This article aims to provide a general survey on modern Muslim education in Istanbul from 1826 to 1918. Educational policies as well as specific contributions in each era will be presented.

Introduction: The Final Decade of the Reign of Mahmud II (1826-1839)

Traditional Islamic Education

Prior to the eighteenth century, Ottoman education consisted mainly of religious schools. For Muslim subjects, sıbyan mektebi (Quran schools) provided elementary education and the madrasas offered courses at a higher level.1 A typical Quran school consisted of one room and was often located at the vicinity of a mosque and directed by a member of the lower ulama, called hoca. Wealthy Muslims mainly founded Quran schools, and these schools were funded by religious foundations for public purposes (waqf/vakf) as well as by weekly payments by the parents for the hocas. The educational aim of the pre-modern Islamic school system at the primary level was the inculcation of basic religious knowledge to students, particularly the learning of Quranic verses by heart, whereas in the stage of madrasa students could concentrate on deeper learning of religious knowledge.2

Antecedents to Modern Schools

The aim of modern education has been to provide practical and worldly knowledge to pupils. Before the eighteenth century the only institutions inculcating worldly knowledge were the Enderun Mektebi (Place School), Acemi Oğlanları Mektebi (the school for Janissary novices) or also government bureaus that trained novices in the art of kitabet (literary style).3 These bodies, with the exception of novice training at the government offices, however, had an exclusive character due to the impossibility for common Muslims to enter these institutions particularly during the heyday of the Empire.

The increasing ineffectiveness of the Ottoman army units in the face of its Habsburg and Russian counterparts, particularly following the Russo-Ottoman War of 1768-1774, forced the Ottomans to introduce comprehensive military innovations imported from the West. Inasmuch as military innovations became inevitable, it became necessary to study their scientific foundations.

The first modern educational institution, where practical and natural scientific subjects were taught and which could preserve its institutional existence until this day, is the Mühendishane-i Bahri-i Hümayun (Naval Engineering School), founded in 1773 with the support of the French military expert Baron de Tott. This establishment taught positive and practical sciences like Mathematics, Geometry, and French. Until the 1830s several other military educational institutions followed this body. In the Mühendishane-i Berri-i Hümayun (Engineering School for Armed Forces), which was established in 1795, subjects, similar to the ones in the Naval School, were taught.

First Modern Schools

After the abolition of the Janissary Corps, Tıbbhane-i Amire (Military Medical School) was founded (1827), followed by the Mekteb-i Ulum-ı Harbiyye (War Academy) in 1834. All the educational bodies opened prior to the late 1830s were purely military professional schools. The state of military emergency which lasted for the most time from the beginning of the Russo-Ottoman War of 1768-1774 until 1839 forced the Ottoman state to give the priority to the setting up of educational institutions with essentially military characteristics for the rapid modernization of the armed forces. 4

1- The first students sent to Europe

However, the policy of administrative centralization and the building up of a modern civil service necessitated the training of a body of civil servants with the necessary qualifications. First civil public schools were founded in Istanbul in 1839. These were the Mekteb-i Maarif-i Adliyye (School for Legal Education) and the Mekteb-i Ulum-i Edebiyye (School of Literary Sciences). Their educational level was an advanced primary school. In fact they bore the quality of professional institutions.5

Educational Policies

The first definite initiative for the reformation of the public school system in a worldly-practical direction appeared in the memorandum of the Meclis-i Umur-ı Nafia (Council of Public Works), published in February 1839.6 In this document, the inefficiency of the education in the traditional Quran schools was criticised severely, but the educational proposals in this memorandum remained conservative and religious. This document proposed compulsory education for boys at the traditional and greater mosque-schools to provide them proficiency in reading, writing and the basic Islamic precepts. According to this document, except for the professional schools, the şeyhülislam and the ulemâ would retain control of the educational system.

