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6.1 Children's rights in education

Following efforts made in the past decade, almost all children in Turkey have access to the formal education system, at least at primary level, and are therefore benefiting from their right to education to a greater or lesser degree, in line with Article No.42 of the Constitution, which states that “Nobody can be deprived of the right to education”. Most children appear to like school. The restructuring of the education system under a law approved by Parliament in March 2012 means that compulsory schooling (and hence free primary education in state schools) will henceforth begin at the age of five rather than six, and that there will be twelve years of compulsory education in all, as opposed to eight previously. The ongoing increase in net enrolment in secondary education (which is currently put at just over 67%) is therefore expected to accelerate over the next few years.

Despite these achievements, children are not benefiting fully or equally from the right to education. The quality of the education provided, and of educational environments, is highly uneven. Quality of schooling and levels of educational achievement depend closely on social background, geography and gender. Some children, especially girls, are still not attending school regularly, even though they are enrolled, and may drop out at an early age. “Turkey’s educational system is currently of low quality relative to the growth and competitiveness ambitions of the country and is also significantly more inequitable than most other OECD countries,” comments the World Bank policy note “Improving the Quality and Equity of Basic Education in Turkey: Challenges and Options” (http://go.worldbank.org/MM9KG62GG0) (2011).

The restructuring of the education system of early 2012, which was carried out without extensive consultations, has added to the challenges in the short term by increasing the burden on existing resources and making necessary hurried adjustment of programmes and curricula. The division of primary education into two phases of four years each and the new emphasis on vocational and religious classes at the second phase are controversial.

UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org