Turkey’s educational system is composed of two parts; formal education and mass education. Preschool, elementary education, secondary education, and higher education form the basis of formal education. Mass education, on the other hand, is separated from the formal education and includes national education centers, apprentice training centers, open universities, and county colleges.
In Turkey, the higher education system is regulated and monitored by the Council of Higher Education, a government agency. The system allows state and non-profit private universities (called foundation universities) to exist, however, there are no for-profit private universities in Turkey.
Kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, and high school are the basis of compulsory education. On the other hand, additional education includes national education centers, vocational schools, open universities and public colleges.
Every Turkish citizen between the ages of 6 and 14 must attend school. In 1997, compulsory education was increased from 5 to 8 years. Compulsory education includes 5 years of primary school, three years of high school (still considered secondary education in the Turkish educational system), 4 years of high school (upper secondary education). School education can be increased by 1 year if the school has a preparatory class. After high school student can start 4 years at the university. At the end of the five years of primary school and three years of high school, the student has issued diplomas.
The basic curriculum includes the Turkish language and literature, mathematics, social studies, science, civil and human rights, the history of the Turkish Republic and Ataturk’s reforms, foreign languages (English, French or German), individual and group assignments, religion, culture and ethics art / work, music, physical education, traffic regulations and first aid, guidance, and electives. In elementary school, there is a five-point grading system.
The system of high school education includes general high school, vocational and technical high schools. From 2005-2006, the period of secondary education has been increased from 3 to 4 years.
At the end of secondary school (12th grade) graduates pass the National Entrance Examination (OSS), if they want to get to professional higher education, graduate from open / distance education program or to get to the university. All students have the opportunity to take the test. Anyone who wants to go to university can take the exam, regardless of age (important to get a complete secondary education). Graduates of high school students can take exams in the following subjects: science, literature, mathematics, social studies, foreign languages, art, or physical education. These students have the opportunity to choose the direction in line with the core competence. However, if they choose a direction different from the core, they will lose points. Complete secondary school education with the in-depth study of the sciences, however, offer only the relevant scientific field.
There are a total number of more than sixty universities excluding private universities. Students want to study in reputable departments at reputable universities to succeed in the future. That is why they start studying for the entrance exams as much as two years in advance, usually taking up private tutoring as well. However, only 1/3 of the students can continue on to a state university of their choice. The others go to private universities, provided they can afford it, they can also be awarded a scholarship from a private university. They can also start working, or wait one year to retake the exam, some attend the military service.
Non-university level post-secondary studies (technical/vocational type): There are no non-university level post-secondary studies in the Turkish higher education system. Higher technical and vocational post-secondary studies last for four years in higher schools and for two years in vocational higher schools affiliated to the universities. They offer vocational training in various professions and confer an Önlisans Diplomasi following completion of two-year university studies and a Lisans Diplomasi on completion of four-year university studies.
University level first stage – Önlisans Diplomasi /Lisans Diplomasi: An Önlisans Derecesi or Diplomasi (Associate Degree) is awarded after the successful completion of two-year university studies. Courses leading to the Lisans Diplomasi require a minimum of four years’ university study. Courses last for five years in Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine and for six years in Medicine. In Veterinary Medicine, the professional qualification of Veteriner Hekim Diplomasi is conferred. In Dentistry, the Dis Hekimligi Diplomasi is conferred upon the completion of five years’ study. In Medicine, the professional qualification of Tip Doktorlugu Diplomasi is conferred. The graduates of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry can directly apply to Ph.D./Doctorate programmes in Turkey. The qualifications in these three fields of study are considered to be the equivalent of a Yuksek Lisans Diplomasi (Master’s degree).
University level second stage – Yüksek Lisans Diplomasi/Bilim Uzmanligi Diplomasi: The Yüksek Lisans Diplomasi (Master’s Degree) lasts for two years with thesis and for one-and-a-half years without a thesis.
University level third stage – Doktora Diplomasi/Bilim Doktorlugu Diplomasi/Tipta Uzmanlik Belgesi/Sanatta Yeterlik Diplomasi: Candidates must hold the Yüksek Lisans Diplomasi and sit for an examination. The Doktora Diplomasi is conferred after two years’ study and on completion of a doctoral thesis (a total of four years). The Tipta Uzmanlik Belgesi (specialist degree) in Medicine is conferred to recognize a physician’s advanced skills and expertise. It is considered to be the equivalent of a Doktora Diplomasi.
Training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers: Primary school teachers are trained in universities where they must obtain a Lisans Diplomasi.
Training of secondary school teachers: Secondary school teachers are trained in universities where they must obtain a Lisans Diplomasi.
Training of higher education teachers: According to the Higher Education Law (art. 35), higher education institutions are responsible for the training of their own academic staff, both at home and abroad. There are various criteria for the promotion of teaching staff members.
Non-traditional studies: Distance education is offered at the Open Education Faculty of Anadolu University. Entry is on a competitive basis through the central national university entrance examination (ÖSS). Courses last for two or four years.