A concrete step for the setting up of an educational administration was taken by the appointment of İmamzade Esad Efendi (d. 1851), a former kadı and inspector of religious foundations, as the nazır (supervisor) of Muslim schools. An administrative body was set up in November 1838 under the direction of Esad Efendi. This body was called Mekatib-i Rüşdiyye Nezareti (Directorate of Rüşdiyye Schools). The term rüşdiyye probably denoted greater mosque-schools in this usage.7

Mekatib-i Rüşdiyye Nezareti continued its existence until 1849, when it dissolved as İ. Esad Efendi was appointed to the membership of the Meclis-i Vala (Sublime Council). With this appointment, the Mekteb-i Maarif-i Adliyye and the Mekteb-i Ulum-i Edebiyye became incorporated under the supervision of the Mekatib-i Umumiyye Nezareti (Directorate of Public Schools).”8

Though İ. Esad Efendi was influential in the shaping of the curricula of traditional primary schools, the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Rüşdiyye Schools was in fact limited with the Mekteb-i Maarif-i Adliyye and the Mekteb-i Ulum-i Edebiyye. This limitation seems to be a reason for the lack of serious reforms in education until 1845. The Ministry of Pious Foundations controlled the Quran schools and the appointment of its instructors, which created a major obstacle for the reforming of these institutions.

The Period of Sultan Abdülmecid until the Crimean War (1839-1856)

Following the foundation of the Directorate of Rüşdiyye Schools as well as the setting up of the two government schools with professional characteristics, no further reform attempt was made. Though the Edict of Gülhane of November 3, 1839, opened a major period of reforms, it failed to have an impact on the issue of education. However, the successor and son of Mahmud II, Abdülmecid (1839-1861) issued a decree (ferman), dated 13 January 1845, which was addressed to the Meclis-i Vala and stressed the following pressing necessities. Accordingly, there was a need for the “elimination of ignorance among the subjects,” which could only be achieved by public education. The need was put forward for the foundation of secondary schools, colleges and professional schools, while both worldly and religious education be taken into consideration, and schools be set up in the provinces.9

2- The front and back of the medallion of Mekteb-i Rüşdiye (Istanbul Archeology Museum, Coins Section)

2- The front and back of the medallion of Mekteb-i Rüşdiye (Istanbul Archeology Museum, Coins Section)

As an outcome of Abdülmecid’s decree, the state set up a permanent central collegial body for educational issues, the Meclis-i Maarif-i Umumiyye (Council of Public Education) in June 1846. This was followed by the foundation in November 1846 of a directorate which would act as an executive organ of the Council of Public Education. It was known as the Mekatib-i Umumiyye Nezareti.10

Sahhaflar Şeyhizade Esad Efendi (1786/87-1848), the former court-historian (vakanüvis), was appointed as the head of the Mekatib-i Umumiyye Nezareti. His assistant was Kemal Ahmed Efendi (later, Kemal Pasha, 1808-1886), the former chief clerk of the secretary of the Grand Vizierate (Mektubi-i Hazret-i Sadaretpenahi Odası Mümeyyizi) and interpreter of Persian language. In addition, two inspectors who were expected to inspect the Quran schools and the projected rüşdiyye schools were appointed. But when Esad Efendi, after about a year, became promoted to the head of the Meclis-i Maarif-i Umumiyye, his position was filled by the appointment of Kemal Efendi (December 1847).11


Kemal Efendi should be considered as one of the pioneers of modern Ottoman-Turkish education. He took the initiative to set up the first two model rüşdiyye schools in İstanbul, probably in early 1847, and met the expenses from his own resources. When it became apparent that the students in these two institutions could learn the basics of Arabic, Persian, arithmetic and geography in a relatively short period, the Sublime Porte agreed to set up five additional rüşdiyye schools in Istanbul in 1848.12 Initially considered as two-year intermediaries between reformed Quran schools and university (Darülfünun), the difficulties of reforming Quran schools and establishing the Darülfünun convinced Kemal Efendi to expand rüşdiyye schools to four-year institutions.

3- The instructors of Mekteb-i Sultani

The Darülmuallimin (Seminary for Teachers)

While taking these steps, Kemal Efendi was also effective in the establishment of the Seminary for Teachers, which would train teachers for rüşdiyye schools (Darülmuallimin) in 1848.13 For several decades, applicants to this institution mostly consisted of former madrasa students. After Ahmed Cevdet Efendi (later Pasha) was appointed director of this seminary in 1850, he prepared a regulation for this institution (Darülmuallimin Nizamnamesi). This regulation prohibited seminary students from mendicant preaching (cerre çıkmak) outside İstanbul during the three holy months of Rajab, Sha‘ban and Ramadan, which was traditionally done by madrasa-students. For Ahmed Cevdet Efendi, the main issue was the harm put on the dignity and respect of the future instructors by this act of what he called “beggary” (dilencilik).14 This example reveals the aim of the Ottoman administration to raise instructors as a professional group distinct from the population and with some degree of esteem.

