Turkey’s International Brand in Education: The Turkish Maarif Foundation



Turkish Maarif Foundation (TMF) Chairman Akgün said that they, as the Foundation, have represented Turkey in six continents and 49 countries with their 44 hostels and over 50 thousand students in six years and, in this sense, Turkey is among the first five countries.

Akgün added that the TMF is a public foundation established, with a law approved by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on June 17, 2016, to provide education at all levels from preschool to university abroad. He said that the Foundation has won the trust of other countries in six years with its formal and non-formal education services on behalf of the Republic of Turkey.

“We are opening to different countries gradually.”

Akgün emphasized that, with its quality and accountability approach in education services, TMF is an effective actor in diplomacy and, with this very same approach, it aims to provide education services in 193 United Nations countries.
“We are gradually opening to different countries and improving our relations with new countries where we can implement our educational standards. Our foundation exerts educational efforts in 67 countries already. The number of educational institutions in our sixth year has increased to 428 including the former FETO affiliated schools that were transferred to us by these countries in addition to our newly opened schools in accordance with our strategic plan. In the world education league formed by other countries since the 1800s, Maarif has represented Turkey in six continents and 49 countries with 44 dorms and over 50 thousand students in six years and, in this sense, Turkey is among the first five countries.

“Our foundation has become a brand inspiring confidence to the world in the global education sector.”

The Foundation has opened 21 education centers in 12 countries for the children of expat Turks to learn their mother tongue, Turkish, and cultural belongingness. Akgün said:
“Our foundation has become a brand giving confidence to the world in global education sector. Our goal is to achieve sustainable success of the Turkish Maarif Foundation and reach perfection in education with the trust that the world countries have for us. For perfection in education, our fundamental strategy not only is to achieve a horizontal growth but also to deepen in education sector through formal education contents and materials. We are aware that one cannot exist in the field of global education without developing original content and we are involved in an intensive R&D work in the subject matter.”

“Successful Maarif Graduates Prefer Turkey for University Education.”

TMF Chairman stating the fact that a student of Maarif schools knows Turkish at B2 level upon graduation said: “After our graduates learn B2 level Turkish, they can easily have the opportunity to attend university in Turkey. We graduate about 3,000 students from our high schools in a year and about 1,000 of our students prefer universities in Turkey yearly. That is to say, one of every three students who graduate from Maarif schools prefers Turkey for higher education. There are over 3,000 Maarif students studying at the universities in Turkey.” 

Mr. Chairman stressed that TMF, as an educational institution of Turkey, conducts the most comprehensive works abroad and makes contribution to the country’s education economy. “Twenty-four of every 100 students in the world who study abroad prefer the US. Foreign students’ contribution to U.S. economy is 36 billion dollar and to the British economy 22,6 billion pound, i.e. 115 billion Turkish Liras. Turkey’s international education strategy is very important in this respect.”
Akgün said that they, [the Foundation], established the Maarif Agency in order to strengthen internationalization in higher education, adding that the Agency with Turkish universities organizes education fairs around the world where the youth comes together and that it works to bring qualified students in to Turkey. He also said, there was a quite significant participation in the activity held in Kenya.
Through the Maarif Agency they make contribution to the international branding process of the universities in Turkey, Akgün stated.

Turkey’s original international curriculum: “International Maarif Program”

Professor Akgün brought to attention that they go a long way in Maarif curriculum as well.
“In principle, we, as an international education institution of Turkey, don’t think it is appropriate to implement international education systems as are. For this reason, we are developing our program named ‘International Maarif Program’. So far, we have completed our works at preparation phase and have started to implement it in pilot schools. Our Turkish textbooks have been printed and they are being used in schools already. Our Pre-school Accreditation Program, as well, is being implemented in many countries - especially in the Balkans and Africa. This is a big claim and success for our country. If we reckon with the countries that asked our contribution for education materials and contents during the pandemic, as well, we might say that Turkey has become a country having a say in education in the world. This, beyond dispute, will make a multifaceted contribution to Turkey.”

“Teaching Turkish is a great investment for the future of our Turkey.”

