Primary School: Pre-K to Grade 4

In the 2010-11 academic year the school opened its first Pre-K class (5 years of age); previously the school started in Kindergarten at 6 years of age. A specially designed new wing was added to the school to house the Pre-K and Kindergarten. It was decided to move towards an immersion model (Turkish/English). The number of periods in English is now 20 per week, out of a weekly total of 40 periods (the remaining 20 are with the Turkish class teachers). Some of these hours are shared in a bi-lingual mode (Turkish/English). At least 2 primary trained instructors will be with a class at any one time, and at times three.

The Özel Bilkent Primary School currently follows a class teacher system from grades 1 to 4 where class teachers cover the key subject areas, viz. Turkish, Life Sciences, Social Studies, Mathematics. Other subject areas, viz. English, Art, Music, Drama, Sports, Computing are taught by separate teachers at certain levels. Students have 40 x 40 minute periods every week, 24 periods of which are spent with their class teacher, the remainder being divided amongst other subject teachers. English takes 10 periods in grades 1 to 8. Other subject lessons take up one or two periods each, with added time for activities and class counsellor periods. All subjects, with the exception of English, are taught in Turkish. The weekly number of periods required by the state is 30, whereas private schools often offer in the region of 40, as is the case in the Ozel Bilkent Schools.

Across Turkey the Curriculum for class teachers is topic based and prescribed by the Ministry of Education, with a pre-selected list of textbooks recommended from which instructors have to choose. These books are printed nationally and available at reasonable prices to students through a national printing and distribution system. The other subject areas are freer in terms of content, although a syllabus for each exists. For English, in view of the fact that the school starts English in the lower grades, whereas in state schools children generally begin English at Grade 4, the syllabus is designed internally and not subject to undue external control, due to the fact that it exceeds state expectations in terms of time and content.

The primary school was accepted as an IB World School in November 2013. The International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Program (PYP) requires a school to develop 6 distinct units of inquiry across a school year, K to grade 4, with 4 units at Pre-K. The IB Primary Years Program has heralded a challenging but exciting new perspective on teaching methods and approaches in the primary school. Teachers at each level work together to produce the units of inquiry, which are integrated opportunities for inquiry-based learning around central themes of global significance. They bring together social sciences, science, language, literacy, math, and other subject areas into a single integrated learning experience. Some areas of math and literacy may be taught outside the units, but, in general, integration of learning in a constructivist perspective is the norm. One important challenge for the school has revolved around the integration of the national curriculum into the program of inquiry. The design of the units now incorporates the national curriculum objectives, and research and practice into achieving an effective inquiry program in the classroom is an ongoing process.

Middle School: Grades 5 to 8

Subject-based lessons and the nationally specified curriculum form the delivery system in Grades 5-8, with particular importance attached to English. A new system was introduced at these levels by the Ministry of Education, starting fully in 2014-15, which required students to sit a national test at the end of each of the semesters in grade 8, called the TEOG (Temel E?itime Ortaö?retime Geçi?). The test covers main subject areas, i.e. Math, Science, Turkish, Social Studies, English and Religion in a multiple choice format, with a certain number of questions assigned to each subject area. The subject scores are weighted and students can achieve a maximum score of 700, averaged over the two semester tests. High scores can allow students to access to the most sought after high schools.

The middle school is currently looking into becoming a candidate school for the IB’s Middle Years Program (MYP). This would provide a bridge between the Primary Years Program (PYP) and the IB Diploma program, both of which are taught in the Özel Bilkent Schools. This represents an interesting challenge over the next years and will involve the school in significant staff training, curriculum development, and realignment of the school’s national curriculum to integrate both programs in a similar way to that achieved by the IB other programs in the school. An added challenge is experienced by all MYP schools is the fact that the MYP is a 5 year program and thus continues into the high school.

The majority of middle school students (70-75%) prefer to continue into the Özel Bilkent High School from where, once again, a majority of them select Bilkent University as their destination of choice for their university studies. This is understandable: Bilkent is one of the top universities in Turkey, and was recently placed in the top of 250 in world rankings by the Times Higher Education survey, and much higher in the rankings of newly opened universities (last 50 years).