First High School: Darülmaarif

In his efforts to develop a modern educational system with full-fledged primary and secondary institutions, Kemal Efendi succeeded in 1849 to set up a higher secondary school in İstanbul, called Darülmaarif (House of Education), under the auspices of the mother of the reigning sultan, Bezmiâlem Vâlide Sultan. Only rüşdiyye-students or students from the Mekteb-i Maarif-i Adliyye or the Mekteb-i Ulum-i Edebiyye could apply to this new institution. The educational period lasted three years. Though planned as an intermediate institution between rüşdiyye schools and the projected university, the Darülmaarif in a short time lost its initial quality because the assistant director of the Mekatib-i Umumiyye Nezareti admitted graduates of Quran schools to this school. When the first institutionally continuous category of public secondary schools, the idadi schools, were founded, the Darülmaarif, now an obsolete institution, was dissolved and its building assigned for the idâdî school in İstanbul in 1872.15

School for Midwives: Ebe Mektebi

During the reign of Mahmud II the government had taken a clear position to prohibit the practice of child abortion. As a part of this policy steps had been taken to take midwives under administrative control. In 1842, Ebe Mektebi was opened within the compound of the Military Medical School. The aim was to train the already practicing traditional midwives into female government health officials who would ensure the health of baby and mother during child delivery. The Chief Physician (Hekimbaşı) Abdülhak Molla announced that all midwives in Istanbul were required to attend this school, and those midwives who would refuse to attend would be prohibited from practicing midwifery and liable to punishment. The Ebe Mektebi was the very first government institution where women received education and became salaried government officials.16

4- The medallion of Education (Istanbul Archeology Museum, Coins Section)

5- Military School, The Class of the Distinguished Students (Zadegan)

Around 1854, schools available for Muslims in Istanbul were as follows:17

1. Military Schools with High Level Education

Mekteb-i Ulum-i Harbiyye (War Academy)
Mekteb-i İdadiye-i Harbiyye (Preparatory School for War Academy)
Mühendishane-i Bahri-i Hümayun
Mühendishane-i Berri-i Hümayun (Engineering School for Armed Forces)
Tıbbhane-i Amire (Military Medical School)
Askeri Baytar Mektebi (Military School of Veterinary Sciences)

2. Schools Offering Secondary and Upper Primary Level Education

Ebe Mektebi
Beyazıt Rüşdiyye Mektebi
Saraçhane Rüşdiyye Mektebi
Laleli Rüşdiyye Mektebi
Davutpaşa Rüşdiyye Mektebi
Üsküdar Rüşdiyye Mektebi
Beşiktaş Rüşdiyye Mektebi
Kasımpaşa Rüşdiyye Mektebi
Mekteb-i Maarif-i Adliyye
Mekteb-i Ulum-i Edebiyye

3. Elementary Schools (Mahalle Mektepleri: Quran Schools or Sıbyan Schools)

Around 360 mahalle mektebi existed.

From the Reform Edict to the Russo-Ottoman War (1856-1878)

The year 1856 constitutes a turning point in the history of Ottoman public education. After this date, a sequence of institutional reform measures were realized. The Reform Edict of 1856, announced toward the end of the Crimean War, mandated, among other reform schemes, equal opportunity for all subjects to be admitted to Ottoman civil and military schools, and acknowledged the right of every officially recognized religious community (cemaat) to establish their own schools, provided that these be under state supervision.18

This relative freedom to establish schools led to the rapid development of educational networks among Armenians, Bulgarians and Greeks. In face of such an extension of non-Muslim schools the Porte felt the need to support the development of the Ottoman public school system even more than before.

The Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti (Ministry of Public Education) (1857) and Educational Policies

The present organizational framework and the competencies of the Directorate of Public Schools were insufficient for a task like the establishment of an empirewide school system. To meet this end, the Porte founded the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti in 1857, having broader powers and a more autonomous organizational structure.19 The foundation of the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti has been interpreted as the unequivocal consent of the Porte toward the modernization of the educational system according to European examples.20 From now on the Ottoman state began to put its whole weight on the establishment of a modern school system by introducing public education under a better coordinated government control and to shape these in harmony with its centralistic designs.

