The Turkish education system is not much different from that of the U.S; the state governs education, which is mandatory for 12 years and is free. Students may choose to pursue further education at university with more than 70 universities in Turkey to choose from. However, despite how similar it may appear on the surface, girls education in Turkey is still unequal to their male counterparts.
10 Facts About Girls Education in Turkey
- Education is currently the biggest item on Turkey’s government budget. The Turkish Statistical Agency reports that direct and indirect expenses on education have increased by 54 percent between 2011 and 2014 sitting at 113.6 billion liras ($31.4 billion). Of note, education spending as part of Turkey’s overall budget increased by one-third from 8.5 percent to 12.4 percent.
- While the female literacy rate has risen to 93.56 percent and the male literacy rate is 98.78 percent, it is not an accurate percentage of the girls throughout Turkey. About 45 percent of girls 15 and under remain illiterate in the country’s eastern and southeastern regions and women account for two-thirds of adults without basic literacy skills.
- Sixteen million girls in Turkey will never set foot in a classroom for a multitude of reasons such as poverty, geographical information, pregnancy, gender-based violence and traditional attitudes of the role of a woman.
- The lack of a push for girls’ education in Turkey has led to a consistent number of only 39 percent of women being in the labor force for almost three decades. Girls’ families consistently discourage them from continuing school and the girls receive pressure to become homemakers. With little support in their home life, girls follow the life that their parents lead and do not choose to further their education.
- Turkey ranks 130 out of 149 on the gender gap index. The gender gap index reports on the gender gap in the economy, education, health and politics. The large gap that Turkey holds in the global index continues to show that women in Turkey face some of the biggest inequalities in the world based on a multitude of measurements.
- Since 2009, the male to female enrollment ratio for universities in Turkey increased from 12 percent to 14 percent, and since 2005, graduation rates for college students have increased by 170 percent. While attainment levels remain low, only 18 percent of 25 to 64-year-olds have any higher education so the increase in girls’ higher level education in Turkey remains hopeful.
- Fifteen percent of girls under the age of 18 in Turkey enter into forced marriages. Child marriage can be driven by gender inequality, gender norms, poor birth registrations, displacement and violence. When girls become child brides, they are less likely to continue with school and more likely to stay at home and become homemakers.
- With the Syrian crisis, the longer refugees are living in poverty, the more likely they are to marry off their daughters to Turkish men. This then leads to girls in Turkey not being able to further their education.
- With goal 5 of the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Turkey has committed to eliminating child, early and forced marriages in the next decade. During the 2015 Universal Periodic Review, the government-supported policy recommendations to criminalize child marriage and take legislative and political action to bring an end to this archaic practice. This enhancement in eliminating forced childhood marriages allows for more girls to further their education and have more choices in their life as they go into adulthood.
- Turkey’s involvement in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also includes its aim to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Goal 4 of the agenda includes seven targets including universal primary and secondary education, universal youth literacy and gender equality and inclusion. Turkey’s participation in the agenda is a step forward in the fight to develop girls education in Turkey.
There is a multitude of initiatives in Turkey other than the Turkish government that intends to reduce inequality in the education system. CYDD, a nonprofit fighting for girls’ education in Turkey, has awarded over 100,000 scholarships and created over 50 schools. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Turkey show the issues that are prevalent, but also the ways in which Turkey is addressing them. The initiatives of nonprofits and the government have bettered girls education in Turkey, but Turkey needs other improvements to further bridge the gap.
– Alexia Carvajalino