In 2012 the Turkish school system was significantly reformed. All boys and girls must now complete 12 years of compulsory education: eight years at primary school from the age of 6 or 7, then four years at secondary school prior to university, which is not compulsory. State schools are free to Turkish citizens but admission of foreign nationals is usually at the discretion of the individual establishment. Most lessons are taught in Turkish, but again there are some exceptions. Alternatively, there are many private and international schools that may cater better for non-Turkish speakers.
The school year in Turkey runs from September to June and is divided into two semesters. The first semester starts in September and ends in January and the second begins in February and ends in June, usually with a break of about two weeks in between. As education is managed centrally, there tends to be little variation in term dates in state schools. International schools may run to slightly different systems.
There are two types of university in Turkey, state and privately-run. Universities and higher education institutions are overseen by the Council of Higher Education (CoHE), an autonomous entity which operates in accordance with defined education laws. Generally universities in Turkey enjoy similar levels of autonomy, so they are free to define their own academic programmes and calendar. Qualifications and standards are monitored against the National Qualifications Framework for Higher Education, which was introduced in 2010 to help Turkey continue to raise the quality of its education system.
The tuition fee scales for Turkish universities are defined centrally by the government ahead of each academic year, but it is up to the individual university as to how these fees apply. State universities are usually cheaper than private universities, although international students may find little difference in the fees charged to them. However, the Turkish government is keen to encourage international students to study in the country so they have opened up several scholarship schemes to overseas applicants.
Degree courses in Turkey are offered in a huge range of subjects, most of which are taught in Turkish or English. There are typically three types of course available:
- Associate's degree – lasting about two years and accessible to vocational high school graduates without further assessment
- Bachelor’s degree – usually completed in four to six years depending on the subject
- Graduate degrees – ranging from one year to four year courses depending on the type of
Research opportunities are gradually growing in Turkey thanks to the support of the state and various investors. To find out more about new research projects and funding opportunities, visit the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey website.
Primary and secondary education
Primary schools in Turkey teach a group of mandatory core subjects along with other classes which are defined by the institution. The most commonly taught foreign language is English, but it is not compulsory and some schools opt for German or Spanish instead. When students complete their primary education, they take standardised exams to gain entry into one of two types of secondary school: general or vocational. The former is usually a more broad education designed to prepare students for university, while the latter is more technical in nature with a view to students taking a more vocational degree or moving directly into work.
Preschool and childcare options
Preschool education is not compulsory in Turkey but it is increasingly popular and compared to other European countries it can be reasonably inexpensive. However, places in state-run facilities can be limited, so parents may need to investigate more expensive private establishments or look at employing a childminder or nanny.