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I.  Constitutional Provision on Right to Education

Article 42 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey provides for the right to education.[1]  It states that “[n]o one shall be deprived of the right of education” and that “[t]he scope of the right to education shall be defined and regulated by law.”[2]  However, it declares, “[t]he freedom of education does not relieve the individual from loyalty to the Constitution.”[3] 

Article 42 also calls for education to be “based on contemporary scientific and educational principles, under the supervision and control of the State” and disallows the establishment of educational institutions that contravene these principles.[4]  Primary education, compulsory for all citizens of both sexes, is to be free of charge in state schools.[5]  Private primary and secondary schools are to operate by principles regulated by law in keeping with the standards of the state schools.[6]  The Constitution further states, “the state will provide scholarships and other means of assistance to enable students of merit lacking financial means to continue their education” and will adopt measures of rehabilitation for persons in need of special education.[7]  The only activities to be pursued at educational institutions are training, education, research, and study—activities that “shall not be obstructed in any way.”[8]  Finally, article 42 states that only the Turkish language will be taught to Turkish citizens at institutions of education; the foreign languages to be taught in educational institutions and the rules for education in a foreign language will be determined by law, but the provisions of international treaties are reserved.[9]

Article 24, paragraph 4, of the Turkish Constitution also states,

[r]eligious and moral education and instruction shall be conducted under state supervision and control.  Instruction in religious culture and morals shall be one of the compulsory lessons in the curricula of primary and secondary schools.  Other religious education and instruction shall be subject to the individual’s own desire, and in the case of minors, to the request of their legal representatives.[10]

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II.  Constitutional Court Decisions Related to the Right to Education

The Constitutional Court (Anayasa Mahkemesi) is a separate institution from the Supreme Court (Yargitay), which is the highest court of appeal for civil and criminal cases and does not address constitutional issues.  The Constitutional Court has rendered a number of decisions that involve the right to education guaranteed under article 42 of the Constitution.

In a July 13, 2015, ruling, the Court found that certain rules in the Law on Private Teaching Institutions were contrary to article 42 of the Constitution (and also articles 13, on restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms, and 48, on freedom of enterprise) and decided to annul them.[11]  The relevant rules excluded private tutoring centers from “private educational institutions” and provided that the activities of extant tutoring centers and study centers that did not transform themselves would be permitted to continue only until September 1, 2015.  

The Court noted in its decision that the exclusion of private tutoring centers from the education system, without providing for alternative out-of-school opportunities to meet the need for exam preparation for secondary school and higher education, was “a disproportionate restriction of the right to education and learning.”[12]  It added that the private centers had developed as a result of the system of education and exams and had a legal status granted by the state, and that seeking to close them, rather than taking steps to combat their drawbacks, by imposing a complete ban on them by means of the rules in dispute eliminated the possibility for individuals to receive educational support from out-of-school private institutions within the scope of exam preparation and therefore violated the right to education and learning.[13]

On April 28, 2011, the Court ruled that provision 54g of Law No. 2547 on Higher Education, which stated “[t]hose who are expelled from higher education institutions for disciplinary reasons cannot be accepted to any higher education institution again,” imposing a permanent ban on enrollment in any university, was unconstitutional.[14]  The Court stated that it “violates the essence of the right to education and imposes a disproportionate sanction,” and therefore unanimously decided to annul the contested provision.[15]

In a 1998 decision, in connection with compulsory education under article 42, the Court found that “compulsory and continuous education for 8 years . . . is not contrary to the Constitution,” and “[t]he state may determine 8 or more years continuous education as compulsory.  The taxes imposed in order to meet the expenses of this kind of education were also constitutional.”[16]  Therefore, a 1997 law amending the Law on Primary Education in connection with the length of education in certain religious schools did not contravene article 42.[17]  The main opposition party had brought an action before the Court to annul the amending law, the party’s main objection to it being that its adoption would preclude students from being educated in “Prayer Leader Preacher High Schools” (Ýmam Hatip Liseleri).  These schools are a special type of high school, under state control and supervision, with an education period of seven years, that make it possible for the graduates to become prayer leaders or preachers and also to continue on to university education in different fields.[18]  The challenged amending law provided for four years of education in these schools after eight years of continuous primary school education; articles 1 and 5 provided for education in primary schools to be for eight years continuously.[19] 