In a document from 1861, the state tried for the first time to integrate all the existing schools within the Empire, non-Muslim as well as Muslim, into a legal framework and to connect them to the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti with the aim “to inspect the systems and the regulations of all schools which exist for the study and education of every community within the Well-Protected Imperial Ottoman Dominions.”21 The following decisions were particularly significant: All schools except for the War School, Naval and Medical Schools had to be left to the jurisdiction of the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti which divided schools into three categories: 1. Sıbyan schools, i.e. primary schools of all religious communities, 2. Rüşdiyye schools, and 3. Professional schools. In the sıbyan schools which taught reading and religious subjects, children from different communities were separated. In the rüşdiyye schools, considered as secondary schools providing mixed education, students were to be taught the “requirements of civilization and material progress” as well as the necessary knowledge for the future continuation at the professional schools. The medium of instruction was to be Ottoman Turkish in the second and the third categories of the abovementioned schools.22

During this time new efforts were made for the reformation of the traditional Quran schools. For this, from 1862 onwards, some of the Quran schools in Istanbul were introduced certain innovations in order to simplify and speed up the instruction of reading and writing. The ministry distributed writing tools such as slates (taş levha, yaz-boz tahtası), chisels (taş kalem), case for pens and ink (divit) to the students. The object was to raise graduates from Quran schools who would possess the abilities of reading the Quran thoroughly, know the catechism well enough, be able to recite the Quran and read Ottoman Turkish texts. However, these experiments were not successful.23

6- The students and instructors of the Industry school

Though propositions were made to place the existing Muslim and non-Muslim schools within a common legal framework, which was actually tried by the document of 1861, there was still a need for a more comprehensive legal setting determining educational as well as institutional and financial policies and issues concerning Ottoman public education. The government policy of Ottomanism, which became particularly strong after the edict of 1856, needed comprehensive educational planning for the propagation of this ideal. The discussions for the regulation of Ottoman public education began. In 1867, Jean Victor Duruy, the French educational reformer and Minister of Education, proposed the foundation of interconfessional secondary schools, the setting up of a university, the establishment of professional schools and the opening of public libraries. Within two years the state enacted these proposals as the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nizamnamesi (Regulation of Public Education.)24

The Maarif-i Umumiyye Nizamnamesi (1869)

The Regulation of Public Education provided the integration of the existing schools in the capital and in the provinces within the frame of one comprehensive law. It also stipulated the foundation of provincial educational administrations. The official justification of the Regulation of Public Education, attached to the cabinet report, prior to September 1869, reflects the ideological motives of the westernizing educational reformers.25 The Regulation of Public Education assumed that natural sciences and education were the basic sources of welfare in the world. Only through these it was possible to bring forth inventions and institutions, which were beneficial for trade and industry, which in turn led to progress. This development of trade and industry enabled humanity to provide its needs more easily. Only through this development it became possible for those nations and people belonging to the “community of civilization” to have a share in the treasures and wealth of the world.26

7- The students and instructors of Mülkiye Mektebi (the school for civil servants) (former name of the Faculty of Political Science)

The document then criticized the paucity of educational institutions in the Empire. Though the “higher sciences” were requiring a regular primary school system as a basis, the number of the existing sıbyan schools were inadequate. Besides, only elementary religious knowledge was taught in the sıbyan schools. Instructors lacked pedagogical abilities and sıbyan school education needed rules for the improvement of the personality and morality of children. On the other hand, the lack of high schools forced the graduates of the rüşdiyye schools to continue either at the Mahrec-i Eklam (Outlet for the Bureaus) or at the military schools. This situation constituted an obstacle for the education of those students who aimed to acquire knowledge about natural sciences and industry. Coming to legal propositions, the justification document urged regulations for compulsory school attendance. It proposed that a permanent body of inspectors continuously supervise all educational institutions. Every kind of school within the Ottoman Empire had to be classified and legally integrated into a system.27 The justification text of the Regulation of Public Education clearly underlined the need to take steps for raising the educational quality of instruction and to expand education among the population.

The document was concluded by stressing the necessity of a mixed education in order to “strengthen the mutual understanding and friendship among the children of different religious communities”. For the realization of this aim it was designed to set up the secondary idadi schools offering instruction on the same line with the Mekteb-i Sultani. The need was put forward to provide schoolbooks on modern sciences, which would be translated from foreign languages into Ottoman Turkish. The state had to take control over instruction in the natural as well as the human sciences. Only religious subjects in the non-Muslim communal institutions remained outside of government control.28 In this concluding part of the justification text the Ottomanist aim of the Regulation of Public Education becomes more apparent. The existing rüşdiyye schools were considered as insufficient to fulfil the aim of bringing children of different communities together due to the substantial number of religious subjects in the curriculum. Another significant statement is the decision to supervise the instruction of humanistic sciences, which until that time was left to the ulemâ. This decision meant that the government aimed at controlling all aspects of public education, with the exception of the madrasas.

