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The survival of an alternative school in central Turkey : the case of a parent co-op elementary school

Gök, Sebahat
This study focuses on exploring how learning experiences are realized at an alternative K-4 school owned by a parent cooperation in Central Turkey, what components of the school makes it alternative, how the alternative learning environment is perceived by the internal stakeholders, and what challenges are faced while implementing alternative education. The study aims to inform theory and practice on how a democratic and innovative child-centered school system operates in the context of Turkey. The case selected for this study is pseudonymized as Anatolia Alternative Elementary School (K-4), a co-op elementary school in Ankara. The school’s mission is to enable children to realize themselves, to be governed by participatory democracy, and be ecologically balanced and distant from pursuing commercial interests. The study was designed as an illustrative qualitative single case study. The data were collected through observations and on-site field notes, interviewing the teachers (N=9) and the school administrator, and analyzing emerging documents such as instructional materials, the school mission statement, and protocols. The data were analyzed through inductive content analysis method. The findings reveal that the case is characterized under five major themes including democratic school governance, freedom of expression, sense of community, child-centered education, and ecological stance. Findings provide insightful reflections on the challenges of implementing alternative education: fuzzy status of the parents, inefficiency in time management especially, for seeking consensus on decision-making processes; challenges in establishing discipline, lack of alternative school models and resources in the national context, restricted financial resources, and the dichotomy of parents’ academic worries versus holistic education. Several implications were discussed regarding the national teacher education, improvement of alternative practices, transfer of useful alternative practices to mainstream education, future research for effective alternative instruction, parents’ role in education, and cultural transformation.