Turkish schools abroad: a global phenomenon

Prof. Seyfettin Gursel
Prof. Seyfettin Gursel


Date posted: December 22, 2012

Dr. Seyfettin Gürsel

Two weeks ago, I was in northern Iraq, the region controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), with my colleagues from Zaman. We had a very informative exchange of views with KRG personalities about the collaboration between Ankara and Arbil on the exploration of natural resources (see my article “Kurdish oil: a strategic shift,” Dec. 14, 2012).

During our stay we had also the opportunity to visit Fethullah Gülen-inspired Turkish schools to meet some of the managers as well as teachers.

This was my third visit to these schools. Years ago I visited those of South Africa, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A very similar story is found in each case. A handful of volunteers arrive in difficult times and succeed in tearing out required authorizations in an atmosphere of suspicion. They move on to build their first school with the support of donations coming from the faithful of some Anatolian city. After the first school proves its high performance in educating students and once the local authorities are reassured that there is no obscure political or ideological aim behind the institution, the way is opened wide for enlarging the school’s presence.

In Iraq the saga began in 1994 with 74 students in Arbil at a time when an armed confrontation between Kurds and then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein raged on, isolating the country’s north. The second school opened in Sulaimaniya, but beyond that the number remained limited to four till 2004. After the fall of Saddam, an explosion occurred. According to Talip Büyük, general director of the Fezalar Education Company, there are now 30 Turkish schools in Iraq, 18 of which were established in northern Iraq and 12 in the territories controlled by Baghdad. As many as 12,000 students are enrolled in these schools. Naturally, the question comes to mind: How many of these schools are there worldwide? I asked the question to Celal Uşak, a board member of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV). Uşak estimates that there are about 1,000 in approximately 150 countries, employing 10,000 teachers from Turkey. No doubt that we are facing an astonishing global phenomenon whose long-term implications are difficult to predict from where we stand.

This phenomenon has been puzzling me for a long time. How do these schools work? What are the keys items behind their success? What are the mission and limits of this global phenomenon? I cannot claim to be able to fully answer these questions, only to give some personal perspectives. The educational system is quite similar to foreign schools established in Turkey during Ottoman times. Mathematics and scientific courses are in English, taught by Turkish teachers, while social courses are in the countries’ native languages, handled by local teachers. English and Turkish language education is very important. For example, in Iraqi schools there are 16 hours of English and 12 hours of Turkish per week. We met by coincidence in an Arbil mall a Kurdish student, Berhevan, who actually teaches English in the Mosul school. We were impressed by Berhevan’s fluent Turkish.

The performance of the graduates in university entry exams is undisputable. Last year Selahaddin Eyyubi, one such school in Sulaimaniya, had seven of their students in the top 10 KRG baccalaureate students. I asked Ali Çavdar, a math teacher and the vice president of the committee responsible for educational matters, to account for this success. The key word is “a dynamic educational process” for staff, Çavdar said, some kind of learning-by-doing program for the educators themselves. Workshops are regularly organized for the teachers, aiming to improve their skills. Mr. Çavdar told me that a laboratory workshop was going on right now in which university professors of physics, chemistry and biology from Turkey were showing experiments to the young Turkish teachers. He told me also that the experienced teachers regularly show the beginners teaching methods.

The entry into schools requires high performance on entry exams for students even though there are school fees. Last year, in the Arbil school, 5,000 students applied for 400 places. I have to note that the fees are quite affordable for the middle class. Turkish teachers receive salaries similar to the salaries of local teachers, which makes the Turkish schools very attractive vis-à-vis their competitors when comparisons are made on price to quality. Once the startup cost is financed from Turkey, the schools are able to produce sufficient income to finance new ones.

Obviously, the fundamental factor behind the success of Turkish schools is the spirit of the mission of the people who belong to the faith-based social movement which supports the schools. What is this mission? I am not able to answer this question, but nothing I have seen indicates it is Islamization.

Source: Today’s Zaman December 21, 2012


Related News

Filipino – Turkish Tolerance School students excel in ICAS 2014 exam, Ten others top in campus journalism

At least nineteen students of the Filipino – Turkish Tolerance School (FTTS) have excelled in Mathematics, Science and English during an examination given by the International Competition Assessment for Schools (ICAS).

Kimse Yok Mu to build 4 schools in Sudan

Turkish aid organization Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There) has laid the foundation for the Kimse Yok Mu Education and Culture Complex, which contains four schools, to be built in South Darfur, Sudan. 2 May 2011 / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL South Darfur Governor Abdu-Elhameed Musa Kasha, Turkey’s Ambassador to Sudan Yusuf Kenan Küçük and Kimse […]

Gülen movement’s silent majority

After all, it is not difficult to understand that the reasons pushing so many people so far from home have been a love of service and a love of their own country. During the course of my travels, I also had the chance to meet a few of the teachers dedicated to their service and to teaching in these schools. Most of them had sacrificed some of their own opportunities so that they could simply contribute to the schools at which they are working.

FM Davutoglu praises Fethullah Gülen’s contribution to education

4 June 2012 / TODAY’S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has praised Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen for  supporting and promoting educational activities in foreign countries, along with his efforts to inspire intercultural and interreligious dialogue globally. Davutoğlu joined the 10th International Turkish Olympiads activities on Monday in the province of Konya and […]

Schools Founded by Volunteers to Light the Way for the German Educational System

German journalist and author, Dr. Jochen Thies, stated that it saddens him to see that the public is not aware of the self-sacrifice, perseverance and quality that he has observed in the schools in Germany that have been founded by Hizmet volunteers. Noting that in five years these schools will be serving as guiding beacons […]

One of his sons is with the PKK, the other is with the Gulen movement

As PKK terrorist organization burns the schools in southeastern Turkey, the question “Where is the Government?” has arisen. A father’s school preference for his son, located in the city of Batman has started a debate. The remarks of a father, who has a son with the PKK terrorist organization and another son in Gulen movement […]

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Palestinian woman denied visa to Turkey for treatment, says Kimse Yok Mu official

The Fall of Turkey

Should the Hizmet movement form a political party?

Gülen’s lawyer appeals arrest warrant

Introducing the Hizmet Movement

Pak-Turk Inter-School Math Olympiad: Prize distribution ceremony held

Father Alexei on Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet Movement

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News