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Turkish program offers photographers a future

Ankara university's virtual classroom draws on swiftly changing technology.

For a country like Turkey, where access to higher education is still fairly limited, such courses can help even out the educational playing field. According to Turkey’s Council of Higher Education, the country’s participation rate for higher education, excluding distance learning, is still only about 25 percent — the lowest of the OECD countries.

“When the capacities of standard schools fail to meet the needs of the population, distance education is the new modern model to provide efficient education by using communicational technologies,” said Huseyin Eryilmaz, a professor in Anadolu University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, who helped to create the Photography and Camera Operation Associates degree program.

Anadolu University has long been a pioneer in distance learning, establishing the first distance-education system in Turkey in 1982. Today, more than 1 million students are enrolled in that branch of the university’s programs.

Students who prefer distance learning range from those continuing their education while maintaining full-time jobs, students in the military and those stuck in a prison cell. For all of them, the course provides an opportunity to further their education that would not be there without these technologies. The photography degree program, first offered this past fall, is the university’s newest addition to their distance-learning platform.

Evrim Kaya Yildiz is an Ankara-based lawyer with a thriving practice, but in her youth she dreamed of being a photographer, collecting stacks of photo magazines and regularly attending exhibitions. Now, a decade later, the degree program has given her a chance to renew her passion without having to sacrifice her career.

“The fact that the study is run via a remote education system is a big chance for a person like me,” she said. “I can determine my own hours of study, at my own initiative.”

For those concerned that the photographic standards of the golden era aren’t being handed down, Eryilmaz argues that distance-learning programs like this are helping to bring an education to those with the interest but not the means.

“Visual literacy is essential for a well-equipped society … and so we have to give this educational opportunity to people,” Eryilmaz said. “After all, art and aesthetics are the specialty of modern humanity.”