Akgün stated that for teaching Turkish to foreigners, they created Turkish workbook for K12 students at different levels and degrees, guide books for teachers and more than 50 education materials with a curriculum approved by the Education Board of the Ministry of National Education in Turkey. In order to provide multidimensional learning, the Foundation has transferred these course materials to digital environment, he said.
TMF Chairman went on to say, “From preschool to university at scientific level, we see teaching Turkish in the world as a great investment for the commercial, political, humanitarian and cultural future of our Turkey in the world.”

Akgün pointing out that all of the students studying at Turkish Maarif Foundation are taught compulsory Turkish courses, said the following:
“The annual budget of AEFE, the official institution of France that carries out international education activities, is 1.2 billion Euros. About half of this is directly subsidized by the state. This institution manages French schools in over 100 countries, which is also present in our country. The institution that manages Germany’s schools abroad is ZFA. The UK with its COBIS-Cambridge and the U.S. with its CIS-COIS (Council of International Schools) schools network provide international education in many countries. They have opened schools in other countries in accordance with their language, culture and ideals since the 1800s. Now, albeit with a little delay, Turkey’s opening international schools in the world, providing quality education to the children of friendly countries and teaching the Turkish language is a strategic investment for the future of both those countries and Turkey.”

“We opened new schools in TRNC, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.”

Twenty-six of the 49 countries where the foundation has educational institutions are in Africa, Mr. Chairman said. “We have 43 schools, two training centers and a university in the Balkans. This year, we have opened our schools and started activities in Serbia. We expanded our schools in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Hopefully, our schools will start education in the TRNC in the new academic year. In addition, we have six education centers in Europe that are working especially to improve the native language of our children, and the language and academic skills of the country they live in. This year, we opened a new education center in Duisburg, Germany. We are planning to open education centers in different cities of Germany, in Lyon of France and in the Netherlands. We are making efforts to open schools in Azerbaijan this year. Also, we will prioritize Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia, and the countries such as Bulgaria and Montenegro in the Balkans [to open education centers] in the upcoming years.”

Akgün listed the countries where Maarif educational institutions are located as follows:
“The USA, Afghanistan, Germany, Albania, Austria, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Djibouti, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, South Africa, Georgia, Iraq, Canada, Cameroon, Kyrgyzstan, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Hungary, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Togo Republic, Tunisia, Jordan, and Venezuela.”
“Being a Turkish brand has huge benefits.”

Regarding the financial management and personnel wage policies of Maarif schools, Birol Akgün added the following:
“As an institution that has just realized its 6th year, our foundation is an institution that has serious investment needs in this expansion process. One of our main goals in the long-term strategic plan is to ensure that each school we open reaches the level of financial sustainability within 3-5 years that it can meet its current expenditures. As the Turkish Maarif Foundation, we work very hard and closely monitor all our schools in terms of income-expenditure balance, and we attach great importance to financial accountability and transparency. We are very attentive to ensure that a penny given is spent properly.”

TMF Chairman pointing out that there are very old institutions operating in the international arena, said:
“Being a Turkish brand in the international arena, however, has great benefits. Because our other competitors, especially the schools opened by the Western countries, have other agendas/emotional baggage??. Most of them are former colonial countries. Turkey enters the field with her immaculate past. It is an honor and pride for us to carry a Turkish passport, to carry the Turkish flag, and to be the representative of Turkish education abroad. We very seriously attract the attention of the relevant countries. Just being Turkish makes our foundation a reliable institution for many families. We strive to be worthy of that trust.”

“We have around 7,000 employees in 49 countries.”

The Chairman stated that the wages of teachers who go abroad from Turkey are determined in parallel with the wages determined by the Inter-Ministerial Joint Culture Commission. He said: “We have around seven thousand employees in 49 countries, 450 of them are from Turkey. The majority of the rest are local personnel. Our school fees naturally vary according to purchasing parities. At the same time, risky living conditions in a country is another issue that we consider when arranging the rights of our personnel, and it may vary due to regional disparities.”
“Our Foundation receives a share from the general budget.”

