While expat children are allowed to attend public schools in Istanbul for free, most expat parents choose to send their children to international schools. This is due to the varying quality of public schooling and Turkish being the language of instruction.
Public schools in Istanbul
Education in Turkey is compulsory for all children from primary through to secondary school. Primary and secondary education in public schools is free to all children, including Turkish nationals and foreigners, but the standard of education varies across Turkey.
Public schools in larger cities struggle with overcrowding and, in Istanbul, classes of between 50 and 60 students aren't uncommon. Another problem expats face with public schools in Istanbul is the fact that Turkish is the language of instruction at all schools. This may make it almost impossible for older expat children, who don't already know the language, to adapt to the public schooling system. Most expat parents therefore choose to send their children to a private or international school in Istanbul.
International schools in Istanbul
International schools in Istanbul cater to various foreign nationalities. They offer a variety of international curricula and foreign-language instruction. Most international schools in Istanbul offer students the opportunity to learn Turkish, while also organising field trips and cultural activities to assist children in assimilating into Turkish culture and society.
School fees in Istanbul are known to be exorbitant and parents will find that these fees are accompanied by various additional expenses, such as school uniforms, textbooks, extra-curricular activities and transport. Parents, therefore, need to budget carefully.
If moving to Istanbul as part of a corporate relocation, expats should factor schooling costs into their contract negotiations before moving to Turkey. Expats also shouldn't assume this allowance will be enough to cover the full tuition cost of a top school, and expats should therefore make sure their salary is enough to cover the extra costs.
Enrolment at international schools in Istanbul can be limited. It's therefore essential to apply as soon as possible, especially if one's child is of primary school age. Most schools will post-admission requirements and application procedures on their websites. In many cases, it's possible to begin the application process from abroad. This should be a priority for expat parents when planning the move to Turkey.
Special-needs education in Turkey
The Turkish government has a policy to keep special needs children in mainstream classes as far as possible.
Many international schools in Istanbul offer special-needs education, but the type of support offered varies from school to school. Some schools offer assistance with only mild learning difficulties while others will have more extensive support systems designed to deal with a range of needs.
The British International School in Istanbul is one international school that offers special needs support throughout their primary and secondary departments.
Istanbul has also opened a special education and training school, called HAYPADER Special Education Practice School, that offers equal opportunities in education to children with disabilities. This school also offers scholarships for children from low income families.
Parents could contact the Guidance Study Centre in the area they will be living in to find out which school best suits their Child's needs. The Guidance Study Centre evaluates children’s physical abilities, personal development and academic competences. The centre then provides recommendations on education options. It also gives the family guidance and counselling on the care and treatment of a child with special needs.
Tutors in Turkey
Receiving private tutoring in Istanbul while preparing for a national examination is common. Due to high competition to get into elite high schools and universities, most children will receive tutoring at some point during their scholastic career.
There are three forms of private tutoring in Turkey. The first, and most expensive, is one-on-one tutoring. This is usually done by an accomplished university student or a retired teacher. These tutors usually guarantee excellent results and therefore charge high prices.
The second kind of tutoring takes place on the school premises. Tutoring is offered outside of normal class hours by volunteer teachers. This form of tutoring is usually organised by the school board.
Finally, the most popular form of tutoring is provided by private tutoring centres (dershane). These centres act like private schools with professional teachers. Students first complete an entrance test and are placed into classes according to their results. These schools charge a monthly fee and can be expensive.
►See Education and Schools in Turkey for a more comprehensive overview of the Turkish education system.
Are you an expat living in Istanbul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Istanbul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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