Under Turkish law, “basic education” for children consists of 12 years, divided into 3 levels of 4 years each. All children in Turkish jurisdiction, including foreign nationals, have the right to access “basic education” services delivered by public schools. All children registered as temporary protection beneficiaries have the right to be registered at public schools for the purpose of basic education.
Public schools in Türkiye are free of charge. They instruct in Turkish and teach a standardised Ministry of National Education curriculum, and are authorised to dispense certificates and diplomas to foreign national children with full validity.
In order to enrol in public schools, children and their parents need to have Temporary Protection Beneficiary Identification Cards. Children who are not yet registered can be temporarily enrolled as a “guest student” which means that they can attend classes but will not be provided any documentation or diploma in return, unless they subsequently complete their temporary protection registration and are officially admitted by the school.
Where a foreign national child is enrolled at public schools, the Provincial Directorate of National Education is responsible for examining and assessing the former educational background of the student and determine to which grade-level the child should be registered. In case there is no documentation regarding the past educational background, the Provincial Directorate shall conduct necessary tests and interviews to assess the appropriate grade-level to which student shall be assigned.
The Ministry of National Education was due to build 129 new schools with EU funding under the Facility for Refugees in Türkiye, to increase the enrolment rate. As of January 2022, the EU facility for refugees in Türkiye factsheet reported 89 new schools built.
The education response in Türkiye is led and coordinated by the Ministry of National Education (MoNE). The numbers of Syrian children enrolled in formal education continues to increase. In the statement made by the Ministry of National Education on 8 June 2022, it was announced that 35,707 students in kindergarten, 442,817 students in primary school, 348,638 students in secondary school and 110,976 students in high school. In total, 938,138 children continue their education life. There are 432,956 children of education age who do not go to school.
UNHCR estimates that as many as 400 thousand children are not in school. High school dropout rates are associated with factors such as the prevalence of child labour in the workforce and early marriage. Bullying in schools remains a significant unresolved issue. Fear of deportation also affects access to education.
To ensure children’s access to the education system, another programme, Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE), is financed by ECHO and implemented through a close partnership between the Ministry of Family and Social Services, the Ministry of National Education, AFAD, Türk Kızılay and UNICEF. The programme provides vulnerable refugee families with bimonthly cash payments to help them send and keep their children in school (see Social Welfare). Cash assistance is available only for persons who can submit the school registration documents to the social service units of the Ministry. A family can receive payment provided the child attends school regularly; a child should not miss school more than 4 days in one month. According to Türk Kızılay, in cases were a child has not attended school for over 4 days, protection officers from 15 centers and 2 mobile protection centers around Adiyaman and Karadeniz region visit the family to identify the cause of absence; child labour, child marriage, peer bullying are the most common factors. According to data released by UNICEF in April 2022, CCTE benefited 29,111 pre-school children and 335,561 primary school children. Families are compensated 55 TRY (approximately 2.5 EUR) for each boy and 60 TRY (approximately 3 EUR) for each girl who attends pre-school through high school.
In addition, the PIKTES (Project on Promoting Integration of Syrian Kids into the Turkish Education System) is a European Union funded project implemented by the Turkish Ministry of National Education. In its third phase, the main objective of PIKTES + Project is to contribute to refugee children’s access to education and social cohesion in Türkiye. In this context, supporting the efforts of the Ministry of National Education in order to increase enrollment, school attendance and transition to a higher level in the formal education system (from pre-school to the end of secondary education) for refugee children in 29 project provinces with a high refugee population density is among the specific objectives of the project. PIKTES Project, which started its third phase in January 2023, will continue until November 2025.
