ÖZEL BİLKENT SCHOOLS
The Özel Bilkent Schools (Pre-school, Primary, Middle, and High Schools) are part of the private education sector in Turkey, which provides a large portion of its quality education. The word ‘private’ when applied to schools covers those institutions which are foundation schools, as well as schools owned by individual proprietors. The Özel Bilkent Schools are not-for-profit and part of the Ihsan Dogramaci Foundation, governed by a School Board which sets the policy and budget. The founder of the schools, Professor Ihsan Dogramaci, an eminent medical doctor, benefactor, and former President of the Council of Higher Education, YÖK, was also the founder of Bilkent University, the first foundation university in Turkey. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees and President of the University, Professor Ali Dogramaci, and the Rector of Bilkent University, Professor Abdullah Atalar, are President and Rector respectively of Bilkent University. The schools are integrated into the campus of the University and benefit from this symbiotic relationship, as does the University; approximately 20% of the families that send their children to the school are connected to Bilkent University in some capacity as lecturers, administrators, or members of the Bilkent companies.
The Özel Bilkent Schools, despite the epithet ‘private’, are an integral part of the national education system, governed by a separate Ministry of Education department, the Private Schools Directorate, which regulates the functioning of such establishments. The schools are inspected regularly by Ministry of Education inspectors, who ensure that regulations are respected and that teaching norms correspond to national requirements. The schools follow the Ministry of Education regulations for hiring teachers, which require teachers to have teaching certification and university undergraduate qualifications in the area in which they will be teaching. The school invites, from time to time, external consultants and experts to examine the quality of the education delivered and benchmark the schools’ standards against recognised international standards of education.
The length of the school year, assessment and examination requirements, staffing policies, financial operations, and student recruitment are all subject to regulation. A school, at its foundation, establishes an official charter, called Yönetmelik, which regulates the functioning of a particular school and which allows special curricula to be run, for example, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) or Primary Years Program (PYP). Both the Primary and High Schools are now IB World Schools, running the aforementioned IB programs, and are officially recognised by the Ministry of Education, as well as the IB. Any change in the ongoing status of the school requires that the charter be resubmitted and updated, subject to official approval.
The Özel Bilkent Schools do not resemble a traditional international school profile with a multi-ethnic population. They have mainly Turkish nationality students, with a relatively small number of children from other backgrounds. Although they work within the Turkish national education system’s framework, they are fully committed to international mindedness and to broadening students’ understanding and commitment to a multi-cultural perspective. The schools emphasise the need to learn other languages, hence their commitment to at least twenty five per cent of the curriculum in English, as well as offering a third language from Grade 5 onwards. Their commitment to these principles is also clear in their offering the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Diploma Programme (DP), and in their aspiring to mirror the IB principles and learning profile across all their programs and in their schools’ mission.
Beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year, in response to Ministry of Education directives, the Özel Bilkent Schools became three schools, that is to say High, Middle, and Primary, each of which has a dedicated Principal and cadre. Formerly the division was into two, viz. Primary and High School. The three schools are associate members of the Council for International Schools (CIS), with the High School also a member of the European Council for International Schools (ECIS).