With the recent election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan – one of the world’s most brilliant albeit increasingly controversial political populists – to the presidency of Turkey, we at Mediolana feel it an opportune moment to survey what the first Erdoğan term (2014-2019) could mean for education companies with a stake in the increasingly valuable Turkish market. Three points in particular stand out:
- More ‘Crazy Projects’. Erdogan is known for his love of the Really Big Undertakings, such as the intercontinental Marmaray rail line which links Asia and Europe and which was inaugurated and completed during his tenure as prime minister. In the education sector, the the FATIH or Movement to Increase Opportunities and Technology project, which is already well underway, will see tablet computers issued to every student in Turkey from grades 5 to 12. Providers of large-scale, capital- and technology-intensive products and services will continue to benefit from this approach.
- Developmental Emphasis. The ruling Justice and Development Party, of which Erdogan is likely to remain de facto head despite his officially neutral presidential position, has very much placed the emphasis on economic development in recent years. This is likely to accelerate the percentage of the population who are at least nominal members of Turkey’s middle-class, meaning that the education sector as a whole is likely to benefit. New universities have been springing up like mushrooms after a summer storm since the 1990s; this trend should intensify.
- Arbitrary State? Education companies looking to expand their presence in Turkey should be aware that some local education providers – particularly those in the dershane or cram school industry – are facing a bleak future as the government has promised to make these illegal, despite both the vital role they play in augmenting the largely sub-standard Turkish schooling system and significant public opposition to their closure. An Erdogan presidency could make an already centralised state more powerful and less responsive to property rights and the rule of law. However, it is also worth bearing in mind that the presidency in Turkey under the current 1982 constitution is fundamentally not an executive position, so some of the more grandiose predictions could unravel with surprising ease.