The Court stated that education is compulsory according to article 42 of the Constitution, to be implemented under the state’s control and supervision, and that whether it is continuous or not is up to the lawmakers.  To realize education at the highest level, the Court added, the state has the obligation to take the necessary measures based on its revenues; it is in this connection that lawmakers may determine a period of eight years or longer for continuous education. Thus, the Court found that the challenged provisions were not contrary to article 42.[20]

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Prepared by Wendy Zeldin
Senior Legal Research Analyst
May 2016

[1] Constitution of the Republic of Turkey,, archived at; Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Anayasası, Law No. 2709 (Oct. 18, 1982, issued Nov. 9, 1982, as amended),, archived at  

[2] Id. art. 42 ¶¶ 1 & 2.

[3] Id. art. 42 ¶ 4.

[4] Id. art. 42 ¶ 3.

[5] Id. art. 42 ¶ 5.

[6] Id. art. 42 ¶ 6.  A paragraph had been added after this provision in 2008 to the effect that the law is clearly written so that no one can be deprived without any reason from exercising their right to higher education, and that the boundaries of the exercise of that right are determined by law.  For the text of the amending law, see Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Anayasasının Bazi Maddelerinde DeğişiklikYapılmasına dair Kanun [Law on Amendments to Some Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey], Law No. 5735 (Feb. 9, 2008), Resmi Gazete, No. 26796 (Feb. 23, 2008),, archived at R7LA-4BNK.  However, the insertion of the paragraph was annulled by the Constitutional Court.  Constitutional Court Decision, Basis No. E.2008/16, Decision No. 2008/116 (June 5, 2008), Resmi Gazete, No. 27032 (Oct. 22, 2008),, archived at; see also Yaniv Roznai & Serkan Yolcu, An Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendment—The Turkish Perspective: A Comment on the Turkish Constitutional Court’s Headscarf Decision, 10(1) Int’l J. Const. L. 175–207 (2012),, archived at     

[7] Constitution of the Republic of Turkey art. 42 ¶ 7.

[8] Id. art. 42 ¶ 8.

[9] Id. art. 42 ¶ 9.

[10] Id. art. 24 ¶ 4.

[11] See Press Release, Constitutional Court of the Republic of Turkey, Plenary Assembly No. 5/15, Concerning the Judgment on Exclusion of Private Tutoring Centres from the Scope of Private Teaching Institutions (July 24, 2015),, archived at (citing Özel Öğretim Kurumları Kanunu [Law on Private Teaching Institutions], Law No. 5580 (Feb. 8, 2007, as last amended effective July 24, 2015), 1.5.5580.pdf, archived at; see also Top Court Says Law Banning Tutoring Centers Violates Right to Education, Private Enterprise, Hürriyet Daily News (July 24, 2015), http://www.hurriyet, archived at

[12] Press Release, supra note 11.

[13] Id.

[15] Id.  

[17] Id.; İlköğretim ve Eğitim Kanunu, Milli Eğitim Temel Kanunu, Çiraklik ve Meslek Eğitimi Kanunu, Milli Eğitim Bakanliğinin Teşkilat ve Görevleri Hakkinda Kanun ile 24.3.1988 Tarihli ve 3418 Sayili Kanunda Değişiklik Yapilmasi ve Bazi Kağit ve İşlemlerden Eğitime Katki Payi Alinmasi Hakkinda Kanun [the amending law], Law No. 4306 (Aug. 16, 1997),, archived at; İlköğretim ve Eğitim Kanunu [Law on Primary Education] (Jan. 5, 1961, as last amended effective May 3, 2013),, archived at  

[18] TUR-2001-1-001, supra note 16.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.