GENERAL EDUCATION POLICIES IN TURKEY
one of the most widespread public services and one of the
most fundamental human rights, which is carried out in a planned
and organised manner, explaining the present state of education
in Turkey, various educational strategies from the past to
the present, the difference and quality of education in various
regions on the basis of existing information will enable us
to reach a more reliable verdict.
looking into the philosophical approach that the education
system is based in Turkey will offer
us some ideas about the general framework.
general aims of Turkish National Education in the Turkish
National Education Fundamental Law starts as follows;
general aim of the National Education is to;
“Bring up individuals as citizens
loyal to Ataturk’s reforms and principles and Ataturk’s nationalism
as epitomised in the Constitution, who adopt, nurture and
protect the Turkish nation’s moral, humane, cultural and national
values, love his family, country, nation and seek to exalt
it higher, who is conscious of his duties and responsibilities
to the Republic of Turkey which is a democratic, secular and
welfare state as defined by human rights and the introductory
fundamental principles of the constitution and adopt them
as part of his life.”
“Thus increase the prosperity and happiness of the citizens
of Turkey and the Turkish Society whilst on the other hand
to support and accelerate the economic, social and cultural
development in a national comprehension and unity and finally
to enable the Turkish Nation to become constructive, creative,
eminent partners of modern civilisation.”
system of education is organised in such a manner to achieve
these general aims as defined in the national Fundamental
Law. These aims, which lays the basis of the System of education
in Turkey is not compatible
with the social realities in Turkey. Right at the
introduction, the aim of bringing up her citizens as individuals
loyal to Ataturk’s nationalism forms a clear contradiction
with social reality of Turkey which consists
of multitude of nationalities, cultures, ethnicities, and
beliefs and forces the multicoloured social texture of Turkey
into one single mould.
This educational policy which
had been in practised right from the beginning of the Republic
and overlaps with the unitary structure of the state has systematically
assimilated the varying languages and cultures in the unitary
actual fact, the educational policy in Turkey has always
been a problematic and awkward subject. One government after
another have dealt with the constitutional problems of education
whilst turning the system of education into an element of
state’s security concept in practice.
Governments have never been successful in disciplining the system of education
and all the developed models relevant to education have been
short-lived. Whilst on the one hand in the process of integration
with the west Turkey have found herself face to face with
impositions and adopted their systems without laying down
the necessary infrastructure for them, the social realities
of the country were ignored and in fact, an educational policy
was intended to be enforced in order to destroy the very same
This contradictory situation
has continued up until the present. A dogmatic and sexist
educational policy, which is not based on a comprehensive
planning and is far from social realities, and has become
an instrument of state’s fundamental paradigm, with disregard
to the requirements of the production process, without any
vision for the future, which denied the existence of the multitude
of nationalities, ethnicities and religious beliefs and mortgaged
the preferences of the individuals, thus essentially anti-democratic,
has always preserved its presence.
The state has always shouldered
the burden of this distorted and unrealistic system of education.
From the beginning of the foundation of the Republic, the
share of education in the general budget has always been in
very small proportions. Governments that had not spared sufficient
budgets for education were unable to build sufficient number
of classes, appoint well trained teachers, supplied necessary
educational equipments and technologies, and instead a deformed
system of elimination, which did not support the requirements
of production, has added hundreds of thousands of young and
dynamic people to the ranks of unemployment. Only those intend
to go to university has reached two million in numbers.
For years the syllabus for education
has been detached from reality and science. The syllabus have
always been prepared in such a way that was impractical, curbed
critical thought and creativity, that was based solely on
the history, culture, religion, beliefs and other sets of
values of Turks as if no other nation has ever existed in
the geography that is called Anatolia, hence did not have
beliefs and had not founded other civilisations other than
The Turkish system of education
has always kept the students passive and regarded them as
the subjects that are to be shaped and disciplined. The products
of this teacher and system based educational strategy that
had been in practice for decades has been diffident, unimaginative,
unconfident masses of individuals who lacked analytical spirit
and failed to implement humane and democratic values.
