781,000 foreign children enrolled in Turkish schools: Minister

781,000 foreign children enrolled in Turkish schools: Minister

Umut Erdem – ANKARA
781,000 foreign children enrolled in Turkish schools: Minister

Some 781,000 foreign children are currently enrolled in schools across Turkey, Education Minister Ziya Selçuk said in response to a parliamentary question filed by a deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“In our country, of the 1,301,380 school-aged children (aged 5-17) who are foreign nationals, 781,348 have been included in the education system. Of these children, 1,082,172 are Syrians,” said Selçuk. The minister was answering a parliamentary question submitted by CHP Deputy Onursal Adıgüzel.

Selçuk also said that as per a decision taken by the government, temporary education centers across the country were being closed gradually. These centers are schools established and run for the purpose of providing educational services to persons arriving in Turkey for a temporary period as part of a mass influx. The language of instruction in these centers is usually Arabic.

Attending public schools or temporary education centers are the two main options available for school-age Syrian children in Turkey. The government, however, has taken a decision to close all temporary education centers gradually and eventually transfer all Syrian students to public schools to foster integration between Syrian and Turkish children.

“As per a decision taken in the 2016-2017 education year, the opening of new temporary education centers has been halted, and the process of closure [of these centers] has started,” Selçuk said.

The most difficult issue regarding the adaptation of Syrian children to the Turkish public education system is the barrier of language, according to Selçuk. The minister said that public education enters (“halk eğitim merkezi” in Turkish), non-governmental organizations, municipalities, universities and the language center of TÖMER have been offering Turkish language courses to foreign nationals in Turkey.

“Since 2016, through cooperation with international organizations, over 2 million Turkish language book sets have been distributed to provinces where a lot of foreigners reside,” said Selçuk.

Separately, as part of the European Union-funded project named “Promoting Integration of Syrian Children into the Turkish Education System” (PICTES), over 3 million Turkish language books were printed and distributed to Syrian children during the 2019-2020 academic year, Selçuk said.