The Development of İdadi (Preparatory) Schools

The lack of primary schools imparting practical knowledge, the insufficiency of rüşdiyye schools to offer necessary modern instruction, and as a consequence the scarcity of basic positive information among the applicants to government professional schools drew the attention of the tanzimat-reformers in the 1860s to the necessity of reforming the existing Quran schools, and later to the policy of setting up ibtidai schools. At the same time, however, there existed an acute lack of trained civil officials that became even more urgent with the rapid expansion and increasing differentiation of the state bureaucracy. The Sublime Porte urgently needed a corps of officials equipped with necessary training. The increase in the number of professional schools, therefore, became a pressing need.

A pragmatic solution has been the formation of idadi schools and the incorporation of the rüşdiyye schools into the former. This formula satisfied both the pressing need for professional schools to train civil servants as well as to provide primary education. In the lower classes of the idadi schools, which consisted of the former rüşdiyye-classes, students would now complete his primary school knowledge, and in the upper classes receive the education imparting the necessary training for a possible bureaucratic career.29

Expansion of State Schools

Though the rüşdiyyes started in 1847 as secondary schools, the intellectual performance of the graduates from these institutions fell far below the expected level. Due to this situation, the Ottoman administration could not immediately benefit from those new civil service clerks who graduated from the rüşdiyye schools.30 This circumstance eventually forced the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti to set up a special one-year course for preparing rüşdiyye-graduates to administrative career, in July 1862, called Mekteb-i Eklam (School of Bureaus). After a year this arrangement proved to be unsatisfactory, and this course was expanded into a three-year-school on its own right, now named as Mahrec-i Eklam (Outlet for the Bureaus).31 This new school constituted a forerunner of the future idâdî schools, to be founded as the main secondary schools throughout the Empire. The Mahrec-i Eklâm functioned until 1877, when the Mekteb-i Mülkiyye-i Şahane (Imperial School for the Civil Service) was expanded and filled the place of the former. 32

Significant educational developments of this period included the foundation of three institutions in İstanbul, which later functioned as schools for the raising of state-elites and intellectuals of the Empire and the Turkish Republic. One of them, Mekteb-i Mülkiyye-i Şahane, was originally set up in 1859 to train young clerks of the Sublime Porte on subjects such as law, economics, geography, history, and statistics. Rüşdiyye-graduates could also enter this institution after passing the entrance examination. The Sublime Porte gave priority to graduates of this school in the appointments of kaza (district) governors (kaymakam) and local financial directors (mal müdürü). It was originally a two-year course, but the educational period was expanded in 1869 into three years, and finally became four in 1870.33

Another institution of a comparable kind was the Mekteb-i Sultani (present-day Galatasaray Lisesi). It was founded in 1868 to realize the Ottomanist goal of providing education for both Muslim and non-Muslim pupils. Although it was a government school, this institution was set up in close collaboration with the French Ministry of Education. The curriculum, in its original form, was in harmony with those of the French lycées. Different from the courses on the topics such as religion, Ottoman history, Islamic history, Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, literature, geography and calligraphy, the courses on natural sciences, law, philosophy and classical European languages such as Greek and Latin were to be taught in French. Initially set up as a five-year high school, the subsequent inclusion of an additional seven years for primary and secondary education turned the Mekteb-i Sultani into an institution with twelve-year education. The first rector of the institution was a Frenchman. An Ottoman Armenian, and later Muslim Ottomans succeded him. Instructors consisted of Frenchmen and Ottomans. Pupils who received a diploma were eligible to continue their education at French universities. The Mekteb-i Sultani was a tuition-paying school, but Muslim children with exceptional abilities, proven in the exams, could continue their education as free boarder students. Despite initial reactions from Islamist and conservative non-Muslim circles against the mixed education of Muslims and non-Muslim pupils, in a short period this school became an institution where wealthy parents of all denominations sought to send their boys for instruction.34