Educational policies in Turkey
have varied from region to region. Whilst in relatively industrialised
regions with higher income the education has advanced both
in level and quality, the opposite of it has been the state
of affairs in regions with poorer levels of income.
The region in Turkey,
where the system of education encounters the greatest problems
and hardships is Kurdistan.
Kurds, who live in this geography, do speak a different language
than the Turkish, which is the official language of the Turkish
system of education. The culture, history and social lifestyle
that Kurds have formed through millennia have set them apart
from all the other peoples, who live in Turkey.
The problems the education encounter in Kurdistan, which
Turkish officialdom calls Eastern and South-eastern regions
is multidimensional. The most important of all is the fact
that they are deprived of the right to education in their
A person’s right to education in their mother tongue is generally accepted as
one of the most fundamental of all human rights. The individual
starts hearing the language surrounding him whilst he is still
in his mother’s womb and this is how his personality shapes
up, enabling him to build his knowledge of the world and environment
with this language. This natural process is the same with
Kurds too. However, as soon as they start going to school,
Kurdish children (as well as other non-Turkish ethnicities
are unable to use the language they learn until they are 5-6
years of age. Their inability to speak their own language
brings about a load of problems with it. For instance;
The Kurdish children of 5-6 years of age cannot turn the wealth of knowledge
they have accumulated in their own language to a base of their
further education. In other words, Kurdish children are being
included in the process of education with zero knowledge.
Having being educated in Turkish language, Kurdish children fail in their subjects
for not knowing this language, hence they are 5-6 years behind
the children who have education in their own language and
the gap is widening in due course.
On completion of their education,
children half-learn Turkish.
Children who are educated in a language they do not know at all fail in establishing
communication with their peers and teachers, which in turn
cripples their social lives.
Due to the inability to speak Turkish well,
Kurdish children who more frequently speak a language other
than their mother tongue face difficulty in expressing themselves.
As a result of failing to express himself properly, the individual
loses confidence and becomes increasingly anti-social.
Having been educated in the existing system, Kurdish children who lack confidence
and social skills encounter psychological discomfort and trauma.
Due to the inability to be educated in their mother tongue, Kurdish children
fail in education, which in turn weaken the families’ and
failed children’s interest in education. It is for this reason
that in advancing years of education, further study drops
In the face of their failure in establishing communication with their pupils,
teachers fail in their careers; in turn their morale gets
Due to education not being made in their mother tongue in Kurdistan, education plans do not fulfil the aims they seek.
Parents who cannot speak Turkish cannot cooperate with the school administration
and teachers and fail to contribute to their child’s education.
In failing to get any help with their lessons from parents, children start regarding
them as ignorant people, which adversely affect the mutual
trust within the members of the family.
One of the problems of education in Kurdistan
is the lowest imaginable level of schooling. From the beginning
of the foundation of the Republic, governments have always
avoided facing the problems of education in the region, as
if leading the way to undermining the education of Kurds.
The share of the region within the education budget has always
been way behind other regions.
In a study, carried out by Hacettepe University Statistical
Studies Department, entitled; “An examination of Primary and
Secondary Education in Turkey Proper and Proposals to Solve
Determined Problems”, which was sponsored by TUBITAK  , the data was examined regarding the resources, number
of teachers, classrooms, computers per pupil and the spending
on education at Primary and Secondary schools in all the regions
and the truth regarding education in Kurdistan has surfaced.
The research study revealed that regarding the secondary education
alone, at district level the worst provinces are Ardahan,
Muş and Şırnak.
