Tony Gurr

Corruption, Bribery & Graft in the Busyness of ELT…

In Conferences, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 02/06/2018 at 6:59 pm

Say NO To Corruption (TG ver)

In Turkish there is a little saying that, at first sight, looks quite innocent – ‘…bal tutan parmağını yalar’!

In English, it translates literally as ‘he who holds the honeypot will (always) lick his finger’  but is more commonly explained as ‘anyone in charge of distributing things of value will always take something for himself’.


Sadly, this saying has become so ingrained in the Turkish psyche that the majority of us think nothing of using the phrase on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, many of us have come to see the message behind the saying – corruption is ‘inevitable’ and (perhaps worse) even OK – as natural! After all, if we were ‘in power’, we’d find jobs for family members (look at how Trump has filled the White House with his spawn, in-laws and cronies), help out our friends in business and (even) build a nicer ‘house’ to entertain guests…wouldn’t we?

Shoe box (TG ver) (1)

We saw a blatant example of this in 2013 when canım Türkiyem glimpsed (for a few weeks) the biggest corruption scandal the country had ever seen…at the highest levels of government. OK…the claims may have been hushed up pretty sharpish (with a couple of sacrificial lambs) and the evidence dismissed on the ‘technical grounds’ that it was obtained via illegal wiretaps but the bottom line was that almost half the population didn’t even blink an eye!


Sam Varkin has described how corruption, bribery and graft can and do hurt a country:

‘It skews the level playing field; it guarantees extra returns where none should have been had; it encourages the misallocation of economic resources, and it subverts the proper functioning of institutions. It is, in other words, without a single redeeming feature, a scourge’.

However, he also notes that this is not how it is perceived by its perpetrators: both the ‘givers’ and the ‘recipients’ (it takes two to tango…and corruption can never work when one party says ‘NO’).

‘They believe that corruption helps facilitate the flow and exchange of goods and services in hopelessly clogged and dysfunctional systems and markets (corruption and the informal economy “get things done” and “keep people employed”); that it serves as an organising principle where chaos reigns and institutions are in their early formative stages; that it supplements income and thus helps the state employ qualified and skilled personnel; and that it preserves peace and harmony by financing networks of cronyism, nepotism, and patronage’.



Corruption is all about theft and abuse of power..carried out by unethical and immoral individuals. And, THEY know what they are doing is wrong!

This is why I get so upset when I hear about it happening in education – a business sector (yes, it is a business…no escaping that fact these days) that acts as the backdrop and early environment for every single young person in a country. Education needs role models beyond reproach…some might say ‘angel-like’ mentors that can guide young minds and ensure they learn about and stay on the straight and narrow!


The good news?

Rotten Apple

In education, across canım Türkiyem, the givers and recipients are a SMALL group of ‘rotten apples’ that tarnish the good reputation of their schools and universities as well as their own organisations (if they are suppliers to those schools).


What can be done?

Well, there are a number of steps that can be taken immediately:

1. All suppliers to schools and universities can affirm (or reaffirm) their commitment to programmes of anti-corruption by publishing their own policies on bribery and graft.

2. Schools and universities themselves can build similar policies into their codes of professional practice and job descriptions. They can also ensure that there are strong checks and balances in place to ensure fewer irregularities when making purchases from suppliers.

3. Suppliers need to especially vigilant when offering additional professional development support to schools and universities as ‘package solutions’ and make sure that these ‘grey areas’ are not interpreted as ‘bribe-driven gifts’. This is true of conference visits that involve foreign travel, flights and hotel staysthe best way is to simply avoid them altogether!

4. School and university decision-makers make sure that they are last in line…when sharing the ‘honey’ attached to purchasing arrangements and that teachers are first in line when making decisions about those purchases (e.g. textbook and materials selection).

5. Schools and their suppliers should have zero tolerance for staff / affiliates / distributors that break any and all of these anti-corruption programmes by (a) ‘naming and shaming’ the individuals involved in the communities in which they operate, (b) reporting all infringements to the authorities, and (c) ensuring these individuals are not re-employed within the sector.

Stop Corruption (row of apples) TG ver (1)

I’m guessing that all of us, with the exception of those few ‘rotten apples’, will applaud and support steps like this – without reservation.


I just wonder how many will…

  1. Please allow me to add a couple of ideas to the steps you’ve listed, Tony:

    1. Administrators should make sure that people in charge of book selection process-including themselves – follow certain protocols such as

    a) needs analysis and results
    b) evaluation checklists
    c) pilot groups ( piloting in 1-2 classes)
    d) teacher groups/committees ( for different levels/skills)

    and get a detailed, official report from all stakeholders before deciding on a book. All in all, the process must involve as many people as possible- not rely on ONE person’s subjective decisions.

    2. To this end, all the teachers at the institution should be trained on the topics: ‘How to Choose a Coursebook’, ‘How to Adapt a Coursebook’ etc. The cover or the illustrations in a book could be a criteria but they are not the ONLY factors when choosing a book, for example, and particularly young teachers need to be trained on this. Also, teachers should be able to ask questions ‘Why this book?’ ‘Who chose this book?’ or give feedback-even complain – about the book chosen saying ‘This book does not work well in our context!’ Only then, the ONE MAN SHOW can stop!

    3. Under no circumstances should a person in charge hold private meetings with publishers at schools or outside schools. The address should be the committees/ all teachers in a particular group, ideally more than 5 people.

    4. All kinds of support from publishers i.e. Going to Conferences, classroom materials, sponsoring ELT Conferences, teacher training should be received on an official platform in a transparent manner NOT on a personal platform.

    This seems to be all for now but I’m sure other ideas that may shape the way will be posted here and help us all to fight the unprofessional, unethical and non-academic way of doing things in the ELT world in canim Türkiyem.

  2. Some very good recommendations there, hocam – they help protect everybody involved and could even help us obtain better outcomes for our students.

    One thing I would add is that this problem is not just one for the publishers – …I would love to find out how much of the money used to fund ‘the Fatih Project’ was swallowed up by ‘grease payments’ and back-handers to all those technology suppliers, distributors and so-called educational consultants involved!


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