Today, thousands of students who have the dream to get education in prestigious high schools have taken the exam of LGS (Exam for Enterance to High Schools). I hereby want to publish a post dealing with the education system in Turkey within a historical perspective and I will also attempt to employ the theory of “Ideological State Apparatuses” coined by the French Marxist thinker L. Pierre Althusser. Furthermore, while analyzing Turkish education system I will attempt to employ Michel Foucault’s conception of “normalization” because Foucault treats schools as one of the sites through which the (official) – I make such an inference – ideas and rules become normalized.


According to Althusser (1971), the modern state keeps the authority and control through two main systems: Repressive State Apparatuses & Ideological State Apparatuses. The ideological state apparatuses are the following:

  • The media
  • The school
  • The church

In this piece, I argue that the State intellect and institution in Turkey since the foundation of the Republic has instrumentalized the education system as a tool in managing and (sometimes manipulating) the masses in line with the “sublime” interests of the state. As Foucault argues that schooling is a disciplinary technology, I argue that education system in Turkey serves such an aim in disciplining the society.

A glance at the socio-historical development of education system in Turkey

The compulsory education system had started in 1824 during the Sultan Mahmud II reign. With the end of the War of Independence, the educational position had not been encouraging at all.

With the inception of modern Turkey in 1923, Ataturk and his associates got engaged in institutionalizing brand new forms in government, education, military and religious system. Based on this aim, in 1924, the Law of the Unification of Education (Tevhid-i Tedrisat Kanunu) was passed. In order to build a homogeneous national identity, the school textbooks were written as well.

In line with the aim of making the new country wear a modern veil, Ataturk built brand new schools of arts, music and science. During the single-party rule, the Village Institutions (Köy Enstitüleri) were founded in order to widen the primary schooling. With the success of the institutions in a short period of time, during the office of Hasan Ali Yücel (the then Minister of Education), the numbers of the institutions were increased. However, with the transition to multi-party era, the Democrat Party rule gave an end to Village Institutions. According to a view, the graduates of these institutions posed a great threat to the owners of big lands and that annoyed the political authority, this was evaluated as one of the causes behind the closure of the institutions.

Apart from that, after the 1980 coup d’etat, against the rise of the Communist threat (as these years were witnessing the Cold War era), the state elites opened Imam Hatip Schools and promoted the ideology of Turkish-Islamic synthesis. This development can be read as a sign showing how education was used as a political tool (Ideological State Apparatus- ISA).

On the other hand, after the 1997 soft coup, the law of the eight year of continuous education paved the way for the emergence of a serious disagreement between the right wing- conservative and the left-wing secular circles in terms of regime debates. The enactment of this law has once again showed that schooling has been seen as a tool of ISA.

In the contemporary Turkey, some circles criticize the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for founding universities in every corner of Anatolia and see this as a step that decreases the quality of education while increasing it in numbers. Besides that, it would be not wrong to say that AK Party has taken significant steps for education. For a report about this, click here

To make a long story short, it should be said that, Turkey has a long way to go to have a prestigious education system in all levels; from primary schooling to higher education. If we successfully follow this long and winding road, students can break free from stressful marathon races.




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