Taken together the resources for education in Primary and Secondary
education in the so-called South-Eastern part of Kurdistan,
there is no district at all where educational resources can
be defined as good. Where the resources for education can
be described as good in North-Eastern Anatolian districts
rated at 3,51%, the same ratio is 8,57 in the central-Eastern
A conclusion was made that at 97.40% of resources for education in
the region called South-Eastern Anatolia were defined as “bad”,
whereas no district in Istanbul
was defined as bad in terms of resources for education. Whilst
it was revealed that 68.75% of resources for education in
the districts of Istanbul were defined as “good” and a further
31.25% were marked as “average” level, the primary education
resources in all of the districts of the so-called South-Eastern
Anatolia part of Kurdistan were described as bad and 76% of
secondary school resources in the same region were also defined
as “in a bad state”
Provinces where in all districts primary education resources were
defined as bad are: Adıyaman, Ağrı,
Batman, Bitlis, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Iğdır,
Kahramanmaraş, Kars, Kilis, Mardin, Muş, Siirt,
Şanlıurfa, Şırnak and Van. All of these
provinces are within the geographic area of Kurdistan.
The research concluded that in 9.64% of all pupils being educated
in primary education schools across Turkey
classes are merged and reportedly this proportion is 21.90%
in North-Eastern Anatolia, 17.54% in South-Eastern Anatolia,
and 16.34% in Central-Eastern Anatolia.
Reportedly, 48-72 month long
Schooling at the pre-primary school stage has reached 27%
in 2007-2008, 33% in 2008-2009. Across the country-proper
and within 1 year period, the number of provinces below 25%
48-72 month schooling has dropped from 26 to 8. However, the
gap between provinces continues to exist. Where schooling
rate is at 14% in Van, in Amasya
 it is 77%.
Yet another research shows us
this numerical reality. Whereas there are 24 students per
classroom in Western Black Sea Region, the figure for South-Eastern
Anatolia is 44 per classroom.
The table that we witness in primary and secondary education in Kurdistan
is similar in higher education too.
Despite universities having
been opened up in all provinces of Kurdistan, physical resources,
academic staff, student population potentials, equipment,
materials, budgets and faculties, colleges of these universities
are well below the average of Turkey.
We witness a situation
that by the time the Kurdish students reach the higher education
age, they have already left for reasons to do with poverty,
trying to contribute to the family budget, failure and so
on. The figure of candidates for university in Turkey is close to
two million. Almost all of those who have any credible claim
on securing a place in the university can only do this through
private courses preparing them to exams. Compared to the rest
of Turkey those with
lower income who live in the region are stretching their limited
resources to send their children to private courses. Apart
from a small number of exceptions, students, who cannot afford
private courses, end up failing university entrance exams.
downtrodden of the education in Kurdistan
are girls. As they grow older, they tend to be forced to abandon
their education for reasons to do with the educational policies
of the state and some socio-cultural matters. The level of
education amongst Kurdish girls is way, way below the Turkish
average. For instance the report, entitled “Equality in Education”
drawn up by Educational Reform Initiative (ERG) of Sabanci
University states the following; 220,000 of children between
the ages 6-22 are not registered in the system of education.
130,000 of them are girls, of which 100,000 are living in
Central-Eastern and South-Eastern Anatolia. As the primary
education reaches further years, the number of girls participating
in education, drops. Whereas in year 1 of the primary education
the ratio of boy/girl is 0.96, it drops to 0.91 at year 8.
In 2009 the education budget has allocated 66% to
salaries, 7% to social security departments, 10% to purchase
goods and services and the remaining 17% is allocated to capital
transfers, current account transfers and capital expenses.
Whilst the national education budget did not make any allocation
for schools, in turn schools illegally collect fees from students.
Especially during school enrolment periods schools demand
enormous fees and those parents who are unable to pay these
fees end up having difficulty in enrolling their children
to schools of their preference. In places heavily populated
by Kurds, this situation is even more apparent.
are still deprived of schools. Instead of opening up schools,
appointing teachers, successive governments follow suit in
favour of the state policies and look for new methods of assimilating
people. One of these methods was the “Leyli İptidai
” (boarding schools), which were introduced at the turn of
the foundation of the Republic.
the foundation of the Republic until 1940’s the state was
pursuing the policy of denying education to some settlements,
later this policy was changed in favour of widening the assimilation
As part of the assimilation policy the state
started recruiting students, especially girls but Kurdish
children of very small ages, snatching them from the bosoms
of their families and placing them in Regional Boarding Primary
Education Schools (YIBO). Regional Boarding Primary Education
Schools were a part of “Rehabilitation of the Orient Plan”
Article 14 of this plan clearly reveals the intention in opening
Regional Boarding Primary Education Schools in Kurdistan.
