As the average family´s income has grown, Turkish parents have become aware of the public school system´s weaknesses. Many now opt to send their children to private schools (kolej/özel lise) featuring small class sizes, well-qualified teachers, and even extracurricular and athletic activities.
Unsurprisingly, these schools can be expensive. They charge yearly tuition, and students must buy expensive books. There are additional expenses for uniforms and lunches, and some parents must also pay to bus their students to schools far away from their homes.
The benefits to private schools are many, however. Students have access to foreign standardized test materials such as the Cambridge University English-language exams, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). These resources make it easier for Turkish students to enter universities in foreign countries.
Before you enrol your child in a private school, check to see whether it is internationally accredited. If it is not, your child may not be eligible to enter foreign universities. Consider where in the world your child will probably live and study as a young adult when you are making your decision. You may be better served by a “truly” international school.
International schools in Turkey
International schools are the most popular choice for foreign families by a wide margin. This is partly because of the low quality of most Turkish public schools, but also due to the Turkish language barrier.
Most of these schools teach using an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum that is accepted by foreign universities.
If you are working for a large company or a foreign government, there is a chance that your employer will pay for your child´s tuition. Otherwise, it will be up to you to fund your child´s education. The cost of international schools varies depending on the particular school´s student body and its prestige. Well-regarded international schools are inevitably more expensive – some of the European schools cost 15.000 euro a year.
International schools usually require an application, and you will be able to contact individual schools for information on their requirements. If you choose to send your child to an international school, make sure that you start on the process well in advance of your arrival in Turkey.
İmam Hatip Lisesi
If you come from a devout Muslim background, you may also consider sending your child to an imam hatip school. These special secondary schools used to train religious leaders, but now feature a more mainstream curriculum with a very pronounced Islamic influence. Students that graduate from these schools are eligible to enter university, just like any other lise student.
If you are not Muslim, your child will not be admitted to these schools (nor would he want to be!), and even if you are Muslim, you should consider the decision carefully. Your child will have a very different experience in an imam hatip school than he would in any other Turkish school.