Chairman Akgün expressed that the budget of the Turkish Maarif Foundation is determined by a decree, issued by the Office of Strategy and Budget under Turkish Presidency and published in the Official Gazette independently, with the signature of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He said:
“There is often a misconception about our Foundation as ‘it takes a share from the budget of the Ministry of National Education’. We would like to enlighten the public on this matter: technically, the budget that is allocated to the Turkish Maarif Foundation is sent to us from the Ministry of Finance via the Ministry of National Education of the Republic of Turkey. However, this budget is appropriated independently from the annual budget earmarked for the activities of our Ministry of National Education. In other words, we are not sharing the budget of the Ministry of National Education. There is no reduction from the Ministry’s budget [in favor of] us. The share we receive is a share allocated by the Ministry of Finance and by the Office of Strategy under the Turkish Presidency. We regularly report on expenditures every month. We spend meticulously from the budget allocated to us, bearing the responsibility of giving an account of every penny to our people.”

“We turned the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity.”

Chairman Akgün expressed that private schools in some countries lost nearly 50 percent of students during the COVID-19 pandemic, so, they were either closed or put up for sale.
“We, as the Foundation, did not lose any student in the process; to the contrary, we gained students in that period, I mean, we have gained significant number of students in the countries with the critical pandemic conditions. Because in countries, such as Pakistan, we were perhaps the only educational institution that implemented the entire curriculum online without interrupting education. The period of pandemic was a crisis; it was a test, but we got out of successfully and turned the crisis into an opportunity. We foresee that education will take on a hybrid character in the upcoming period; and we are preparing according to different scenarios. To that end, we closely follow global trends in the field of education as well,” the Chairman said.

“Our educations continue in Afghanistan uninterruptedly.”

As for the TMF schools in Afghanistan, Akgün said:
“We took over the schools in this country with an agreement we signed in 2018. We renewed technological infrastructure of the schools, made renovations and opened new schools. Of course, in the last year, there have been drastic changes, especially in Afghanistan’s domestic politics. Afghanistan has a new government. Since the July of last year, we have been able to continue our educational activities without being affected by the internal political changes in the country. We are truly grateful for the confidence the people of Afghanistan have in Turkey, the Turks, and in this context, the Turkish Maarif Foundation, regardless of their ideological or political background. For this reason, none of our schools closed during the transition period. We have around 6,000 students in Afghanistan. With the only exception of Kabul and Kandahar, our schools for girls continue formal education. Our other schools for girls are open. In these two cities, on the other hand, our girls are provided education through vocational education.”

“We have prevented FETO’s exploitation of education in the world.”

Professor Akgün said, “Especially in developing countries, three-fourths of the schools affiliated with the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) get out of the organization’s control.” 

TMF Chairman added the Foundation was founded just a month before the July 15 attempted coup by FETO and that in their activities during this period, TMF rather focused on gaining back FETO-affiliated schools to Turkey. Akgün said that by establishing close contacts with the relevant institutions in this context, official meetings were held on behalf of the state in all countries where FETO schools are located. 

As for the FETO’s education structure abroad, Akgün stressed that the Republic of Turkey, with her other institutions, is putting up a big fight. He said a significant part of these schools were transferred to the Turkish Maarif Foundation on behalf of the country, some countries closed these schools, and some others nationalized these schools for security [reasons] and terrorism. TMF Chairman went on to say that some of them were transferred to local foundations, associations or reliable companies, but still, FETO continues its activities in some Western countries under the auspices of the relevant countries.

“In this context, our Foundation has made official contacts with 104 countries since its establishment to date. Particularly, in developing countries, three out of four schools affiliated with FETO were actually either neutralized or transferred completely; that is, they were out of FETO’s control. We prevented FETO’s exploitation of education in the world. We have largely transformed these schools, with currently about 20 thousand students, and have made a significant investment into technological infrastructure. As the Turkish Maarif Foundation, we have taken over 234 FETO-affiliated schools in 20 countries, we are running them and we have opened 172 new schools in 29 countries.” 


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