Experts believe that lack of access education is common among the Syrian people in Türkiye. According to the Ministry of Education’s 2022 report, 35% of Syrian children (393,547) are deprived of education. The proportion of Syrian girls and boys dropping out of school was similar for 2022. Dropout rates in pre-school and high school are 50% and 50%, respectively. Surprisingly, the number of girls attending high school outnumbers boys by 56,130 to 51,682 which is explained by the prevalent child labor practice among boys. The bulk of schoolchildren (118,391) live in Istanbul, followed by Gaziantep (97,861) and Hatay (71,543). According to the report, low levels of schooling among Syrian children are caused by registration issues, financial challenges, care duties, language barriers, conservative family structures, and early marriages.
In 2022, a stakeholder confirmed that the schooling rate was still very low among Syrians in İstanbul. Access to education had become more difficult which in turn meant that child labour had increased. In the context of CCTE, a pilot programme for social integration in education has been implemented in Istanbul and Sanliurfa with the assistance of the Maya Association. As of January 2022, it was reported that 11,567 students and school personnel from 351 schools received training on how to end bullying and violence in schools.
Temporary Education Centres (GEM)
Temporary Education Centre (Geçici Eğitim Merkezi, GEM) are specifically defined as schools established and run for the purpose of providing educational services to persons arriving in Türkiye for temporary period as part of a mass influx. They were generally provided to children living in camps, whilst children of school age outside the camps had the option of either attending a public school in the locality, which teach the Turkish school curriculum and instruct in Turkish, or a GEM. As of 2019 there were 199 GEMs in 11 provinces educating 39,178 Syrian children. The final GEM closed in 2020.
Temporary protection beneficiaries also have the right to higher education in Türkiye. In order to apply and register with an institution of higher education, students are required to have completed either the 12 years of Turkish basic education or equivalent experience.
In Türkiye, admission to universities is subject to the requirement of taking a standardised university entrance examination and additional requirements by each university. Students who started their university studies in Syria but were not able to complete them, may ask universities to recognise the credits (courses) that they have passed. The decision whether to recognise courses passed in Syria is made by each university and may differ from one department to another. Sometimes there can be problems in the recognition of previous education including qualifications.
In total in the 2022-2023 academic year, 58,213 Syrian students (32,890 male, 25,323 female) were enrolled in Turkish Higher Education Institutions. In 2022, tuition fees for Syrian students enrolled in state universities were covered by the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (Yurtdışı Türkler ve Akraba Topluluklar Başkanlığı, YTB) but this is not the case for private universities. Students still needed to cover the costs of local transportation, books and living expenses. There are a number of organisations providing scholarships to Syrian students for higher education study in Türkiye. These organisations include: YTB, UNHCR through the DAFI scholarship programme, and NGOs (e.g. SPARK). Scholarships awarded through YTB and DAFI cover the costs of tuition and pay students a monthly allowance for accommodation and living expenses. There is a new scholarship launched by ICMPD with EU funding, BEURS, a project aiming to enhance higher education access and employment opportunities for Syrian students under temporary protection, students under international protection and students from the host community in Türkiye. It provides scholarship support, focuses on gender mainstreaming, disability inclusion, and partnerships between universities, municipalities, government institutions, and international organizations.
Temporary protection beneficiaries, regardless of their age, can also benefit from free of charge language education courses as well as vocational courses offered by Public Education Centres structured under each Provincial Directorate of National Education. Some NGOs and institutions also provide free language courses and vocational courses to temporary protection beneficiaries in some localities. For example, Anadolu University provides free online Turkish courses for beginners (A1) and elementary students (A2). They are open to anyone who wants to learn Turkish. The Yunus Emre Institute (YEI) offers online Turkish courses ranging from beginner (A1) to advanced (C1). Since its courses are adaptable, the YEI’s ‘Distance Turkish Instruction Portal’ allows students to learn Turkish at their own speed and from wherever they are.
 Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.
 3 RP Country Report 2023-2026.
 Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.
 ERG, Öğrenciler ve eğitime erişim izleme raporu, Eğitim izleme raporu, 2019.
 Turkish government, official higher education statistics, available at: https://istatistik.yok.gov.tr/