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Schools in Turkey

Piloting low-cost interventions in Turkey which, if scaled up, have the potential to significantly improve learning outcomes for Syrian refugee children whose families have moved there.

The aim of Theirworld's pilot projects in Turkey are to identify cost-effective interventions to get around the economic, cultural and language barriers that prevent Syrian refugees from getting an education. 

About the issue of education in humanitarian emergencies

Education in humanitarian emergencies has been neglected for many years, with less than 2% of all aid going to education. Theirworld has played a key role in convening organisations to campaign on this issue and build the research, evidence and political will needed to reverse these trends. We also believe that when health and education professionals work together, great ideas will emerge to improve skills, services and outcomes. 

The big picture in Turkey

Turkey is home to 2.7 million refugees, over half of them are children and more than 60% of them are out of school. Many children have taken up low-wage factory jobs to support their families or been pushed into child marriage to relieve the family of another mouth to feed.

With no end in sight to the Syria conflict, education officials in Turkey had to come up with long-term solutions. By 2017, one million Syrian refugee children in Turkey will be enrolled in school, education officials promised.

That is why we are piloting low-cost interventions in Turkey. If scaled up, they have the potential to significantly improve learning outcomes for Syrian refugee children whose families have moved there.

The double-shift school system in Turkey

The 'double-shift' school system was introduced, allowing Syrian children to be taught in the afternoons and evenings in existing Turkish school buildings. This innovative approach throws open the school doors to hundreds of thousands of children without the additional costs of new buildings.

But more support is needed to tackle the following issues: 

  • Many schools lack teachers trained to deal with the language barrier or children who have missed years of schooling. 
  • Syrian and Turkish children report language problems, bullying and teasing.
  • Many families rely on income from child labour and say they can’t afford to send their children to school. 
  • For families who are able to send their children to school, many of the makeshift private schools lack the credentials to count within the Turkish public system.  

As a result, many students have gone into temporary education centres (TEC) which are private schools where administration and instruction are conducted in Arabic with a modified Syrian curriculum. These have been the preferred option for Syrian families in Turkey who can afford school fees and hope for a swift return to Syria.

Overcoming the barriers

In February 2016 a Theirworld team visited a Temporary Education Centre in Istanbul that taught the Syrian curriculum. It was crowded and bustling with Syrian students but under-resourced and not a suitable learning environment for children. The Turkish government wants to reduce dependence on TECs and enrol all Syrian children in the Turkish public system. However, many families still prefer to send their children to these TECs.

We are working with partners to establish demonstration projects to address these critical barriers in cost-effective ways and then share results. We are setting up Turkish language training programmes to support Syrian refugee children with intensive courses, in order to ensure a smooth transition to the Turkish public school system.

It is our job to work collectively to remove these barriers to education so that more Syrian children can enrol in the Turkish public system, integrate and get a better chance at successes in life and in Turkey.

The project goals

  • Teach Turkish to Syrian children and enhance their knowledge to eliminate language barriers at school.
  • Contribute to the enrolment of Syrian children into public schools in Turkey so they can have free access to education like their Turkish peers.
  • Enhance the education level of Syrian children and ensure equal standards with Turkish children by giving them the opportunity to continue in the Turkish system.
  • Alleviate children’s anxieties for the future and give them confidence for life.
  • Support children to continue courses by giving transportation, food and stationary assistance.
  • Facilitate the smooth transition to educational and vocational life by increasing language competency
  • Ensure social integration of the Syrian population, starting from children, by expanding communication opportunities for the young generation.


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