8- The exhibition organized by the students of İclaliye Girls school

During the period between 1856 and 1878 there were two attempts to found a university (Darülfünun). The first attempt was done in 1863-1865 and the second one around 1870-1872. However, both attempts proved to be a failure. Shortage of qualified professors and insufficient number of students with necessary educational background to continue at this level of academic education rendered the university project infeasible. It was only in 1900, when Abdülhamid II ruled that the necessary intellectual accumulation reached a level so that opening a university became feasible. 35

Meanwhile, in order to fill the academic void due to the lack of a university, three professional schools were added in 1874 to the Mekteb-i Sultani: Galatasaray Hukuk Mektebi (the Law School), the Galatasaray Edebi Mektebi (School of Humanities) and the Turuk u Meabir Mektebi (Engineering School).36

9- The students and instructors of Numune-i Terakki School

In order to train a new generation of well-educated instructors who would teach at Quran schools, the Darülmuallimin-i Sıbyaniyye (Seminary for the Teachers of Quran schools) was founded in November 1868.37 Originally theological students at the imperial mosques of Istanbul were considered as candidates for this institution. But since the main aim of the Quran school instruction became the exercise of reading and writing Ottoman Turkish texts in addition to learning the Quran, the design to limit the prospective Quran school teaching body to theological students was abandoned in favour of admitting students with non-theological backgrounds.38 This signified the changing perception of primary education from being a stage of mainly religious instruction to a more practical-worldly oriented level of education.

Another development of the period between 1856 and 1878 was the foundation of rüşdiyye schools for girls in 1858. A possible reason for the increasing concern of the government for female education was revealed in an article, which appeared in the official gazette Takvim-i Vekayi in 1861. According to this article rüşdiyye schools for girls would teach women about religion and worldly issues in order to provide their husbands comfort in domestic matters and to preserve their own chastity.39

A different kind of concern for female education could be found in the opinions of Sadık Rıfat Pasha, the “ideologue” of the early tanzimat- period. Probably toward the end of the 1840s, i.e. a decade before the foundation of the first female rüşdiyye school, he argued that the state should provide “good upbringing” for female children, since “personal maturity” was among the “honourable ornaments” for girls. Rıfat Pasha also stressed “the motherly embrace constituted indeed the earliest school for human beings”. Therefore, it would be a “great service for one’s nation and humanity” to raise mothers who would provide their children religious and moral education while suckling them.40 These motives clearly displayed political features of the reform. Nevertheless giving women a fair level of education seemed to become a matter of concern for the late tanzîmât-ruling circles. The setting up of female rüşdiyyes was a considerable step in leading women into public life.

Though the curriculum of the first female rüşdiyye school in Istanbul is unknown, the above-mentioned aims for setting up schools for girls indicate that the curriculum probably included courses on sewing and embroidery. Due to the lack of female instructors during the first years, the teaching staffs of girls’ schools were composed of male instructors except for teachers of courses like handicraft or sewing. Only in 1873 the first graduates of the Seminary for Female Teachers took up their profession.41

10- The students of Aşiret School

Emergence of Muslim Private Schools

The emergence of the first Muslim private educational initiatives should be considered as a reaction to the effects of the Reform Edict of 1856 and possibly to the limited efficiency of the state to expand modern schools. The growing worry of educated Muslim Turks concerning the increasing economic and educational influence of non-Muslims, combined with the slowness of the government school system to adapt itself to the challenges created by the Edict of 1856, resulted in the foundation of civil Muslim Turkish iniatives to promote modern education among the Muslim population of Istanbul. In 1865 a group of public-minded Muslim bureaucrats and military officers founded the Cemiyyet-i Tedrisiyye-i İslamiyye (Islamic Association of Instruction). The initiators of this association were Yusuf Ziya Bey (later “pasha” and Minister of Finances, [1828-1882]), Ahmed Muhtar Bey (later pasha and military commander at the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-78, [1839-1919], Vidinli Tevfik Bey (later pasha [1832-1901]) and Ali Naki Efendi (later director of education of Trabzon province [1836-1923]).

