General Overview of the Education Sector in Turkey

General Overview of the Education Sector in Turkey

Education sector in Turkey is a sector consisting of approximately 25 thousands of institutions and organizations, providing employment opportunity of over 300 thousand and with a high acceleration of development. Education sector can be divided into two parts in terms of “Formal Education” in which education is given connected with the curriculum and “Non-Formal Education” in which extracurricular trainings provided optionally. In case of the organizations that provide the education, they can be divided into two parts of ‘Formal (Government)’ organizations and ‘Private’ organizations.

By examining the current development trends in the education sector, it can be observed that an increase takes place for the benefit of the private schools according to the data. It is seen that the biggest share of the private schools in formal education belongs to the pre-school education namely kindergarten.

Private schooling rate in Turkey, in the recent period has increased to 3.4% while it was 1.5%. However, in developed countries it the schooling rate of the private schools is over 10%. According to the European Union (EU) 2011 data, the rate of the students continuing to attend private schools is 14%. (Source: Eurydice 2012) When compared to the rate in our country, it can be seen that we still stay further behind. There is a need to take remedial precautions for shifting private sector’s educational investments to the area of private schools. Newly made changes in the Law No 5580 that regulates the activities of institutions working on private schools are positive in terms of encouraging the education investors to further the area of private schools. (Turkey Education Council Sector Report, 2014)

Graph 1. The rate of private schools in some countries (2013 OECD overview of education)

Source: Turkey Education Council Sector Report 2014, TOBB


School, Number of Students and Schooling Rates in Pre-School Education

By looking at the education sector, leading indicators are schooling rate, school, classroom and the number of students per teacher. At first, by looking at the schooling rates; it can be seen that the schooling rate data according to the age groups increased slightly compared to the previous academic year.

  Table 1. Schooling Rates by Age Groups and Years

By looking at the same classification on a city basis (Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir) and making comparisons with Turkey, it is seen that Istanbul is lower than Turkey average and fall behind the cities of Ankara and İzmir in 3, 4 and 5 age groups. Looking at the picture, İzmir is the city with the highest schooling rate in pre-school ages.

Table 2. Schooling Rates by Age Groups and Cities


According to MEB data, before the system practice of 4 + 4 + 4, there were 25 thousand 172 pre-school education institutions in the 2011-2012 school year and this number decreased to 23 thousand 751 in the 2016-2017 school year. In the same period, there was no significant change in the number of students, and the number of students was 1 million 58 thousand 904 while four years ago, even though five years have passed, it was only 1 million 112 thousand 443. The most important reason for this situation is the registration of children in preschool age to elementary school, which is related to the 4 + 4 + 4 education system. After 4 + 4 + 4 system, while the number of schools in state preschools decreased, the number of students stay same. However, on the other hand, private pre-school institutions have increased about twice in terms of both the number of schools and the number of students.


Table 3. Number of School, Student and Teacher in Pre-School Education


Source: 2016-2017 Formal Educational Statistics: Basic Indicators of the Collapse in Education, EĞİTİM SEN

According to the schooling rates in relation with years and education levels and the number of students per school-classroom-teacher in Turkey general are listed in the below table. The table has been presented in 3 parts as elementary primary school, secondary school and high school since the education system in 2012-2013 has been changed to 4 + 4 + 4 system in education.

It can be observed that the schooling rate has increased continuously in both primary education and secondary education until the school year of 2012-2013 that is the moving term of the 4 + 4 + 4 system from the years 1997-1998. After the new system, in the first year, the schooling rate in primary school has increased, however, it has decreased continuously in the following years. The reason for this, we can say that the school age population has increased with the starting age of the school is stepped down to the age 5. Because some parents did not want to send their children to the school at this small age and the schooling rate started to decrease. The schooling rate remained at a level that can be defined as stable in the secondary school, and continued to increase in secondary education.

Table 4. Educational Indicators for Primary and Secondary Period by Years (1997 - 2012)

Table 5. Education Indicators for Primary, Secondary and High Schools by Years (2012 - 2016)

Table 6. Net Schooling Rate (2016/2017)

By looking at the number of students per teacher in primary education, while it was 30 students in 1997, it has decreased to 20 students in 2012. In the new system, this number in the age of primary school was 20 students in 2013, however it is 18 students today.

