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BLOG Turkey's Schooling System for Expats

18 January 2018 / Lifestyle

The Education system in Turkey

Foreign families moving to Turkey face a maze of options, language barriers, cultural differences and difficult decisions when they try to find the best school for their children.

If choosing the right property abroad was stress enough for the family, then it can be a daunting task of trying to research and filter the truth from fiction for a good education for their sons and daughters. Admittedly, schools can differ in performance and philosophy from county to county.


Research early before your move and speak to expat parents who will give you a more grounded view of schools in your chosen locale rather than build up perceptions and expectations that could be underwhelming in the long run.

When viewing a school, try to take a translator to understand what the school is all about, its activities, homework and what teachers expect of students.

Another tip is to see how prospective schools cope with foreign students. See if you can speak with their parents to learn about the pros and cons of the school. Other considerations include the curriculum and class sizes.

To match your child's development, expat parents can learn Turkish to keep abreast of school information and announcements.

School Overview

The Ministry of Education oversees the school system in Turkey, while Directorates of National Education on a county level are appointed by the Ministry but under the guidance of the province's governor.

A child will face 12 years of education - known as the 4+4+4 years - with these split between primary and secondary schools. They begin aged five years and finish at 17. Uniforms are worn in school.

Following secondary education, a student will be awarded a Secondary School Diploma (Lise Diplomasi) which enables them to take a national exam for entry into higher education.

School Terms and Days

The academic year runs from mid-September to mid-June the following year, with a two-week break in February. As it is a Muslim country, there is no time off for Christmas in December as there is in the UK.

The school day comprises either morning and afternoon sessions, and runs Monday to Friday.


For children between ages three to five years, pre-school education is optional, but for an expat a good building block towards the child's experience of the education system. It's also an early taster for them to begin understanding basic Turkish.

Primary Education

Since 2012 with a major shift in education, primary education has been extended to eight years - four years in primary and four years in middle. Primary education often taught at the same school, is compulsory and free.

Primary education encompasses core subjects such as Turkish, maths and life knowledge, as well as, from fourth grade, that of a second language, such as English, German or French

Religious education begins during primary school but isn't compulsory for foreign students.

In the second four-year slot education focuses on Turkish, maths, a foreign language, sciences and social studies, although this latter topic has switched to the teachings and history of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish nation.

Secondary Education

Students aged between 14 and 17 years attend Secondary Education where they will learn a full curriculum. There are different types of high schools: Duz Liseler (normal high schools), Anatolian Schools, as well as technical, tourism and vocational schools. These latter ones offer students a defined career path.

Private and International Schools

Private Schools are an alternative to state-run schools as parents seek smaller class sizes, one-to-one tuition, increased extra-curricular programmes, and bi-lingual staff. However, these schools are often expensive.

An International School is another choice for parents, with the curriculum following that of another country. Usually bi-lingual, the schools flourish in larger cities, such as Izmir and Istanbul. They are also expensive but reflect the international standing of their organisation.


When it comes to parents' options for schooling, they may be limited due to the location of their new home. An international school is more likely to exist within reach of diplomatic communities while living in a smaller resort affords a wider diversity in the state system.

Attending state schools means free education, your child mixing with local Turkish children, and picking up the language faster. They will assimilate quicker in the community and develop a  strong, bicultural identity.

One person that shouldn't be excluded from the thought process is your child. So weigh up their feelings of a new school, culture and country before making that defining decision.


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