Vocational high school computer science teacher Selçuk Yusuf Arslan from Ankara, Turkey, believes the primary purpose of education is to create thoughtful citizens. So when teaching his students coding he encourages them to find solutions to real world problems and carries out projects that address UN Sustainable Development Goals. He also reaches out to ensure school and industry collaborations that mobilise all stakeholders.
Working with predominantly female students from a disadvantaged area of Ankara with high crime and drug use, where women and girls are treated as second class citizens, he has nonetheless managed to improve their ICT skills with initiatives like his Girls Encountering Technology Project and collaborations with institutions such as Microsoft and Hacettepe University. His projects, especially with female students have gained worldwide appreciation earning him many international awards and seen him selected as an SDG teacher ambassador, a Microsoft Certified Educator and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.
As a volunteer trainer for the project 'Code for Nature', supported by Pegasus, one of Turkey's leading airlines, he ensured 20 students in a village school in İzmir learnt coding and robotics for the first time in their lives. As a STEM expert he is an ambassador of Turkey’s Scientix project, supported by the European Commission, which is helping with the expansion of STEM in Europe. His own STEM projects and those of his students, such as More Coding More Girls have won international awards and seen them pick up trophies and star at conferences from Malta to Manchester, as well as be featured on StarTV, one of the country’s leading broadcast channels. His industrial outreach has secured software and instructor support from companies like Microsoft and thanks to these successes, his school has seen a 28% decrease in absenteeism and a 40% increase in grade point averages.
Among the school projects that gather his students international awards and monetary prizes, they have won 3 gold and 6 silver medals by encoding their educational materials in the Turkey Mathematics Olympiad. At another national competition, two of his students successfully exhibited the obesity prevention software they coded for the SDG goal of Good Health and Well Being. Their Respect in Traffic project teamed up with sponsors to produce and distribute 25,000 produces such as stickers, mousepads and wristbands with road safety messages on to try and combat Turkey’s traffic accidents record, created awareness for disabled car parking spaces in the community and secured a cycle path in the city with the cooperation of the council. Two of his students won awards in a national competition about global warming ahead of the Paris Climate Summit while his invitation for international teachers to join his classes via Skype and for South African students to share experiments and make friendships with his students, have all contributed to their global citizenship.
His relationship building of school-industry cooperation means many of his students serve internships in Turkey's most important technology companies in their final year. Now one of his entrepreneur students runs his own IT company, while other students have become computer engineers or even computer science teachers like their mentor.