By analyzing the number of students per teacher in secondary education, between the years of 1997 and 2010, it showed a fluctuation between 14 and 18 students. From the year 2010 to the present day, it has decreased from 18 students to 13 students. Similarly, this decline in the number of students per teacher in secondary education is also an indicator of the increasing quality of teaching.

In consideration with the share of private schools in total schools in terms of the number of schools, it is seen that the biggest share is in preschool education with the ratio over 50%. Subsequent to it, the secondary education follows by a share of 24%. It may be more possible that the numbers are high because of the smaller scale of preschool education (kindergartens) since they serve to small age groups and they are located into neighborhoods.

The reason for the high share of private schools in secondary education in recent years is thought to be due to reason that permission given to private medical vocational high schools and this resulted in an increase experienced in the opening of many private vocational high schools. However, when the data of the last two years is analyzed, in the educational year of 2016 / 2017, it is seen that the share of private schools decreased compared to the previous year.


Graph 2. Share of Private Instruction in Total in Relation with the Number of Schools

When the share of private schools in total schools is taken into consideration in terms of the number of students, it is seen that school education is also in the first place with the rate of 15%. However, the fact that the share of the private preschools in terms of the number of schools is 50% but the number of students is still staying at 15%, the result can be shown that the classrooms in private preschool education are smaller than those in the official state schools. In addition, by looking at the last two years’ data, it can be seen that the only increase is experienced in the number of students in secondary education.


Graph 3. Share of the Private Instruction in Total in Relation with the Number of Students

In recent years, the increase in the number of unemployed university graduates and the need for intermediate staff with vocational technical knowledge in various sectors has increased the tendency towards vocational high schools. While the ratio of vocational high school graduates to total secondary school graduates was 34% in the 2003/2004 academic year, this ratio increased to 52.2% in the school year of 2015 / 2016. The permission given to the opening of private vocational high schools has been a major contributor for this rapid increase. Instructors also emphasize that this positive development should not only be a quantitative increase but the quality should also increase in qualitatively. 

Table 7. Changes in the Number Students in Private Vocational Education Schools for 14 Years

         Source: Turkey Education Council Sector Report 2014, TOBB

It may not be possible to reach the conclusion that an orientation has begun to the private vocational education by looking at this table. This is because, the reason for the increase in the number of private vocational high schools is the permission given for the medical vocational high schools. Almost all of the increase has occurred close to the rapid opening of the medical vocational high schools. Even, the ministry has had to bring limits to prevent this rapid increase.

In the last 14 years, the number of private vocational courses and the number of students has only increased by 2 times. In spite of the increase in the willingness of education in the individuals, these private courses have not get their share from this increase. Furthermore, in relation with the increase in the number of medical vocational high schools, the gap between private vocational high school and special courses in terms of the number of institutions and the number of students has begun to decrease.


Table 8. Distribution of the Total Education Budget by Years and by Institutions

In the educational researches, looking at the share of education also in terms of the budget will give an idea for understanding the development of the education sector. By looking from the year 2006 to today, the budget allocated for education has continuously increased. The lowest increase was 4% from the year 2009 to the year 2010. However, these values are nominal values and the more accurate solution can be found by comparing the values with the inflation rates of that year and by this way give the inflation-adjusted real values.

In the graph below, inflation-adjusted growth rates have been used, and the increase in the education budget has remained below the inflation rate in 2008 and 2010. The highest increases were experienced in the years of 2007 and 2016.


Graph 5. Inflation-Adjusted Annual Growth Rate of the Total Education Budget

In Chart 6 it is presented that how the share of education budget to the total Gross Domestic Product changed in line with this increase in the education budget. Although the share of budget has fluctuated slightly, it is generally in an increasing trend.

 Graph 6. GDP Share of the Total Education Budget




To summarize the outstanding data with an overview of education sector:

  • There is an increase in education investments and in the share of education in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • The 4 + 4 + 4 education system is not yet fully occupied, by means of the decrease in the schooling age, the school-age population increased and the schooling rate decreased.
  • As the days goes on, the private schools play a bigger role in Turkey, however, when compared to the other countries in the world, the primary voice belongs to the states in education in Turkey.
  • In line with the requirements for intermediate staff with vocational and technical knowledge, the objective of the MEB is to reach the percentage of 65 in vocational high school and 35% high school. In line with this target, the number of vocational high schools has increased and private vocational high schools has also increased with a massive rate.
  • The largest share of private schools in terms of number of schools was determined to be in Preschool Education and Secondary Education.


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