Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Turkey – Part 1

This article was first published on the ECCTIS blog

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a hot topic in Turkey. As the local and global economies increase in competitiveness, the need for a labour force equipped with appropriate, quality-assured qualifications to meet the demands of the business environment also increases. The Turkish Ministry of National Education and Council of Higher Education (the bodies responsible for TVET in Turkey) are only too aware of this, and between 2003 and 2012 have invested over €9billion in developing the sector. This year alone, the Ministry of National Education is anticipated to allocate 37% of its total investment budget directly into the TVET sector. Resulting from this continual and substantial investment has been the development of an established and wide-reaching TVET system which delivers education and training in more than 130 occupations.

Much of the development of the TVET sector in Turkey has been attributed to the successful cooperation between educational institutions, schools and the social partners, which has ultimately eased the transition of TVET students from the institution to the work place. No wonder, then, that as part of their continuing work to enhance mobility through improved recognition and understanding of qualifications, the ECCTIS Ltd Research & Consultancy Team want to learn more.

Consequently, they are participating in a Study Visit to the Turkish province of Mersin at the end of May (funding provided under the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Commission). The premise of the visit is to explore themes around the valuable contribution of partnerships to education, and will be attended by a range of stakeholders from across Europe including the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the UK. During the week-long visit, participants will learn about the Turkish TVET system, initiatives of the local authority to promote and help improve TVET in the province, and examples of good practice in cooperation between institutions and social partners. Of particular relevance to the work of Research & Consultancy will be learning about the ways in which partnerships between government, private institutions and social partners have aided the recognition of TVET qualifications in Turkey, and how this has this helped increase the uptake of qualifications by students and the appreciation of qualifications by employers and industry.

With so many stakeholders attending from across Europe, the study visit is bound to be both interesting and insightful. Watch this space for reflections on the visit!

May 2013

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Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Turkey – Part 2

This article was first publish on the ECCTIS blog

Like many other countries in the world, aspects of public perception towards technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Turkey need to be addressed. In Turkey, public perception of a quality education still favours the academic route and an understanding persists that students who opt for vocational education are less able. The approach to resolving this perceived disparity between the two educational routes has been to focus on promoting TVET through real-life examples of best practice and has resulted in the prejudice against vocational education slowly being broken down, and its reputation as a viable, valuable option for young learners gaining strength.

At the end of May the Research & Consultancy team participated in an EU-funded study visit* to the Turkish province of Mersin, where the impact of this approach was really experienced first-hand. The programme consisted of discussions and meetings with key stakeholders in the TVET sector, providing an opportunity to share experiences and perspectives on best practice in Turkey and more widely in Europe. In theory the purpose of the visit was to explore issues around the valuable contribution that partnerships can make to TVET, but in practice it explored the broader issues of competency-based and modular TVET curricula, teacher training for TVET teachers, Lifelong Learning, the importance of the Vocational Qualifications Authority, developing TVET in compliance with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), working towards a system of credit transfer (ECVET), and raising awareness and ownership of TVET. Specific to Turkey, three interesting aspects emerged as a result of the study visit:

  1. The sheer amount of investment in education in Mersin

The education system in Mersin benefits from investment from all directions, both public and private, and government departments and educational institutions use this in order to deal with lack of funding and financial reserves. The private sector takes its social responsibility towards the future population and education very seriously, and companies and businessmen invest in schools and school buildings. The government stimulates these investments by giving tax reductions. In turn, schools are experienced in representing themselves to the community in order to secure and maintain funds.

  1. The centralised nature of investment in education

Interestingly much of the government investment in education seems to be controlled by central rather than regional government. This means that the regional education directorates have little autonomy in the allocation of funds to specific areas of education, and as such development in the sector follows the national agenda.

  1. The selectivity of students within the TVET sector

An aspect of the TVET sector in Mersin that varied significantly from the UK system was that the schools visited as part of the programme remained highly selective in nature. The TVET sector in the UK has been designed to widen participation in education to those less able or interested in an academic education. However the study visit revealed that TVET schools and colleges in Turkey remain highly selective in their recruitment practices and thereby ensure that they select only the brightest and most capable students. Although this is beneficial for the schools, it may be that students who might have once needed this route into education are now being denied it due to competition for places.

More commonly across all the participant countries (including Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the UK) it was recognised that the employability of students when they exit the education system is an area that requires attention in order to ensure they have the relevant skills and competencies to enter the workforce. Key observations were:

  • Lithuania has a well-developed approach to enabling university students to be work ready. There is open dialogue between students and local employers, facilitated by universities and enabling students to know what is required of them to increase their chances of employability. This helps students in several ways, including the ability to tailor their specific courses according to local business needs, the ability to build relationships with businesses, and developing thesis topics which are relevant and contribute to real business situations.
  • Poland has identified that there are two streams of work-enabling education – vocational and higher. In vocational education there is a lack of skilled trainers to develop young people’s employability skills and in higher education students are not work ready. They are currently pursuing a two strand strategy to improve higher education student work-readiness by firstly focusing on skills required by the market and secondly focusing on universities developing research knowledge.
  • Finland has noted an increase in the number of unemployed graduates, attributed to a lack of employment skills. Although Finnish education policy is reducing budget allocation to Polytechnics (seen as a continuation of vocational training) the universities are not capturing the students unable to obtain places at Polytechnics. Competence based training, or learning in the workplace are both popular for vocational training in Finland.
  • In the UK it is recognised by businesses that most graduates are not work ready and lack basic employment skills. To overcome this, a number of universities are developing programmes to enhance their students’ employability through enhancing professionalism, reflection and critical learning, lifelong learning, communication, and teamwork skills. In such programmes students engage with employers throughout their awards, either through a range of work related opportunities such as projects, assessments, visiting speakers or work opportunities. Academics are encouraged to build networks with employers and to undertake research or consultancy work where appropriate.

