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During the Ottoman empire, education was received from the medrese, part of every mosque complex, and centered around Koranic instruction. It was available to boys only - girls were instructed in household skills and crafts from within the harem. Only 10% of the population were literate.
In contrast, Ataturk claimed that "our most important duty is to win a victory in the field of education". He insisted on an educational system that was comprehensive and inclusive. With his customary insight, he realized that education was the key to the acceptance of the radical reforms which were being implemented. Primary education was immediately taken under the jurisdiction of the state and made compulsory and free. Religious schools were closed and an infrastructure of primary and middle schools was built up. Universities were established to provide much needed technical and scientific training.
Today the educational system is in the midst of a
process of expansion, necessary to cope with educating the youngest population in Europe.
In August 1997 compulsory basic education was extended from five to eight years. It is
estimated that over 1,1 million children will receive three extra years of free basic
education as a result. The government aims to reduce average classroom density from 50 to
Many private schools, universities and institutes of higher education are being established, offering excellent standards and facilities. Native speaker are commonly employed to encourage mastery of foreign languages, in order to underwrite Turkeys' increasingly open society. Turkish schools, even when struggling with underfunding,display high levels of staff professionalism and dedication, strong student motivation and parental and community involvement.
Among the foreign high schools operating in Turkey are:
There are currently 54 universities in Turkey. Students earn places in university through a two-phase examination (OYS and OSS) held yearly by the Centre for Student Selection and Placement. Following high school, many young people spend a year studying at private institutions (ozel dershaneler) in order to pass these exams successfully. For foreigners who would like to study in Turkey, there is a special examination for which the papers are given in both English and Turkish, following which they are given a year in which to study Turkish. During 1991-1992 there were 14,548 foreign students in Turkish universities of which almost half were from the Turkic republics.
The list of universities in Turkey is as follows:
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