Learn about the Education System in Turkey

General Overview

The administration of higher education in Turkey was completely reformed in 1981, in accordance with the new Higher Education Law (No. 2547). As a result, the system became centralized, with the Council of Higher Education overseeing all higher education institutions (CoHE). Following this restructuring, all higher education institutions were restructured into universities.

Higher education was expanded across the country, applications to higher education were centralized, and a centralized university exam and placement were implemented. In 1986, the first nonprofit foundation university in Turkey began providing education to students, in addition to public universities.

Turkey’s obligatory education has been separated into three phases since 2012, and it lasts 12 years (primary education, elementary education, and secondary education). This system is usually known as “4+4+4.” Children in Turkey were required to attend school for five years until 1997. The 1997 changes mandated eight years of compulsory schooling. In March 2012, new law was passed that extended obligatory schooling to 12 years.

As of now, children will begin primary school in the first month of September after their sixth birthdays and will complete it during the school year in which they turn fourteen. After first four years of education, there will be additional mandatory four years of education in which students will be entitled to choose if they want to study at a religious vocational middle school or a general middle education school.

Next comes the secondary education which also comprises of four years education. Turkey Mansions will cover all the details regarding the education system in Turkey in the upcoming paragraphs.

Pre-Primary School Education:

Pre-primary education refers to the optional education of children aged 3–6 years who have not yet reached the compulsory primary school age. Nursery classes and practical classes within formal and non-formal education institutions with sufficient physical capacity are opened as pre-primary education institutions and independent nurseries.

Nurseries, kindergartens, and practical classes opened first and foremost by the Ministry of National Education based on the provisions of ten laws, two statutes, and ten regulations, provide services related to Pre-Primary education.

Primary Education:

Primary education is concerned with the education and training of children aged 6 to 10. All citizens are required to complete primary schooling. It is free and lasts four years in public schools (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th grades). Turkish, Math, Hayat Bilgisi (actually “Life Knowledge”), and Foreign Language are the four core subjects in the first, second, and third grades. Science and Social Studies replace “Hayat Bilgisi” in fourth grade. The foreign language taught varies from school to school. Some schools teach English whereas some teach German, French, or Spanish.

The first four years of primary school are sometimes known as “First School, 1. Level” (Turkish: İkokul 1. Kademe), however both terms are accurate. Previously, the word “middle school” (Turkish: Ortaokul) was used to refer to the three years of education that followed the mandatory five years of “First School” (Turkish: İlkokul). The second four years of primary school are now known as “First School, 2. Level” (Turkish: İkokul 2. Kademe), however both terms are accurate.

Elementary Education:

It is concerned with the education and training of children aged ten to fourteen. All students are required to attend elementary school. It is free and lasts four years in public schools (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th grades). After first four years of education, there will be additional mandatory four years of education in which students will be entitled to choose if they want to study at a religious vocational middle school or a general middle education school.

Students are provided information on general, vocational, and technical high schools, as well as the kind of jobs they prepare for, at the end of elementary school.

Secondary Education:

It consists of general, vocational, and/or technical high schools that offer four-year programs to students aged 14 to 17. (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th grades). Secondary education is required of all citizens and is provided free of charge in public schools. Almost every year, the mechanism for getting into a high school change.

Private schools may use a variety of examinations; for example, there may be three exams over the course of three years, or there may be only one exam, but it is calculated differently, or they may look at your school grades solely. Secondary education seeks to provide students with a solid foundation of common knowledge and to prepare them for further education, a career, life, and business based on their interests, talents, and abilities.

Higher Education:

Students can enroll in higher education that is consistent with the three-cycle system after graduating from high school. Turkey Mansions will now explain you the type of higher education institutions and academic units. For more details, read below:

  • Faculty (College)

Higher education, academic research, and publication are all handled by this section. It might be linked to a variety of departments and programs. Students receive a bachelor’s degree after completing at least a four-year educational program.

  • Graduate School

Graduate education, academic research, and applications are the focus of this university institution. MA, MSc, and PhD degrees are awarded by graduate schools.

  • 4-year School

A higher education institution whose primary mission is to provide training for a specific vocation. It is divided into eight semesters.

  • Conservatory

Artists are trained for music and the performing arts at this higher education school. It is divided into eight semesters.

  • Post-Secondary Vocational School

An institution of higher education that provides four semesters of teaching with the goal of developing human potential in specialized vocations.

  • Research and Applied Center

An institution of higher education that conducts research and applied studies in order to satisfy the applied study demands of various areas and to provide preparation and support activities for various professional fields, all with the goal of assisting higher education institutions.


  • Associate Degree (Short Cycle):

It is awarded after completing a two-year study program. Universities and foundation postsecondary vocational institutions provide associate degree programs. There are also some distant education options accessible. A term of on-the-job training may be required for associate degree programs.

  • Bachelor’s Degree (First Cycle):

It is awarded after completing a four-year program and 240 ECTS of coursework. Dentistry, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy need five years of education, whereas medicine requires six. These four disciplines’ qualifications are regarded to be equal to a master’s degree.

  • Master’s Degree (Second Cycle):

Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MS) degree is awarded after a two-year study (MS). There are two types of master’s programs: those that need a thesis and those that do not. The Master’s with thesis program is a two-year program that typically consists of 120 ECTS of coursework followed by the submission of a thesis. Non-thesis programs are designed to be completed in one or one and a half years and require the completion of at least 90 credits of graduate coursework as well as a term project.

  • Doctoral Degree Program (Third Cycle):

Typically, an eight-semester curriculum leads to a PhD. It comprises of 180-240 ECTS courses, a competence exam, a dissertation proposal, a dissertation, and the oral defense of the dissertation. Students must submit their dissertation and defend it orally before an examining committee after successfully completing the course work and the proficiency exam.

  • Specialization in Medicine Programs:

They are carried out in medical faculties, university hospitals, and research and training hospitals, and are comparable to doctoral degree programs. For individuals graduating from medical faculties, there is a competitive selection test in several areas of medicine for those interested in specializing in medicine. Specialist candidates must present and defend a dissertation before an examining committee. Students who desire to pursue a career in medicine or dentistry must pass the DUS or TUS examinations.

  • Proficiency in Art:

In the visual and performing arts sectors, it is at least a six-semester post-program, Master’s making it equal to a Doctorate. It necessitates the presentation of an original work of art or a better, innovative performance (in music and the performing arts).

International Education

Since 1994, when the first school was authorized by the IB, the International Baccalaureate has been offered in Turkey, with 53 schools presently offering one or more of the IB programs.

Vocational Education

Institutions that both develop students as personnel in business and other professional fields, prepare them for higher education, and satisfy the objectives of general secondary education make up vocational and technical secondary education.

Technical education schools for boys, technical education schools for girls, trade and tourism schools, religious education schools, multi-program high schools, special education schools, private education schools, and health education schools are all examples of vocational and technical secondary education.

International Students

International students wishing to pursue undergraduate studies in Turkey must have finished their secondary education at a high school or similar institution that provides an education comparable to that of a Turkish high school. They apply to the university of their liking directly, and the university selects them.

International students interested in pursuing graduate or post-graduate education in Turkey can apply directly to institutions, which determine their own admittance standards. For certain overseas students, there are also a variety of funding possibilities and scholarships.

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