If you are planning to move to Turkey to study, or maybe settle in with kids, you might be asking yourself a lot of questions about the education system in Turkey. Choosing the right school for you or for your kids is crucial especially when you are a foreigner living in another country. As there aren’t many great options in Turkey with regard to free education, you will want to be careful about where to spend your money when it comes to private schools. This extensive “Education in Turkey” guide will provide you with all the necessary information to help you make the right decision.
How is the education system in Turkey?
After kindergarten, education in Turkey is mandatory for Turks when they are 6 years old. With the new system called 4+4+4 introduced in 2012, the total education tenure is 12 years for both primary and secondary education. The Turkish schooling system starts with elementary school, middle school, and then high school with 4 years each. After high school, students have the option to apply for college admissions to continue their higher education in either private or public universities. The state school program is taught in Turkish with the interaction of only a few hours of foreign language instruction. Therefore, going to a public school is not an option if you want your children to be educated in a langauge other than Turkish.
Is education in Turkey free for international students?
Yes, state schools “devlet okul” are free for both nationals and internationals. The Turkish government allows foreign students to benefit from free education if they have a valid residence permit and a study visa. However, students under 18 years won’t need a study visa if their parents are residents in Turkey.
Pre-schools in Turkey
Kindergarten or pre-schools are important for the child’s development, even though it’s optional in Turkey’s education system. Preschools are mostly private institutions which are quite expensive in Turkey. Good preschools can cost up to 60 000TL a year. Admissions to preschools start at the age of 36 months. Toddlers can stay until they are 6 years old, which is the mandatory age to enroll in a primary school.
Primary school education in Turkey
Primary school in Turkey is divided into two levels: The first level is called İlk okul which lasts 4 years and the second level, Orta okul, lasts another 4 years which makes 8 years in total.
First School (İlk okul)
Primary school “İlköğretim Okulu” in Turkey is compulsory for both girls and boys. Children between the ages of 6 and 14 can enroll in a primary school. During the the first four years of primary school students take the following core subjects: Turkish, Maths, Hayat Bilgisi “Life Knowledge”, Foreign Languages, Science and Social Studies. Foreign languages that are taught during primary school education differ from one school to another.
The most common foreign language is English. There is a difference between private and public schools when it comes to the type of curriculum and foreign languages. Private schools usually provide a higher level of education than the public schools. Also, the number of students per class is less in private schools than in public schools.
At the end of the first school, students have the option to choose between mainstream education middle schools or religious middle schools such as Imam Hatip schools.
Middle school (Orta okul)
The second four years of primary education can be taught in either public or private schools. Private schools’ fees can vary from school to school. However, public schools are free for both foreigners and Turkish citizens.
The subjects taught during the second level of primary education are Turkish, Maths, Science, Social Studies, and a Foreign Language. Later, in the eighth grade, social studies is replaced by Turkish History of Revolution and Kemalism.
Secondary school or High School education in Turkey
High school education in Turkey is also a compulsory 4 year program after primary school. Students aged 15 to 17 can enroll in high schools in Turkey. The enrollment system changes from one school to another, private or public. Sometimes students take exams to be accepted and sometimes primary school grades are enough to enroll. High school programs are meant to prepare students for higher education and life after school.
The secondary school program includes different subjects which are: Turkish language and literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geometry, world history, geography, religion & ethics, physical education, and two foreign languages. English and German are the most taught foreign languages in Turkey but some schools may choose other languages such as French or Arabic instead of German.
Top High Schools in Turkey
- Robert College of Istanbul: Always ranked at the top of private schools in Turkey, Robert college is the oldest American school outside the US. The school is a very selective institution with a long history of notable graduates including entrepreneurs, ministers, and journalists.
- TED Ankara College Foundation Schools: TED College Foundation schools is a Turkish group of private schools in Turkey. TED college is located in Ankara and has a kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools.
- Koç School: Koç school is a private school in Turkey founded by a wealthy businessman in Turkey named Vehbi Koç. The school has a high school and an elementary school. Koç School admits the students based on their nationwide exam results. Koç School is a bilingual school in Turkish and English but also offers the option of additional languages: French, German or Spanish.
- Istanbul International Community School: Also called IICS is one of the oldest international schools in the world and one of the first schools in the world authorized to offer all three International Baccalaureate programs. To enroll in IICS you need to be a non-Turkish citizen. The school has 2 campuses, Hisar campus, and Marmara campus.
- Galatasaray High School: Galatasaray High School Galatasaray Lisesi is a French high school in Turkey. It is the oldest high school in Turkey. Galatasaray is a state high school and admission requires students with a high entrance score. The high school curriculum is taught in a mix of both French and Turkish.
University education in Turkey
To continue their university education in Turkey, Turkish students will have to pass the national university entrance exam organized by ÖSYM (Ölçme, Seçme ve Yerleştirme Merkezi), in English The Measuring, Selection, and Placement Center. While foreigners take the Yös exam or provide equivalent credentials approved by the Higher Education Council (YÖK). Students may attend either private or public universities. Public universities in Turkey charge symbolic fees while private ones are extremely expensive.
Top Universities in Turkey
- Galatasaray University: Galatasaray university is the only francophone university in Turkey and one of the most prestigious ones. A member of the European exchange program, Erasmus and Socrates, Galatasaray receives international exchange students every year. The university also sends around 100 students every year for exchange programs to France. The primary language used in the university is French but fluency in English is also required. Galatasaray is located in Beşiktaş, one of the best locations in Turkey.
- Bilkent University: Bilkent university is one of the top universities in Turkey. Located in Ankara, Bilkent university owns the largest university library in Turkey that ranked in the top 10 libraries in the country.
- Istanbul Technical University: Located in Istanbul, ITU is a reputable institution known for its history, science, technology, art, and sports achievements. Being one of the oldest and most prominent technical universities in the world, the university provides academic learning, scientific and technological developments.
- Marmara University: Marmara University (MARUN) is a public institution located in Istanbul. MARUN provides recognized bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees in several areas of study. Marmara University also has a selective admission policy based on the student’s entrance examination results.
- Koç University: Koç University is a non-profit private higher education institution located in Istanbul. The university is officially recognized by YÖK (Council of Higher Education). The university offers bachelor’s and master’s courses. Koç implemented a selective admission policy based on entrance examinations and students’ high school records and grades. International students are welcome to apply for enrollment.
Is Turkey the best place to study?
There is no simple answer to this question. It depends on several factors. However, it is no secret that Turkey does not have the best education system in the world, and no one expects this. Turkey is a developing country and as such, continues to strive to develop and re-invent itself in different sectors, including education.
That being said, Turkey has transformed from a mono-lingual, largely homogenous socitey into a melting pot of different religous, cultural and linguistic identities . Thus, the education system has changed and, I would assume, will continue to change to meet the needs of its diverse population.