Primary and secondary education in Istanbul is compulsory for all children from the age of six. Expat children are allowed to attend public schools in Istanbul for free. However, most expat parents choose to send their children to international schools as the quality of public schooling varies and Turkish is 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. The standard of education varies across Turkey.
Public schools in larger cities struggle with overcrowding. In Istanbul, classes of between 50 and 60 students isn't uncommon. Another problem faced 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 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. 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. So expats should make sure their salary is enough to cover the extra costs.
Enrollment at international schools in Istanbul can be limited. It's 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.
►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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