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Turkey: Education and Training
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Armed Forces > Education and Training


The sole source of regular commissioned officers is the army academy at Harbiye, near Istanbul; the naval academy at Tuzla, on the Sea of Marmara near Istanbul; and the air force academy at Istanbul. Cadets who complete officer training receive commissions as second lieutenants or naval ensigns. The three services also operate five military high schools, from which half or more of the cadets are recruited. The selection process is highly selective, based on school grades, especially in the sciences, an oral interview in which appearance and demeanor are appraised, graded fitness tests, and a confidential investigation of the political background of the applicant and his or her family.

The military high schools have superior facilities, and classes are as little as one-third the size of those in civilian high schools. Scholastic performance is closely monitored. A summer camp is devoted to sports and military instruction.

The selection process for the military academies is even more rigorous than for the military high schools. Only about one in seven applicants is successful. A further weeding out occurs after an initial one-month adaptation course. The academies offer the opportunity of a free higher education under conditions of instruction that cannot be matched at civilian universities. Classroom and laboratory equipment is much superior, and sports facilities are unequaled elsewhere.

Candidates for the academies must be high-school graduates under twenty years of age and must have studied the sciences and a foreign language. Candidates must also score well in the regular university entrance examinations. An academy appointment is not offered until test scores are available. Applicants who score high enough for a place at a leading university often shift to a civilian career path. Each of the service academies must accept at least one cadet from each of Turkey's seventy-six provinces.

Founded on Prussian principles of military education, the service academies since the 1950s have been strongly influenced by the United States approach to officer training. The emphasis of the curriculum has been modified from time to time, often to ensure an acceptable ideological outlook among students. Since the late 1970s, the curriculum has been 56 percent military, including sports, and 44 percent academic. The political and economic areas have been strengthened and managerial training added. Foreign languages are stressed; some classes are taught in English. It is estimated that 20 percent of the curriculum is devoted, directly or indirectly, to study of the principles and reforms of Atatürk. Much attention is given to appearance, social polish, and a proper public deportment. Available books and periodicals have an orthodox outlook; left-wing and religious publications are forbidden. To limit exposure of cadets to political theories inconsistent with the Atatürk model, the academies permit conservative guest lecturers only. Many cadets are expelled for ideological reasons, primarily if they are suspected of leftist sympathies, given that graduates of Islamic high schools are not admitted in the first place. The role played by the army academy in the 1960 coup and in the abortive coup of 1962 led to the expulsion of 1,400 cadets, as a result of which there were no army graduating classes in 1963 and 1964.

The most prestigious training assignment for career officers is to one of the staff academies, which usually occurs after about six years of service, at the rank of captain or the equivalent. There are separate land, air, and naval staff academies, but they share a location in an Istanbul suburb. The staff academies constitute a self-sufficient town with modern accommodations for all officers, day care for the children of officers whose spouses have jobs, and complete sports facilities.

Only 120 to 130 officers are accepted into the staff academies each year for the two-year program. About 60 percent of the curriculum is devoted to military subjects -- the principles of war, strategy, and weapons technology -- and the remainder to administrative and management skills and general cultural subjects at a postgraduate level. An officer completing the course is credited with an extra three years of seniority, receives a higher salary, progresses faster, and is more likely to be offered a coveted foreign posting. About 75 percent of those reaching the rank of general are staff officers.

Within ten years of commissioning, staff officers who have attained the rank of major or lieutenant colonel or their equivalents are expected to attend the Armed Forces Academy. This academy has a program twice a year for about seventy-five staff officers in subjects such as joint operations, campaign planning, strategy, global conflict, and new concepts and doctrines.

A five-month course is presented once a year at the National Security Academy to twenty civilians and ten officers, usually colonels and sometimes brigadier generals or the equivalent. The civilians typically include high-level civil servants, ambassadors, provincial governors, and subgovernors. Presented in seminar form, the program deals with international political, economic, and military trends, joint planning, and national security problems. Like the staff academies, the Armed Forces Academy and the National Security Academy are located outside Istanbul.

Last Updated: January 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Turkey was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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