The Turkish education system is a state supervised system that is designed to ensure a skillful labour force in the country. Education is an important priority for national development and commands 22% of the national budget. Primary education is compulsory for primary school between the age of 6 and 14 and enrollment in this age range was nearly 100% in 2001.
Kindergarten: This is a pre-school facility for children between the ages of 5 and 7 years. Though present, there are not enough kindergartens to match the number of children in the age group. As a result, this stage is only used by a limited part of the population, mainly busy families in cities. Games, theatre, manners and songs are the main focus of this stage of education.
Primary school: The primary or elementary school provides eight years of mandatory education for children between 6 and 14. Here, the focus is on basic information, Turkish language, mathematics, social sciences, art and music. Sometimes, English and another foreign language are taught. Both public and private schools exists side by side with each other. While the curriculum is essentially the same, private schools add on more extracurricular activities like swimming etc and also teach additional languages. The average number of students per classroom is 20 – 40 but in rural areas, there may be even more students per class. At the end of the eighth grade, students take an exam and according to their scores, are placed in various high schools.
High school: This generally lasts four years with some high schools adding on an extra year for preparatory classes in a foreign language. Students choose one foreign language – the choice is generally between English, French and German. Religious education is optional and is generally a comparative study of religions instead of only Islam. The Anatolian, Science and Private High Schools are the best and most popular in the country. Science lessons are taught in the foreign language of the student's choice. Education is free except for private high schools where it can cost about $4000 per annum. At the end of school, after 12th grade, students are required to sit for the High School Finishing Exam. Upon passing this, they will need to take the OSS, an extremely important and fiercely competitive exam whose scores will determine the opportunities available for education on the next level.
Universities: Upon completion of the OSS, students that pass enter universities. Universities provide two- four years of under-graduate study and an additional two years for graduate programmes. Most major universities are located in Ankara and Istanbul. Quality of education varies greatly –some are on par with American Universities. Turkish universities participate in the Socrates- Erasmus programme. For more on that, please go the Erasmus section.
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