Access to education

Türkiye

Country Report: Access to education Last updated: 17/08/22

Author

Independent

International protection applicants and their family members shall have access to elementary and secondary education services in Türkiye.[1]

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.[2] 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”.[3]

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.[4] 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).

Where the child has previous educational experiences prior to arrival to Türkiye, 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.

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.

Plans include:

  • 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.

In 2019, social cohesion classes were initiated at schools. Foreign and Turkish students began to attend classes to better understand their cultures. [5] The Temporary Education Centres (GEM) were all closed in 2020. As mentioned above, most social cohesion 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.

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, and computers.[6] Other research by the NGO ASAM with refugees and beneficiaries of temporary protection showed that 47% of participants were not able to benefit from distance education applications. The main reason was a lack of suitable devices or hardware, such as a TV, mobile phone, computer or internet access.[7] 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 complained their children were losing their language skills.[8] Expectations for children to contribute to domestic labour or the household budget increased in families who lost work and income after the pandemic, paving the way for an increase in child labour rates among refugee children.[9] In research conducted in the Konak, Buca, Karabağlar and Bornova distincts in İzmir, with 100 refugees (61 boys, 39 girls), almost half of the children who continued their education before the pandemic could not continue distance education during the pandemic. The school attendance rate decreased from 63% to 35%. A lack of technical equipment, lack of information, and language barriers were the main the reasons for not continuing distance education.[10] 43 out of a hundred refugee families said their child was working during the pandemic, almost doubling.[11] The reasons given for the children working include: long-term unemployment in the family; it being easier for a child to find a job; employers giving lower weekly wages to child workers; being cut off from education; the idea that children are not affected by the epidemic.[12] The majority of them work long hours. All of the children who worked 11-12 hours per day worked in textile and shoe factories or in restaurants and kiosks. This data reveals that refugee child labour, which increased during the pandemic process, may become permanent and the return to school rates may remain low.[13]

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. For instance, a deportation decision was issued for an Afghan family in Van, and then was overruled. Despite the court ruling, the child could not be enrolled in school. An application was made to the juvenile court for a preemptive measure, but the child could not start the school year until the end of the first semester. Even when the court decision was submitted, its implementation took time because institutions resist applying them. The preventive measures should generally be issued and implemented promptly, but this does not always happen.[14]

There have been issues enrolling the children of Iraqi families in primary school in Ankara. PDMMs suspend the provision of some basic services when international protection applications are rejected. 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, however, and in some provinces like Ankara, even people’s identity documents get confiscated. 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. In one case in Ankara, the court decision was not implemented for at least two months. The girl could not go to school until the second semester started. Children who cannot access the help of a lawyer experience significantly more difficulties. In this case, the child’s family was scared when the school administration was forced to implement the court decision because they thought that PMM would have a hostile attitude towards them afterwards.[15]

In İzmir it seemed more difficult. Five children from different age groups and education levels in İzmir applied to the courts to have access to education but did not get a favourable decision from the court. [16]

In İstanbul, open education is provided for children over the age of 15, regardless of their parents’ residence.

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 neighbours.[17]

In total in the 2020-2021 academic year, 47,482 Syrian students (29400 Male, 18082 Female) were enrolled in Turkish Higher Education Institutions.[18] 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. For the academic year 2020-2021, UNHCR contributed to the tertiary education of 70 students through higher education scholarship programmes.[19] UNHCR also supported 475 university students through semester cash grants, as they could not benefit from the fee waiver that existed for Syrian nationals until recently.[20] In 2021, UNHCR contributed to the tertiary education of 102 students of other nationalities for DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) and higher education scholarships. In addition, UNHCR supported 1,323 students of nationalities other than Syrian through semester cash grants in 2021. UNHCR also supported 27 higher education advisors who act as academic advisors to scholarship students and who provided over 12,000 counselling sessions to both refugee and Turkish students in need.[21] Meanwhile, UNHCR continued to advocate for the waiver of higher education fees for international protection students.

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.[22] Turkish universities will organize specific exams for foreign students with specific courses to help refugees prepare for admission tests.[23]

 

 

 

[1] Article 89(1) LFIP.

[2] Law No 222 on Primary Education and Training.

[3] Law No 1738 Basic Law on National Education.

[4] 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.

[5] Information provided by a stakeholder, February 2020.

[6] TEPAV Report on Social Justice for Refugees: Role of municipalities and NGOs During the Pandemic, 09 February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/2QX2jrK.

[7] ASAM/ COVID-19 Salgınının Türkiye’deki Mülteciler Üzerindeki Etkilerinin Sektörel Analizi, Sectoral Analysis of The Impacts of COVID-19 on Refugees In Türkiye, 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3scBehq, 16.  For other research see: Baltali, E., Husunbeyi, M., Aydın. S., Akar, B., Koprulu, G., Dogan. M. (March, 2021). Mülteci Çocukların Uzaktan Eğitime Erişimi. Konak Mülteci Derneği. https://www.stgm.org.tr/sites/default/files/2021-03/konak_multeci_dernegi_rapor.pdf.

[8] Information from a stakeholder, March 2021.

[9] Association of Leather, Textile and Shoe Workers, Report on ‘Child Labour Exploitation During the Pandemic’, May 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3bq9d30.

[10] Ibid, pages 13-14.

[11] Ibid, page 15.

[12] Ibid, page 15.

[13] Ibid, page 16.

[14] Information provided by a stakeholder, April 2022.

[15] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[16] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[17] Information provided by a stakeholder, May 2022.

[18] Turkish government, official higher education statistics, available at: https://bit.ly/3AR7HBT.

[19] UNHCR Türkiye, Operational Highlights 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3esx9AE.

[20] This waiver for Syrian beneficiaries of temporary protection was cancelled in 2021. See UNFPA, Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, Türkiye Country Chapter 2021-2022, 2 February 2022, page 7. Available at: https://bit.ly/3a2TUgB.

[21] UNHCR Türkiye: 2021 Operational Highlights, available at: https://bit.ly/3yuZMIK.

[22] 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.

[23] The current list of universities is available here in Turkish: https://metropolkurslari.com/2022-yilinda-yos-duzenleyecek-olan-universiteler/

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of main changes since the previous report update
  • Introduction to the asylum context in Türkiye
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • Temporary Protection Regime
  • Content of Temporary Protection