An insider view to success of Fethullah Gulen inspired schools: ‘The teacher factor’

Gulen SchoolsFethullah Gulen inspired schools that have been opened in various corners of the world have proven themselves as very efficient and successful educational establishments. Students of the schools are often becoming the first in different domestic and international intellectual competitions and Olympiads; and many graduates of Fethullah Gulen inspired schools continue their studies in the most prestigious universities of the world. What are the reasons and factors explaining why Gulen inspired schools have become such efficient and successful educational establishments? As a graduate of one of the Gulen inspired schools in Central Asia, I can say that one of the most important reasons of such success is hidden in the so-called ‘teacher factor’ – more precisely, in the unique approach of teachers to educating and interacting with students. In the following paragraphs I will provide facts and concrete examples from my own experiences in order to explain why the teachers can be regarded as keys to success of Fethullah Gulen inspired schools. Although I will be mainly referring to the school which I attended, my observations are applicable to all Fethullah Gulen inspired schools since they all follow common systematic approach to education.

First of all, let me start with describing educational backgrounds of teachers, because it is one of the most significant factors affecting the efficiency of Fethullah Gulen inspired schools. Our teachers were exemplary individuals, because they very educated, intelligent, caring and brave enough to leave their home countries to serve people abroad. All teachers in my school were graduates of best universities of Turkey and other countries and had good professional experience. Almost all teachers were fluent in at least two languages. In our school scientific classes such as math, physics, chemistry and biology were taught in English, while classes such as history and geography were taught in Turkish. Multilingual education by professional teachers made it possible for many students to continue their education in the most distinguished universities of Turkey, Europe and USA. In addition, having teachers from foreign countries provided opportunities how to deal with and respect people from different backgrounds and cultures. In short, teachers in our school very different from regular school teachers, and this difference made our Gulen inspired school very distinctive place to study.

The methodology of teaching in Fethullah Gulen inspired schools is based on giving high value and importance to academic progress of each student. In general, average classes in Fethullah Gulen inspired schools are much smaller in size than those in regular schools; therefore teachers usually have more opportunities to interact closely with each student. During the five years I studied in this school I always felt that our teachers perceived their task of educating as not only a job, but also as personal duty and responsibility. Teachers expected us to show the best academic progress we could and they were working hard to constantly increase our learning capacity. That meant that students were expected to work much harder than in regular schools, but as it is known, the true success is unlikely to come without hard work. Moreover, whenever students needed help, teachers were ready to work extra hours until nobody had any problems in understanding material. The importance that teachers gave to their work resulted in the fact that students started to feel a desire and obligation to be the best they could be.

Another fact that differed Gulen inspired school teachers from other teachers is that they developed individual approach to each student in the school. Our teachers sought to find special talents and hidden capabilities in every student. Those students who were especially talented in math or in any other subject were receiving special attention and great support from teachers. Teachers encouraged and motivated those students to develop their capabilities and worked actively to help them to become successful in their area of interest. This explains why there were so many successful participants in intellectual competitions and Olympiads among students of Fethullah Gulen inspired schools.

Finally, another significant factor explaining success of Fethullah Gulen inspired schools, so-called Gulen Schools, is that teachers did their best to create friendly, peaceful and cooperative atmosphere not only in classroom, but also outside of it. They managed to develop good interpersonal ties with students by organizing extracurricular activities such as picnics, birthday parties, interschool competitions, city sightseeing tours, summer camps, home dinners and trips to Turkey. Our teachers used these extracurricular activities in order to promote the desire to continuous improvement and in order to incorporate sound moral values in us. Indeed, teachers felt responsibility not only for educating students, but also for shaping our personality as morally good, respectful, and aspiring individuals.

To sum it up, I would like to say that teachers are the main contributors to good education. Moreover, they are key builders of intelligent and progressive society. Together with passing knowledge and preparing children for further education, they are also responsible for passing moral values and preparing students to adult life. Therefore, the future of a child is often affected by those people who were his/her educators and the quality of educational institution is directly related with the quality of teachers and their methodology of teaching and communicating with students. I am very thankful to teachers of my school for everything I have learned and for the person I have become.