Educational Policies in Turkey and Its Reflection

by Figen Ereş (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 204 Pages


Education is a major political issue and a major focus of country attention. The fact that the development and knowledge brought forth by an information society is constantly being questioned and has made development and innovation in education inevitable. Education is also seen as a crucial factor in ensuring economic productivity and social development. This book examines the educational policies and results in Turkey. It states that basic problems of the Turkish education system are inequality, quality and a lack of planning. Centralized structure affects autonomy negatively in schools. The problem with education policies of the Ministry of National Education is also the lack of vision. This volume develops needed paradigms to balance the opinions of the decision makers, administrators and teachers with the preferences of the student body in Turkey.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Turkish Educational System
  • Evaluation of Turkey’s Compulsory and Discontinuous (4+4+4) Education System
  • An Overview of Education Quality from PISA and TIMSS
  • From Guests to Citizens: Syrian Children
  • A Brief History of Computers in Turkish Schools
  • Teacher-training Policies in Turkey
  • Constructivist Education Understanding in the Curricula
  • School Textbooks in Turkey
  • An Overview of Education Policy and its Reflections

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Figen Ereş

Turkish Educational System

Turkey is surrounded by water on three sides, by the Black Sea to the North, the Mediterranean Sea to the South, and the Aegean Sea to the West, so it has always drawn the world’s attention due to its geopolitical positioning. Upon the decline of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey in 1923 and was elected as its inaugural president (MEB [Ministry of National Education, MoNE], 1999a). Innovations and modernity in Turkey started with Ataturk’s reforms, and one of the most significant of these reforms was related to education. The national sovereignty and secular characteristic of the Republic was introduced and the foundations of an education system based on national culture, national solidarity and scientific principles were set in place (European Commission, 2010).

After the proclamation of the Republic in 1923, as in other fieldsunder Atatürk’s leadership, massive reforms were undertaken in education. Schools were annexed to the Ministry of National Education, and Islamic theological schools were abolished. Educational expansion intensified, especially at the primary school level. Five-year primary schooling became compulsory, while at the secondary level, vocational and technical education were given greater emphasis. Priority was given to the construction of school buildings and to the training of teachers. Between World War II and 1960, the education system changed rapidly into a distinctive national system, due to the social conditions of the time (MEB [Ministry of National Education, MoNE], 1999b). Since the creation of the Turkish Republic by Ataturk in 1923, there has been a major expansion of education across the entire country. However, the period of compulsory education only very recently increased from five to eight years, so that with many early leavers, especially in rural areas, secondary enrolment rates were comparatively low for many years (Fretwell & Wheeler, 2001). The education system has subsequently seen changes over recent decades, in accordance with recommendations by the European Union, the United Nations, and the vision of various governments in power.

Turkish Educational System

All countries have their own educational systems in place, in accordance with their needs and culture. Education has an effect on the unity and development of a society; therefore, countries should analyse the policies of education systems, ← 11 | 12 → striving to find new solutions for their problems through a different perspective, that they might satisfy their needs in accordance with their culture. Decision and policy makers are responsible for developing the vision and strategy of an education system for the future. Undoubtedly, governments are both responsible and accountable for the education systems, so they need to recognise both technological and scientific developments as well as the values and culture of the country. The quality of policy making denotes the level of rationality.

Education policies in Turkey are not considered to be of a holistic nature. All decision-making is centralised within the Ministry of National Education (MoNE), with a very heavy “top-down” disposition. Consequently, decisions regarding sub-systems of education are often changed, causing downstream problems in schools, with whichschool principals and teachers must try to cope. Political formations have brought about many changes in Turkey after the founding of the Republic, with these changes reflected throughout the education system. It can be noted that in the early years of the Republic, the philosophy of education focused on nationalism and secularism. Over the years that followed, policy makers and decision makers have added their own diverse values to this philosophy. The planning of pre-primary, primary, secondary, and adult education is controlled by the MoNE, while the planning of higher education is conducted by the Higher Education Council (European Commission, 2010). Politics still has a direct and domineering impact on education in Turkey, and is the basic reason for the continual changes in educational policy. Education polices are determined by the Grand National Assembly (parliament) of Turkey and the MoNE, in consideration of the constitution, laws, international conventions, government programmes and the development plans of the National Education Council. However, governments make legal changes in order to follow their own vision according to their political strategy.

