Education in Turkey is governed by a national system which was established in accordance with the Atatürk Reforms after the Turkish War of Independence. It is a state-supervised system designed to produce a skilful professional class for the social and economic institutes of the nation
Compulsory education lasts 12 years. Primary and secondary education is financed by the state and free of charge in public schools, between the ages of 6 and 18, and by 2001 enrolment of children in this age range was nearly 100%. Secondary or high school education is mandatory but required in order to then progress to universities. By 2011 there were 166 universities in Turkey. Except for the Open Education Faculty (Turkish: Açıköğretim Fakültesi) at Anadolu University, entrance is regulated by a national examination, after which high school graduates are assigned to university according to their performance.
In 2002, the total expenditure on education in Turkey amounted to $13.4 billion, including the state budget allocated through the National Ministry of Education and private and international funds.
On November 22, 2010, the government initiated the Fatih project which seeks to integrate state-of-the-art computer technology into Turkey’s public education system
Pre-primary education includes the optional education of children between 36–72-month who are under the age of compulsory primary education. Pre-Primary education institutions, independent nurseries are opened as nursery classes and practical classes within formal and non-formal education institutions with suitable physical capacity. Services related to Pre-Primary education are given by nurseries, kindergartens, practical classes opened first and foremost by the Ministry of National Education and by day-centers, nursery schools, day care houses, child care houses and child care institutions opened by various ministries and institutions for care or education purposes based on the provisions of ten laws, two statutes and ten regulations. In the academic year 2001–2002, 256,400 children were being educated and 14,500 teachers were employed in 10,500 Pre-Primary education institutions.
Primary school (Turkish: İlköğretim Okulu) lasts 8 years. Primary education covers the education and teaching directed to children between 6–14, is compulsory for all citizens, boys or girls, and is given free of charge in public schools. Primary education institutions are schools that provide eight years of uninterrupted education, at the end of which graduates receive a primary education diploma. The first four years of the Primary School is sometimes referred to as “First School, 1. Level” (Turkish: İlkokul 1. Kademe) but both are correct.
There are four core subjects at First, Second and Third Grades which are; Turkish, Maths, Hayat Bilgisi (literally meaning “Life Knowledge”) and Foreign Language. At Fourth Grade, “Hayat Bilgisi” is replaced by Science and Social Studies. The foreign language taught at schools changes from school to school. The most common one is English, while some schools teach German, French or Spanish instead of English. Some private schools teach two foreign languages at the same time.
Earlier the term “middle school” (tr: orta okul) was used for the three years education to follow the then compulsory five years at “First School” (tr: ilk okul). Now the second four years of primary education are sometimes referred to as “First School, 2. Level” (Turkish: İlkokul 2. Kademe) but both are correct. Already primary schools may be public or private schools. Public Schools are free but Private Schools’ admission fees change from school to school. Foreign languages taught at Private Schools are usually at a higher level than at Public Schools for most Private Schools prefer hiring native speakers as teachers.
There are five core subjects at sixth and seventh grades; Turkish, maths, science, social studies and foreign language. At eighth grade, social studies is replaced by “history” and “citizenship”.
In the academic year 2001–2002, 10.3 million students were being educated and 375,500 teachers were employed in 34,900 schools
Secondary education includes all of the general, vocational and technical education institutions that provide at least three years of education after primary school. The system for being accepted to a high school changes almost every year. Sometimes private schools have different exams, sometimes there are 3 exams for 3 years, sometimes there’s only one exam but it is calculated differently, sometimes they only look at your school grades. Secondary education aims to give students a good level of common knowledge, and to prepare them for higher education, for a vocation, for life and for business in line with their interests, skills and abilities. In the academic year 2001–2002 2.3 million students were being educated and 134,800 teachers were employed in 6,000 education institutions.
General secondary education covers the education of children between 15–17 for at least three years after primary education. General secondary education includes high schools, foreign language teaching high schools, Anatolian High Schools, high schools of science, Anatolia teacher training high schools, and Anatolia fine arts high schools.
Vocational and technical secondary education involves the institutions that both raise students as manpower in business and other professional areas, prepare them for higher education and meet the objectives of general secondary education. Vocational and technical secondary education includes technical education schools for boys, technical education schools for girls, trade and tourism schools, religious education schools, multi-program high schools, special education schools, private education schools and health education schools.
Secondary education is often referred as high school education, since the schools are called lyceum (tr: lise).
In public high schools and vocational high schools, students attend six classes each day, which last for approximately 40 minutes each. In Anatolian high schools and private high schools, the daily programme is typically longer, up to eight classes each day, also including a lunch period. All 9th graders are taught the same classes nationwide, with minor differences in certain cases. These classes are: Turkish language, Turkish literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geometry, world history, geography, religion & ethics, physical education, a foreign language (in most cases English), a second foreign language (most commonly German but could be French, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, or Chinese).
When students enter the 10th grade, they typically choose one of four tracks: Turkish language–mathematics, science, social sciences, and foreign languages. In vocational high schools, no tracks are offered, while in science high schools only the science tracks are offered. Different schools may have different policies; some, but not many, schools offer electives instead of academic tracks, giving students a wider range of options. For the 10th, 11th and 12th grade, the compulsory courses are: Turkish language, Turkish literature, republican history, and religion and ethics. In addition to that, students may be taught the following classes, depending on the track they choose and/or the high school they attend: mathematics, geometry, statistics, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, philosophy, psychology, sociology, economy, logic, arts and music, traffic and health, computer, physical education, first and second foreign language.