These observations indicated similar approaches adopted by the participating countries in cooperation between education institutions and key stakeholders and an appreciation of the importance of close cooperation as the best way to maximise resources and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the education system.

Participation in the study visit was an enlightening experience and highlighted current issues in education systems across Europe. Having explored the theory of partnerships in education, the Research & Consultancy Team is now hoping to continue putting this into practice by realising future partnerships in education. In line with UK NARIC, ECCTIS Ltd’s purpose to facilitate mobility, such partnerships will centre on easing transitions for students both across and within education systems.

June 2013

Spotlight: Turkey

TurkishFlagTurkey is situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Bordered by eight countries, Turkey is a major regional power and is becoming increasingly integrated with the West through its membership of NATO, the Council of Europe and the G-20.

Turkey is a candidate country for EU membership: it began full membership negotiations with the European Union in 2005, having been an associate member of the European Economic Community since 1963 and having joined the EU Customs Union in 1995.

Closer ties with the EU, which may or may not lead to membership, are driving educational redevelopment in many forms, including a qualification structure, professional qualification recognition and VET reform. Turkey has also been heavily involved with the Lifelong Learning Programme, and it has been estimated that, between 2007-13, almost 250,000 Turks will have benefitted from EU education and training programmes.

However, it still retains close ties with the Middle East, the Turkic States of Central Asia and African countries.  The population is roughly 80 million, with a relatively young age profile: 26.6% are under 15 years old (as a comparison, 18% of the UK population is below 15).

In the last decade, Turkey has enjoyed robust economic growth, per capita GDP rising more than fourfold (in 2011, for instance, the growth figure stood at 8.8%). At the time of writing, Turkey is the world’s 16th and Europe’s 6th biggest economy.


Turkey has been one of the most popular country files on the International Comparisons database in recent years.  In 2011, Turkey received 9,921 views.  This figure represents a 3.2% fall on the 2010 figure (10,240), but is an increase on 2009 (9,778).

“The figures for Turkey are intriguing.  We see a lot of traffic to the relevant pages on International Comparisons and we get a lot of individuals coming to us with Turkish qualifications; but there aren’t that many applications coming through UCAS.  The most recent figures show that there were only 450 applications and the country doesn’t feature in their top 50 countries.” commented Tim Buttress, Deputy Director Policy and Communications at UK NARIC.

Visa data may demonstrate why. According to the UED (Association of International Education Counsellors, in Turkey), there are now more than 55,000 Turkish nationals studying abroad, with 55% of these relating to language courses. English language courses in the UK have always been particularly popular (and likewise constitute the bulk of visa applications), although recent visa restrictions and costs have led to an increase in interest in other study destinations such as Malta.

Traditionally at higher education level, the most popular destination is the USA. According to UNESCO, Germany, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria and the UK make up the rest of the top five study destinations.

Higher Education in Turkey

The higher education sector is currently experiencing considerable expansion. There are now roughly 170 universities, about 75 of which are run by private foundations. In terms of student numbers, there are now more than 2 million higher education students, of which more than 1 million are in undergraduate programmes and ½ million are in higher vocational schools. Only 9% of students are enrolled at the private, foundation universities, indicating the increased specialisation of these institutions.

An increasing global view and focus on quality assurance within higher education is beginning to pay dividends too: in terms of reputation, Middle East Technical University featured in the top 100 ranked universities in the 2012 THE study.

Nonetheless, this provision does not meet domestic demand for education and helps to explain the high numbers of students seeking to travel abroad to study each year. In 2009, for instance, 1.65 million university applications were made, but places for only 330,000 (20%) were available.

Turkey as an International Student Destination

Turkey is itself fast becoming an established destination country for international students. Statistics from the ÖSYM (Student Selection and Placement Center) show that there were 16,000 international students at Turkish universities in 2005-06 and that the number had increased to almost 27,000 by the 2010-11 academic year.

The admission of more foreign students has been stimulated by a governmental drive to play a greater role in the Islamic world, with offers of low tuition fees and generous scholarships. Additionally, in 2010, TUPA (Turkish Universities Promotion Agency) was formed to promote Turkish universities across the world and to attract international students. The Foreign Economic Relations Board’s (DEK) Business Education Council aims to increase the number of international students to 100,000 by 2015.

Official language(s) Turkish
Other language(s) Kurdish and other minority languages
Population 79,749,461 (Jul-12)
Population (world ranking) 17 (Jan-12)
GDP (purchasing power parity) $ 1,053,000,000,000 (Jan-11)
GDP (per capita world ranking) 107 (Jan-11)
Compulsory education Eight years, covering primary and basic education (ages 6 to 14). However, see Education Reforms below.
Academic year School begins in late September and extends through to early June, with some variations between urban and rural areas. Universities usually organise the academic year into two semesters, usually between October – January and between March – July.
Education laws New “4+4+4” Bill, proposing an extension of compulsory school education to 12 years and a reintroduction of more progression pathways at ‘middle school’ level – which has proved controversial as it will re-open progression at age 10 into imam hatip (religious-oriented) middle schools.
Outgoing students
Total (foreign students) 47,275 (2009)
Percentage of world total 1.4% (2009)
Top Destinations USA (12,612), Australia (7,648), France (5,803), Russian Fed. (3,518), Japan (2,895) – 2009
Number of Member Enquiries 2011 73
Member Enquiries 2011 rank 48th
Number of Individual Assessments 2011 237
Individual Assessments 2011 rank 32nd
Number of database page views 2011 9,921
Database page views 2011 rank 24th
Number of database page views 2010 10,240
Database page views 2010 rank 25th