TBY talks to Uğur Gazanker, CEO of Doğa Schools, on the nature-based learning concept, the t-MBA program, and internationalism.

Uğur Gazanker
After a rich career in counseling, Uğur Gazanker became the CEO and General Manager of Doğa Koleji in 2001, the year of its foundation. A successful entrepreneur, he has developed strong professional relationships both regionally and globally. He is a trailblazer in supporting and improving the quality of education throughout Turkey, and the world.

Can you elaborate on the concept of nature-based learning?

The most important thing for Doğa Schools, and all other schools, is education, and having education models that are differentiated from our rivals. One of the most important things for us is our model of education, something that we first discovered in Turkey in 2002, in our first year. We opened that first school in a green, natural area; we were surrounded by nature and trees. We began opening more schools within cities, and, again, they had the same “Doğa" philosophy. We put this mindset into all of our branches. Our students started to grow up and, as the years passed, we grew up as well. Later, we thought about what else we could do for high school education. Doğa Schools' specialty is to be innovative, because innovation is crucial in this business. We began to look for something new to offer high school students. Then, the t-MBA occurred, which is an MBA for teenagers. To create the t-MBA table, we needed legs. One of these legs is student councils, another is foreign languages, and another is international projects and activities. Later, we saw that everybody was very interested in this project and they needed it, truly. When families send their students to our schools, they do so because of our education models and content.

What is it about your model that makes it so unique?

None of the other schools have a unique education model of their own. In the history of Turkish education, no other unique education models have been developed, neither private nor state; everything is classic. In the morning, students come to school and have their lessons, and in the evening they go back home. If they want to go to a better school, they must do well on government exams. Everybody's success is determined according to these exams, both those of the students and the schools. It is nonsense; this cannot be a determining measurement. For those that do not do well, they cannot enjoy real success in life; there is no true balance because the classical education model is the wrong education model. We have solved this problem in Doğa's schools. Doğa started in 2002 and, until that year, none of the schools had advertisements, PR, brand names, or anything. The private school sector had never been done properly. There were a few schools, and they had students, but it was not a big volume. We created a relationship with our international partners for the first time in Turkey. At the same time, we explained to everybody that this sector is a management sector. And as we grew, we created our rivals. In the end, we have contributed many things to this sector and now we are the leaders. We have 50,000 students currently, and every year we have 20,000-25,000 new registrations. In 2014, we will again be the leaders, and we will have the same number as the other 10 schools. Half of our students will come from state schools, and the other half from private schools.

You have one school in Canada and one in Northern Cyprus, but what are your plans to spread Doğa Schools further internationally?

We have formed a partnership with a school in Dubai and the area has been designated for the first school. We are also having meetings with in some European countries, but we have more on our plate than just international branches. We created a t-MBA organization with more than 1,000 members, and more than 1,000 schools in the world are implementing this model, from Sierra Leone to Puerto Rico. With this model, Doğa Schools is opening itself up to the world. Schools in Dubai know our model because they are implementing it, so when we go there people will already know us as the ones who created it.