invent”, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk somehow emphasized the necessity of developing these
human abilities. To achieve this, education programs must cover art. It is known that art
education is the pioneer of disciplines that develop creativity today. By saying “Imagination is
more important than information”, Einstein reminds the importance of improving imagery
design, which is one of the basic objects of arts education. If a country’s high associations
which are responsible for education promise a quality and balanced education, and if this
education incorporates the aesthetic aspect of human life and experience, then art has to be
taught in this educational system. In this situation, art in any educational program which is
defined as faultless takes its place as an envisaged main subject.
Up to now, in many countries including Türkiye the understanding of art education
which is based on creativity, ability and atelier applications has forced art instructors into
inertia. Art instructors at schools who choose the children or teenagers whom they find
creative or skillful have preferred to deal with these students only. They have always got
prepared for art galleries, arranged competitions, and educational training activities only with
these select students. One of the fundamental problems which such a system brings is the
prevalence of the idea that art education is only a skills training to enhance creativity. (San,
1990). Teachers and parents at schools, therefore also students, are of the belief that art
classes are held only for students who are skillful; therefore, they believe these classes cannot
concern everyone at the same rate. Undoubtedly, the enduring insensitivity and indifference
of authorities responsible for education and other authorities has great influence on this
Rather than developing students abilities on just one branch of art, visual art lessons
should be arranged in such content that provide students with the behavior that they can
improve their creativity and their ability to creation, activate all their artistic directions, gain
the ability of critical thinking, develop aesthetic awareness, and claim both their own and
other countries’ cultural heritage. Visual arts teachers should be trained with this approach.
The realization of this will be possible with adequate support and separation of time to both
theoretical and practical lessons about art teaching in visual arts teacher training programs.
Art curricula should be prepared by the methods of auctions to private entities and
holding organized competitions in an understanding of decentralized way for the pre-school,
primary and secondary education and for vocational and non-formal education. Relevant
organizations, especially universities should support the visual arts training programs in a way
which is purified from daily policies and relationships of mutual interests. It is mandatory that
intelligent, talented and creative students who will be able to learn both the art teaching
theories developed by scientific efforts and their applications should be trained. Such an
interaction can also be beneficial for the world peace.
Every one of the art education programs will enable individuals to become aware of
their artistic talents, which will uncover their creativity skills. These programs will also help
them expertise their skills, give aesthetic sensibility, teach respect for human rights and
freedoms, raise awareness about their duties and responsibilities, provide an emphatic way of
thinking which presents their own and other cultures’ art. In addition, these education
programs, teaching how to claim cultural values which has become universal and improving
visual literacy, will help lead a happy and peaceful life.
It is a reality that art education develops students’ artistic talents; however, this is only
one of the aims. It is within the scope of art education that children and the young develop
their artistic skills via formal education, and individuals belonging to various age groups do
this via informal education. It is essential that especially each individual at the first stage of
training get artistic education in order to obtain the expected behavior. Hence, there will be an
increase in the number of individuals who have aesthetic sensibility, and are tactful polite
respectful fair. It is necessary that art education be given in a well-prepared program which
includes life-long learning principles to be given to people from all ages with any kinds of
personalities in consideration to their capacities and levels. This education should be given to
people not to waste their spare time but to develop their creativity and abilities via public
training centers, pensioners’ house, art center regions, art galleries and museums.
Consequently, art education helps people develop their non verbal thinking skills,
perception, and imagination, thinking and acting creatively. Art education, which is effective
for people to discipline themselves, has also components for the other main subjects, and it is
also developed and motivated through communication skills that are compulsory for the
language and logical mathematical thinking. Moreover, art education is of great importance to
develop societal skills and consciousness.