“In this region where the population is
originally Turkish but has a tendency to be assimilated into
Kurdishness and in Siirt, Mardin, and Savur, where the people
speak Arabic, Turkish Cultural Associations and schools should
be opened and every effort should be dispensed, sacrifice
made especially in order to establish excellent girls schools
and efforts made to encourage girls to attend to these schools.
Particular efforts should be preferentially and urgently spent
to open up Boarding schools to prevent dissolution into Kurdishness
Today YIBO’s are nearly in every province
and district in Kurdistan and the education in them resembled military
training. Ex-Army administrators were appointed to these schools,
educating the students in a military fashion, subjecting those
to military barracks discipline and destroyed their tender
Far from their warm homes and families, these kids, who were
unable to meet their most basic needs were educated and sheltered
in these schools. They were housed in camp-like, wire-fenced
schools, nurtured with food prepared by inattentive amateurs
and slept in unhygienic places. For instance, having difficulty
in going to the toilet by themselves, some 6-7 years old kids
wet their beds and due to fear from their supervisors, were
reluctant to report it and ended up going back to these urinated
It is so disturbing even to imagine what
kind of personalities these children have developed after
being unable to comply with the needs of their own hygiene,
being undernourished, being subjected to violence and ill-treatment
of older children and their supervisors and became the object
of harshest of all discipline
In fact, apart from exceptions, other state schools provide education in Kurdistan
with the same mentality as YIBO’s. Although in recent years
there is a drop in such incidents, the number of people who
were subjected to insults merely for not speaking or being
able to speak Turkish is still quite high. Yet again, despite
new educational models are being introduced, we still witness
the hegemony of harsh discipline and old fashioned teachers
and their methods at schools. At present a large majority
of students are subjects of violence and abuse in the hands
of their teachers, seniors and peers. Although the same is
also felt in Turkey, the level of violence in education has
always been at the uppermost level in Kurdistan.
It is possible to refer to heaps of deficiencies both in educational policies
as well as in practice. We would like to suffice with this
much and point out to other dimensions of educational policies.
Most educational institutions in Kurdistan are very old constructions. There is
shortage of classrooms, whereas units such as; labs, workshops,
libraries, canteens, sports and conference facilities are
Successive governments do not consider reconstructing these age old schools
according to the educational needs and characteristics of
these settlements. Although it has been known that some steps
are taken in this direction, they are far from meeting the
Shortage of teachers is another
frustrating problem. Not only there has always been a shortage
of teachers to fill all the needs but also those being appointed
are the newly graduated teachers on work experience, without
necessary qualifications and experience behind them. As soon
as they complete their compulsory service, they request their
relocation elsewhere. There has never been a case, which ability
to speak Kurdish has been a matter to be considered for appointment.
Within the system of education, appointments of the administrative senior staff
are made without consideration to eligibility and experience.
Administrative appointments are always made in accordance
with affinity to the party in power and loyalty to the state.
There is of course some visible
improvement in practice and some reforms were carried out
in the Turkish system of Education in general terms. However,
the basic reason for the hardships in education is the existing
educational philosophy, strategy and policies that shape up
the Turkish system of Education.
It will not be possible to reach out and catch up with present humane and universal
norms and standards of the world without determining an all-comprehensive
educational policy, by shaping up the education on a syllabus
that does not disregard the rights and needs of all national,
ethnic, cultural and belief groups living in the country,
without drawing up a strategy that will overlap with the said
syllabus and without allocating sufficient resources to the
education from the country’s income.