The original aim of the Cemiyyet-i Tedrisiyye-i İslamiyye was to provide basic modern education to the apprentices of the Grand Bazaar. Two schools were set up close to the bazaar where courses such as reading and writing, basic mathematics and geometry, geography, and the instruction of rudimentary religious, moral and social values were offered. It was expected that the graduates would be able to write commercial letters as well as deal with receipts and deeds. The Cemiyyet-i Tedrisiyye-i İslamiyye provided all textbooks, notebooks and pens for free.42 In 1865-1866 around 1630 apprentices were registered at these schools, and 723 of them did graduate. In 1866-1867, nearly 700 apprentices received instruction.43

Encouraged by the increasing demand for schools, in 1873, the Cemiyyet-i Tedrisiyye-i İslamiyye founded the Darüşşafaka (Abode of Compassion) with the financial support from Sultan Abdülaziz, the Khedive İsmail Pasha of Egypt as well as numerous wealthy Ottoman citizens. Its purpose was to provide high school education for Muslim orphans. Though it was originally planned that female orphans would also be admitted to this school, it became restricted to male orphans.44

11- The students and instructors of the school for deaf and dumb

The Darüşşafaka proved to be a success story both in terms of institutional continuity and educational quality. As a high school it became a model school comparable to the francophone government high school Mekteb-i Sultani. The instruction and curriculum at the Darüşşafaka were modelled after the French military high school La Flèche, though the language of instruction was Ottoman Turkish.45

Around 1873, schools available for Muslims in Istanbul were as follows:46

1. Military Schools

Mekteb-i Harbiye-i Şâhâne

Dersaadet Mekteb-i İdadisi (Preparatory School for War Academy)

Hendesehane (Engineering School)

Mekteb-i Fünun-ı Bahri-i Şahane (Naval Academy)

Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane (Military Medical School)

Mekteb-i İdadi-i Tıbbiye (Preparatory School for Military Medical School)

Askeri Baytar Mektebi (Military School of Veterinary Sciences)

2. Civil Higher and Professional Schools

Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Mülkiyye (Civil Medical School)

Mekteb-i İdadi-i Tıbbiye (Preparatory School for Civil Medical School)

Mekteb-i Sultani (Galatasaray Lycée)

Mekteb-i Mülkiyye (School of the Civil Service)

Mekteb-i Sanayi (Industrial School)

Mülkiye Mühendis Mektebi (Engineering School)

Telgraf Mektebi (School of Telegraphy)

3. Preparatory Schools and Schools Offering Secondary Level Education

Darülmuallimin-i Rüşdi (Normal School for Rüşdiyye Instructors)

Darülmuallimin-i Sıbyan (School for Primary School Instructors)

Darülmuallimat (School for Female Rüşdiyye Instructors)

Ebe Mektebi (School for Midwifes)

Mahrec-i Eklam (Outlet for the Bureaus)

Fatih İdadisi

Eskialipaşa İdadisi

Beşiktaş İdadisi


12- The students of Bakırköy Rüşdiye School

4. Schools offering Upper Primary Level Education

Mahmudiyye Rüşdiyye Mektebi, located at Aksaray

Sultan Beyazıt Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Şehzâdebaşı Rüşdiyyesi

Fatih Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Davudpaşa Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Kasımpaşa Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Beşiktaş Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Üsküdar Rüşdiyyesi

Atlamataşı Rüşdiyye Mektebi, located at Üsküdar

Feyziyye Rüşdiyye Mektebi, located at Tophane

Eyyüb Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Takvimhâne Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Beylerbeyi Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Zeyrek Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Sütlüce Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Mirgûn Rüşdiyye Mektebi

İbrahimağa Çayırı Rüşdiyye Mektebi

5. Schools Offering Girls Upper Primary Level Education

Sultanahmed İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Atpazarı İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Aksaray İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Şehzâde İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

İbrahimpaşa İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi, located at Bab-ı Zaptiyye

Beşiktaş İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Eskialipaşa İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Üsküdar İnâs Rüşdiyye Mektebi

6. Muslim Private Schools

Darüşşafaka Secondary School

7. Elementary Schools (Quran Schools or Sıbyan Schools)

Around 280 mahalle mektebi existed.


Educational Policies

13-Sultan Mehmed V’s arrival to Military College to observe the examinations

The period of Abdülhamid II began with the catastrophic Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-78. The Hamidian administration was deeply worried about a possible disintegration of the Empire. Thus, the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti put a major portion of its material and human resources for the development of education in the provinces. It is therefore interesting to observe that relatively few resources were allocated for government schools in Istanbul. This gap was to a certain extent compensated by the expansion of private schools in the capital.

