Field Note- Kids
Meet Fatima, a young girl who lives in my building. Her family asked if I could help her with her English homework, and our relationship has evolved as we both expand our vocabulary in our mother tongues. Fatima is ten years old, and learning colors, body parts and clothing words in English. I am also learning these words in Turkish, so we make a great team. She is in fourth grade and has an English lesson at school once a week. Have you ever studied a foreign language in school? How old were you when you began?
The Turkish school system recently changed, and Turkish children now start primary school a bit earlier, between five and seven years old. Primary school lasts for four years, and then students begin middle school, which also lasts for four years. In Turkey, the middle and high schools are sometimes specialized. Students can choose whether or not they want to attend a school focusing on science, religion, social science, language or general education. They also have to pass a test in order to attend one of these schools.
There are many new universities in Turkey, so more people are attending university once they are finished with high school. Similar to the United States, students in Turkey must take an exam to prior to being admitted in a university. Their scores determine which university they can attend. The scores also help to determine what they will study, which is quite different than in America. Students want to study something that will help them to find a job after graduation, so some areas are not as favorable. If they get a low score on their test, however, they have to study less popular subjects instead of what they really want to study.
Due to the importance of test scores, many students begin attending private lessons after school once they are in high school. Their families must pay for these lessons, and sometimes students get tutoring for several hours every day for all four years, in hopes they will score higher on the college entrance exams and be able to study what they choose.
When Fatima is not studying for school, she likes to play with her friends. They generally meet outside between their apartment buildings. They play chase, hide and seek and dodge ball. The girls like to jump rope while the boys like to play soccer. If the family is having company, Fatima helps her mother to serve the guests instead of playing with friends. Turkish people are very hospitable, and offer tea, coffee and food to anyone who might stop by. Fatima also helps her mother around the house by preparing food and cleaning. Although she is still quite young, her family wants her to study as much as she can so she is prepared for her future.