International protection applicants and their family members shall have access to elementary and secondary education services in Türkiye.
Türkiye 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”. Türkiye’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 four 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 Türkiye, there were 68,760 Iraqi, 47,118 Afghan, 12,666 Iranian, 7,938 Azerbaijani, and 2,663 German students enrolled in public schools as of March 2022.
According to information gathered from stakeholders, approximately 80% of Ukrainian children attend education in Türkiye. Particularly Ukrainian families view this as an opportunity for their children to acquire a new culture. No significant peer discrimination against Ukrainian students in schools was reported. The school administrations were generally very accommodating. A school in Golbasi, Ankara, for instance, assisted numerous Ukrainian families with school registration procedures. To facilitate the social cohesion of Ukrainian families and children, the Ukrainian Culture Association and Cankaya Municipality offered Turkish classes. For children, there were courses in physics, the natural sciences, wellness, etc. There were fewer problems among elementary school students, but families wanted their children going to secondary school to follow the Ukrainian curriculum online. In addition, Meskhitan Turks residing in container camps in Elazig have nurseries and elementary schools in the camp and high school students have access to outside education.
In order for a parent to be able to register their 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).
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 Türkiye 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 Türkiye. 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). A number of NGOs launched initiatives to improve online access to language courses. The ‘Let’s speak the same language’ project is a free online Turkish language course offered to low-income young people with a strong desire to acquire Turkish. In Istanbul, some Iraqis do not send their children to Turkish schools, but rather to Iraqi schools that are not monitored by the Ministry of National Education in the event that the family relocates to a third country. In Istanbul, only one school of this type exists.
Where the child has previous educational experiences prior to arrival to Türkiye, they will undergo an equivalence assessment by Provincial Education Directorate to determine what grade would be appropriate for them 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.
As part of the new Cohesion Strategy and National Plan, which foresees key issues to be addressed by PMM, 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.
Those who are registered can at least benefit from the right to education to a certain extent. Children of asylum seekers who have received deportation decisions, whose international protection applications have been rejected, and whose foreign identity numbers have been deactivated cannot access education. According to the law, the right to education and basic health services should be excluded from this suspension. Practices differ significantly from one province to another. There is no problem for children who have been enrolled for a long time – they are not usually expelled from school if the family’s application is rejected. However, children cannot technically register again after the family’s application is denied. When a foreigner’s ID number is entered into the electronic system, it indicates that they are not registered.
Families living in Türkiye and whose children attend school frequently mention school-related problems. Some children are exposed to physical violence at school and are discriminated against by the teacher. There are schools where separate classes are created for migrant children. Families also face discrimination and pressure from their neighbors.
One facet of increasing access to education has been the creation of vocational and technical training possibilities. With the financial backing of ECHO, the Ministry of National Education initiated a project titled ‘Social and Economic Cohesion via Vocational and Technical Education’ in 2022. The project’s goals are to provide high quality, accessible vocational education for youth, to improve the educational environment, to provide supports that encourage students to continue their study, and to promote awareness about the opportunities that vocational education provides.
Some activities and programmes were launched in 2022 to help university students improve certain abilities. The Aegean Start-up Programme, for example, offers substantial entrepreneurship training for university students in collaboration with IOM and the University of Ege.
UNHCR worked with the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (Yurtdışı Türkler ve Akraba Topluluklar Başkanlığı, YTB) to provide university scholarships for refugee students as well as institutional capacity support. No data was shared with the public in 2022.
A new regulation was introduced in 2022 whereby foreign students have to pay a contribution fee for higher education, including Syrian students and blue cardholders. In 2022, Turkish universities organized specific exams for foreign students and announced location of exam and the fees that range from 800 to 1000 TL.
 Article 89(1) LFIP.
 Law No 222 on Primary Education and Training.
 Law No 1738 Basic Law on National Education.
 Information provided by a stakeholder, March 2023.
 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.
 Information provided by a stakeholder, April 2023.
 Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2023.
 For example, Pamukkale University, ‘Students of Syrian nationality and Blue Card holders, who have just started our university in the 2021-2022 Academic Year, will pay tuition fees’, available in Turkish at: https://bit.ly/3axE8u7.