Principles and general objectives of education

The general aims of the Turkish national education system are as follows (MEB [Ministry of National Education, MoNE], 1999a):

1. To raise all individuals of the Turkish nation as individuals who are conscious of their duties to the Turkish nation and who are embodied with a spirit true to Atatürk’s nationalism, reforms and principles which adopt and promote the national, moral, human and cultural values of the Turkish nation;

2. To raise all individuals of the Turkish nation as creative, constructive and productive individuals, with balanced characters and sound personalities and as fully-developed individuals in mental, moral, spiritual and emotional aspects. ← 12 | 13 → Furthermore, they are to be brought up as individuals who are capable of reasoning freely and rationally, and who have a greater understanding of the world, respect human rights, and value individuality and entrepreneurship;

3. To prepare them for life by fostering the development of their interests, abilities and capabilities, and to ensure that they gain the knowledge and skills necessary for a profession which would contribute both to their own welfare and to that of society.

The basic principles to be adapted in order to realise these aims are as follows:

equality in education (institutions open to all, regardless of race, gender, or religion);

meeting individual and social needs;

orientation (individuals are directed towards programmes or schools depending on their interests, talents, and abilities);

continuity (the state takes measures to ensure the continued education of adults);

Atatürk’s reforms (Atatürk’s reforms and principles are the basis of the curriculum at each level of the educational system);


scientific norms in education;


planning (national education based on economic, social, and cultural development);

cooperation between schools and family;

universal education.

Organisational Structure of the Ministry of National Education

Education in Turkey is planned, operated, managed, controlled, and financed by the state. The Ministry of National Education (MoNE) is the responsible ministry for all education, except for military education and police training. MoNE consists of three divisions as follows (MEB [Ministry of National Education, MoNE], 1996a):

Central Organisation;

Provincial Organisation;

Foreign Organisation.

Central Organisation consists of the Board of Education, the Board of Supervision, and general directorates responsible for primary education, secondary education, ← 13 | 14 → vocational and technical education, religious education, adult education, special education, and private schools. These boards and directorates are main service units. There are also general directorates who are responsible for school buildings, educational technology and teacher training. These directorates are calledauxiliary units of the ministry.

Provincial Organisation of the MoNE was formed with the aim of realising the founding objectives of the Ministry. At the provincial level, educational services are under the supervision of Provincial Directorates of National Education. Different powers can be vested with these directorates depending on the social and economic status of the province, its population and its number of students.

Foreign Organisations have been established in various countries where Turkish citizens are living in order to assist with the education of children who are Turkish nationals and those students attending higher education in that country; helping them to resolve problems as they arise. Educational services abroad are performed by temporary or permanent personnel on behalf of the MoNE.

Financing of Education

All divisions of the MoNE are financed by the Ministry according to the budget decisions of the Grand National Assembly (parliament) of Turkey. In other words, expenditures for teaching staff, non-teaching staff, main operations, movables and immovables at public institutions are fully financed by funds allocated from the central government’s national budget (European Commission, 2010).

Education reforms are funded through the government and also through contributions from international organisations, private institutions and non-governmental organisations. Expenditure on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education was 2.5% of GDP in 2010, lower than the OECD average of 3.9% (OECD, 2013). Within a highly centralised budgeting system, schools receive public funding and private contributions and have little autonomy over their domestic school financial management. School funding is allocated based on an increase over the preceding year’s school budget. With changes in student population and the need to provide more non-personnel-related resources, schools have difficulty meeting their spending needs, given the lack of financial autonomy and the highly centralised method of funding allocation. However, parental contributions to fund supplemental equipment can be a source of local income via the school parents’ association. Secondary vocational and technical schools can also undertake fundraising activities (OECD, 2013). Private schools obtain their finances via student tuition fees, and so receive limited finance from the government. ← 14 | 15 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (November)
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 204 pp., 19 tables, 2 graphs

Biographical notes

Figen Ereş (Volume editor)

Figen Ereş is Professor of Education Management and Planning at Gazi University, Ankara. She teaches school leadership, teacher evaluation, planning, and policy analysis in educational management. Her research focuses on education policy and planning, school leadership and teacher evaluation. She also conducts cross-cultural and cross-national research in educational management and its sub-dimensions. Her recent scholarly works have focused on immigrant education and relationship between education and social development.


Title: Educational Policies in Turkey and Its Reflection
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206 pages