International protection applicants and their family members shall have access to elementary and secondary education services in Turkey.
Turkey has been a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1995. The right to education is also recognised by Article 42 of the Turkish Constitution, which provides that “no one shall be deprived of the right of learning and education”. Turkey’s Law on Primary Education and Training provides that primary education is compulsory for all girls and boys between the ages of 6-13 and must be available free of charge in public schools. Currently the 8-year compulsory primary education is divided into two stages of 4 years each. Parents or guardians are responsible for registering school-age children to schools in time. Furthermore, the Basic Law on National Education also explicitly guarantees non-discrimination in extension of education services to children, “regardless of language, race, gender, religion”.
In order for a parent to be able to register his or her child to a public school, the family must already have International Protection Applicant Identification Cards, which also list the Foreigners Identification Number (YKN) assigned by the General Directorate of Population Affairs to each family member. This YKN registry is a prerequisite for school authorities to be able to process the child’s registration. However, the Ministry of National Education instructs public schools to facilitate the child’s access to school even where the family has not yet completed their international protection registration process at the PDMM. Children need to attend school in the “satellite city” to which the family has been assigned (see Freedom of Movement).
According to UNICEF, the number of non-Syrian refugee children enrolled in formal education at the end of March 2019 was 56,701.
Since the language of education is Turkish, language barriers present a practical obstacle for asylum seeker children. There is no nationwide provision of preparatory or catch up classes for asylum-seeking children who start their education in Turkey or who did not attend school for some time due to various reasons. In practice, unaccompanied children who are accommodated in state shelters are offered Turkish language classes provided in the shelters before they are enrolled in schools. For other asylum-seeking children, while in theory they have access to Turkish classes provided by public education centres or the municipalities in their assigned province, in practice such language classes attuned for them are not universally available around Turkey. Nor does the Turkish educational system offer adaptation or catch-up classes to foreign children whose previous education was based on a different curriculum. However, community centres operated by Türk Kızılay across the country also offer Turkish language classes and other services to applicants (see Content of Temporary Protection).
Where the child has previous educational experiences prior to arrival to Turkey, he or she will undergo an equivalence assessment by Provincial Education Directorate to determine what grade would be appropriate for him or her to enrol. Particularly in cases where the family does not have any documents demonstrating the child’s previous schooling, the equivalence determination may prove complicated.
Finally, although public schools are free, auxiliary costs such as notebooks, stationary and school uniforms present a financial burden on parents, who are already finding it very difficult to make ends meet in their assigned provinces.
Regarding asylum-seeking children with special needs, the Ministry of National Education instructs that where a foreign student is identified to be in need of special education, necessary measure shall be taken in accordance with the Regulation on Special Education Services, which governs the provision of education services to children with physical and mental disabilities.
Asylum-seeking children can also have access to private schools, which are subject to tuition fees. Such schools exist in Ankara for Libyan and Iraqi children and are supervised by the Ministry of National Education, for example.
As part of the new Cohesion Strategy and National Plan, which foresees key issues to be addressed by DGMM, education is listed as one of the six focus areas.
Priorities for education include:
- Research why some migrant children miss school or stop attending;
- Improving the continuity of schooling including in formal education;
- Supporting access to higher education;
- Creating more informal programmes of education in line with the needs of migrants.
- A review of the legislative base;
- Increase in capacity of formal education institutions;
- Information activities;
- Training for teachers including on psychological needs of children who may have undergone trauma;
- GEM transition to schools;
- Resources and assistance in libraries;
- Language skills and other courses to fill gaps;
- Post-school study and peer education including with Turkish classmates;
- Awareness raising with families of migrant children;
- Promoting access to pre-school education;
- Assistance for those with breaks in education;
- More higher education opportunities;
- Intercultural programmes at universities;
- Turkish language curriculum for different ages and levels of education;
- Non-formal education opportunities including in libraries, community and municipal centres etc;
- Mobile libraries in temporary accommodation centres;
- Vocational courses.
As mentioned above, most initiatives were suspended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the field of education as most students (Turkish included) studied at home for most of the year. From the list above the Temporary Education Centres (GEM) were all closed in 2020.
In 2019 social cohesion classes were initiated at schools. Foreign and Turkish students began to attend classes to better understand their cultures. 
Covid-19 had a significant impact on the access to education from early 2020 with the majority of schools closed for the majority of age groups throughout the year. The Turkish government has provided EBA TV (known as Education Information Network TV) offering educational services to those who are unable to go to school. Education is provided for students in twenty-minute videos on three channels by TRT (known as Turkish Radio Television). Research showed that the restrictions due to the virus affected the learning processes of forced migrant children as there were problems accessing the internet or devices such as televisions, tablets, computers.
Other research by the NGO ASAM with 1,162 refugees and beneficiaries of temporary protection showed that 47% of participants were not able to benefit from distance education applications. The main reason for this challenge was a lack of suitable devices or hardware, such as a TV, mobile phone, computer or internet access. In Konya, only 20-25% of children could access EBA. The main problems were a lack of smartphones, tablets and laptops. A higher risk of child labour and early child marriages was also reported. Families also complained that their children were losing their language skills.
 Article 89(1) LFIP.
 Law No 222 on Primary Education and Training.
 Law No 1738 Basic Law on National Education.
 The specifics of the registration procedure are governed by a 23 September 2014 dated Ministry of National Education Circular No: 2014/21 regarding the Provision of Education and Training Services to Foreign Nationals.
 UNICEF, Turkey Humanitarian Situation Report, January-March 2019, 1.
 Stakeholders confirmed these schools were still accessed in this way in March 2020.
 Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2020.
 ASAM/ COVID-19 Salgınının Türkiye’deki Mülteciler Üzerindeki Etkilerinin Sektörel Analizi, Sectoral Analysis of The Impacts of COVID-19 on Refugees In Turkey, 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3scBehq, 16.
 Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.