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Our Kids At School

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We've been in Istanbul for 15 months now, and here is some of our experience of putting English speaking kids into school.

As we arrived here in September, and it took us a month to be able to move into our new flat, and then another month to be full up and running, it was November before the kids were ready to go to school.

At that point I was working in a couple of part-time jobs, so the only option, as we don't have the finances for an International School, was to send the kids to the local state school.

State SchoolProsJust at the end of the streetSmall classes (although this is unusual)Wonderful teachersFinishes at 2.30pmConsReally dirty environmentNot exactly Health and Safety risk assessed!

Our kids got treated as though they were aliens by some other kids, as they had NEVER met foreignersNo extra help with Turkish literacySo they were only there for half a school year, but they did make friends, and the manager and teachers were very supportive. However, my husband cringed on a daily basis having to leave them in such a dirty place!

Then I got a few job offers from some private schools, and took into consideration the scholarship offers and the type of schools ie. run by religious organisations, size, my salary and conditions etc.

I decide to work for a new school that didn't have religious leanings, and was keen on the cultural benefits of teaching English, not just the exam results, it is also a small ilkokul, they also offered me 1 full and 1 half scholarships, plus transport, food, some books and some uniform thrown in!

So the kids started in September. I've got 1 in 2nd grade and 1 in 4th grade.

Private SchoolProsNice teachersSmall classes (although as the school grows the numbers will increase)Cleaner than the state schoolLessons in chess, dance, music, clubs, French, German etc.

The other students are welcoming and tolerant of our kidsOther students from other countriesKids who try to speak English to our kidsCons40 minutes travel time (this is quite normal for a lot of school children in Istanbul)9 'lessons' a dayHome at 4.45pmHomeworkNo extra help with Turkish literacyConsidering they've just been thrown in the deep end without much extra help, they're doing really well.

They are picking up Turkish from their friends, and the older students are like big brothers and sisters to them, and help them if they are upset.

My OH does the homework with them, as my Turkish isn't up to it, and sometimes he is exasperated with the type of 'test' questions they get. He's even been to school and asked them "Who WRITES these questions?" They are tests they 'have to give', from the education council. He says they are pointless, convoluted for no apparent reason, especially for a 2nd grader. He thinks they are trying to 'teach' common sense, but they do it in this convoluted manner. The teachers he's spoken to agree with him, but say the 'have to give' the work, and agree that the system is based too much on 'ticking boxes'. It's less about the process and more about the result.

But it's an ingrained attitude which I find even in Kindergarten, where the teachers don't let the children work their own way through an activity - they will take over and complete it for them, so it 'looks' good for the parents - a bit like a controlling 'helicopter parent'!!

It's like the emphasis on neat cursive writing in 1st grade.......

Is the content important? Is the creativity important? No, the 'correct' script is important!!

Our biggest concern is the Turkish education system as a whole when considering their futures. Parents who have the option the send their children to other countries for university, don't even consider sending them to Turkish universities. Although they agree that socially Turkey is better for teenagers than UK or USA.

My husband says "Turkey doesn't want thinkers, it wants workers."I'd say "The Turkish government doesn't want thinkers, it wants workers, but Turkey NEEDS thinkers."I really don't think the education system produces thinkers. And people who have been through the system and are thinkers (that WE know of) are frustrated and demoralised here.

Ultimately we're viewing this as an experience for them. And will continue to try to keep them interested in 'learning' in a broad sense.

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I agree with a lot of what you've said, I'm an amerikan and my daughter is half turkish (luckily she's been fluent in both languages since she started talking) and I work at a private Atatürk koleji in Istanbul mainly so she doesn't have to go to a state school (never mind the paycheck), but coming from LAUSD (Los Angeles public schools) I'm much happier with the primary/secondary education she's getting here, though I'm hoping she can go to university back in the US when the time comes. I've learned that even with private schools here there are pros and cons; the school she went to last year has turned English into an elective with religion classes as an alternative, and there are others that are nothing more than testing mills with no extra curriculars and no social life for many of the kids; needless to say I'm happier at the school we switched to, there's a good mix of legitimate education and fun stuff for the kids. I wasn't too happy with the other school we were at even before they started leaning toward fundamentalism, so I made a good move either way, both for her and for me. Anyway, good luck with everything and have a happy new year!

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Yes, we came to the same conclusions when our daughter faced Turkish schools -- too much learning by rote and testing by tick-box. It was a long saga but she came through it OK...... and, like those other foreign parents, we sent her to university outside Turkey (now in final year of doctorate).

The Directorate of Education keeps changing the system ..... whether for the better or worse is anyone's guess! Posted Image

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  • 1 year later...

Hello Everybody. I am new to the forum. I live in in Canada but considering moving to Turkey because of my husbands job. I am trying contact Americans in izmir, my son is us citizen, has been educated in us and canada, he doesnt speak turkish very well and academically has no Turkish at all. I am thinking to send him to an american school in. Izmir but I need advise. I dont want him to lose his english, and want him to have couple american friends so he can enjoy more. I am Turkish but lived in abroad so long and didnt raise my kids in Turkey. So I know all the things that my family tells right now about the schools and education. But i have concerns. He has ADHD and is getting help here. I dont know if moving to Turkey is gping to help him, or should I stay where I am right now. I need opinions. Thanks very much in advance. I am looking forward to your answers.


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One of the things that struck me at the schools in Turkey, is the lack of support for kids with learning difficulties. They are left in their grade class and given exactly the same work as the others......and given the same exams too.


Parents tend to take them to psychologists on a regular basis, who will prescribe medication. The parents are extremely anxious about their special needs children, and the teachers are extremely frustrated with their behavioural issues. There are NO strategies to deal with any of the issues this type of student may bring to the school.


Absolutely, 100%, if you have the choice.....don't move a non-Turkish speaking child with any sort of special needs to school in Turkey.

An American school may have more understanding and support for him......

BUT be warned......schools LOVE to tell you what you want to hear BEFORE you enroll and pay the fees........afterwards you'll be banging your head against a brick wall.


Best of luck!!

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