The students used to be given a diploma for the academic track they had chosen, which gave them an advantage if they wanted to pursue their higher education in the corresponding fields, as the University Entrance Exam scores were weighted according to the student’s track. (e.g. A science student would have an advantage over a Turkish-Mathematics student when applying for Medicine). As of the 2010–2011 educational year, all high school students are given the standard high school diploma.
At the end of high school, following the 12th grade, students take a high school finishing examination and they are required to pass this in order to take the University Entrance Exam and continue their studies at a university. There are four score types for different academic fields, including but not limited to:
• Turkish language–mathematics: international relations, law, education, psychology, economy, business management, and similar.
• Science: engineering, computer science, medicine, and other science-related professions.
• Social sciences: history, geography, and education.
• Foreign languages: language/linguistics and language teaching.
Vocational and technical secondary education involves the institutions that both raise students as manpower in business and other professional areas, prepare them for higher education and meet the objectives of general secondary education.Vocational and technical secondary education includes technical education schools for boys, technical education schools for girls, trade and tourism schools, religious education schools, multi-program high schools, special education schools, private education schools and health education schools. In the academic year 2001–2002, 821,900 students were being educated and 66,100 teachers were employed in 3,400 vocational and technical secondary education schools.
According to Article 37 of Vocational Education Law no 3308, the Ministry of National Education is organizing vocational courses in order to prepare the people who have left the formal education system and do not possess the qualifications required for employment for any vacant positions in the business sector. Based on apprenticeship training programs, the Ministry of National Education pays the insurance premiums against occupational accidents, sicknesses during the vocational period and other sicknesses of participants attending courses in relation to their occupation. These participants may take experienced apprenticeship exams after the education they have received and the work they have performed are evaluated according to the Regulations for Evaluating the Certificates and Diplomas in Apprenticeship and Vocational Training.
People who work in the 109 branches mentioned in Law no 3308, have finished primary education and are below the age of 14 may receive training as candidate apprentices or apprentices. Law no 4702 gives apprenticeship training opportunity to those over 19. The period of apprentice training changes between 2–4 years depending on the nature of vocations.
Adolescents who have not attended the formal education system or left the system at any stage may take the experienced apprenticeship exam after 1 year of adaptation training, provided they had reached the age of 16 at the date when the said profession was included in the coverage of law. Those at the age of 18 may directly take the experienced apprenticeship exam, if a certificate is provided to prove that he/she is working in the related profession.
Those who graduate from vocational and technical secondary education institutions or from vocational and technical schools and institutions may take proficiency exam in their own professions. Graduates of technical high school or of 4-year programs in vocational and technical schools and institutions are given a certificate to start businesses with the privileges and responsibilities of a proficiency certificate. In 2001, 248,400 apprentices were being educated and 5,100 teachers were employed in 345 vocational training centers
THE NEW SYSTEM 4+4+4
In March 2012 the Grand National Assembly passed new legislation on primary and secondary education usually termed as “4+4+4” (4 years primary education, first level, 4 years primary education, second level and 4 years secondary education). Children will begin their primary education in the first month of September following their sixth birthdays and will come to a close during the school year in which students turn 14 years old.
The primary education stages, which includes the first two stages of four years’ education each, will entail four years of mandatory elementary education, followed by an additional mandatory four years of middle school education, in which students will be able to choose whether they want to study at a general education middle school or a religious vocational middle school, which are referred to as Imam Hatip schools. The new legislation includes the reopening of Imam Hatip middle schools. Primary education establishments will be set up separately as independent elementary schools and middle schools.
In the Turkish education system, private schools may be grouped into four.
• Private Turkish schools: In these schools, which are opened by real or corporate bodies of Turkish nationality, public education programs at pre-primary, primary and secondary education levels are given.
• Private schools for minorities: These have been established in the Ottoman Empire period by Greek, Armenian and Jewish minorities and were placed under guarantee by the terms of the Lausanne Treaty. These schools are attended by students at pre-primary, primary and secondary education levels who belong to these minority classes and are of the Turkish nationality.
• Private foreign schools: These are schools established during the Ottoman Empire by French, German, Italian, Austrian and American people who continue their activities under the terms of the Lausanne Treaty. Today these schools are attended by Turkish children.
• Private international education institutions: They have been opened and are active as per the provisions in the amended article 5 of the Law no. 625.
There were many private courses called ‘dershane’ in cities. They were transformed into academic high schools in 2015, as the new law requires
FOREIGN LANGUAGES AT SCHOOLS
The most common foreign language is English, which in public schools is taught from 2nd grade (age 8) onwards through to the end of high school. In high school a second foreign language is introduced. However the number of lessons given in public schools is minimal compared to private schools, which begin teaching English in kindergarten, have two or three times as many English lessons in the timetable, and in many cases employ native speakers of English as teachers. In 2011 the Ministry of Education, under pressure from the Prime Minister to improve the learning of English in Turkey, announced that the approach to language would be thoroughly revised, part of which would include a plan to hire 40,000 foreigners as language assistants in public schools.
As a result of the poor standards achieved by the public system many students take an intensive English language “prep year” when entering university. These are offered by both state and private universities throughout Turkey.