Another aspect of Hamidian school policy was the strong emphasis on religious and authoritarian values in the curricula.47 The loss of an important part of the non-Muslim population after the Russo-Ottoman War of 1877-1878 drove the Sublime Porte to emphasize Islam as a source of ideological unity. However, the utilization of religion for political object did not bring a return to an antipositivistic traditionalism. The tension between practical and bureaucratic needs in the educational content manifested itself in the modernist tendencies within the educational structure. It might be even claimed that the utilization of Islam remained mainly within the realm of political utility and formality.

In order to draw a concrete picture of a daily routine expected at a typical state school in Istanbul, it is useful to look at the Dersaadet Mekatib-i İbtidaiyyesi İçün Talimat-ı Mahsuse (Special Instruction for the ibtidai schools of Istanbul), dated to 1892. Here it was stipulated that the teacher was not only expected to teach pupils the required subjects, but also had to be an example for the pupils in his behaviour, i.e. he had to perform the ritual prayers five times a day, encourage his pupils to observe the religious duties as well as inducing them to assimilate the religious acts of the prophet (sünen-i seniyye).48 The teacher had to make clear to his pupils to obey and to respect, in the order of precedence, “our majestic ruler and his exalted state,” their own parents, relatives, teachers and aged persons. Furthermore, pupils had to learn to help fellow Muslims and people and to love their fatherland (vatan ve memlekete…muhabbet).49 Each day, before the termination of the last course, pupils were to read the two Quranic surahs, Fil (Elephant) and Fatiha (Opening). In addition, after ten times of ritual calling of God’s benediction on the Prophet (salat ü selam), they were to pray for the sultan, the state, the Ottomans and the Islamic community in particular (Zat-ı Hazreti Padişahi ve devlet ve millet ve ale’l-husus ümmet-i Muhammad hakkında bir dua).50

14- The graduates of Military College

Despite this emphasis on religion, the newly founded state primary schools, i.e. ibtidai schools, offered also courses on basic natural sciences.51 Precisely because of this novel nature of primary education, modest Muslim population became worried that state ibtidai schools could weaken faith of their children and instead preferred to send their kids to traditional Quran schools. This suspicion prevented state ibtidai schools to become popular among the population. In numerous cases children first spent few years at the Quran school before registering at an ibtidai school.

Meanwhile, rüşdiyye schools gradually lost in fact their reason d’être, when on the one hand ibtidai schools with a more practical-oriented curriculum expanded at Empire-level. On the other hand, in the early 1880s, the idadi schools began to replace these in the government educational system as secondary institutions. 52 Some of the rüşdiyye schools in Istanbul were merged with ibtidai schools to form combined “central rüşdiyyes” (merkez rüşdiyyeleri). The idadis, with their mainly natural scientific-oriented curricula, constituted a crucial agent of the government’s modernist educational ideology and the reform-minded state bureaucracy. The architecture of the idadi schools, which were modelled mainly after French building-style, also symbolized this reformist attitude at a visual-plastic dimension in the capital. In Istanbul there existed 2 state and 1 private idadi schools. However, the presence of rüşdiyye-schools did continue in Istanbul until after the Young Turk Revolution of 1908.

15- The students and instructors of Mekteb-i Sultani (The former name of Galatasary High School)

Diversification of State Schools

During the period between 1878 and 1908 new types of state schools were opened in Istanbul. Most of them had a professional character. One of the earliest ones was the Mekteb-i Hukuk (School of Law), founded in 1878 as a result of Ahmed Cevdet Pasha’s endeavours. This school proved to be invaluable in educating a new staff of judicial personnel well-versed in the Mecelle (Ottoman Civil Law).53

The establishment of the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (School of Fine Arts) in 1881 was revolutionary in terms of introducing academic studies in fields such as architecture, painting, sculpture, and decorative arts to the Ottoman Empire. Osman Hamdi Bey, the first director of this school, also played a major role in founding the Archeological Museum of Istanbul. 54

A year after the establishment of the Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi, the Ticaret-i Hamidi Mektebi (Hamidian School of Commerce) was opened. The aim of this school was to raise a new generation of Muslims who would be equipped with necessary knowledge to enter competition with foreign merchants. Major emphasis was given to the instruction of French as well as on courses related to law and economics. 55

Another professional school, the Hendese-i Mülkiye Mektebi (School of Engineering), was founded in 1884. The aim was to train engineers who would be employed in construction business such as road building, public works as well as urban infrastructure projects. In 1909 the name of this school was changed to Mühendis Mektebi. 56

The Mülkiye Baytar Mektebi (Veterinary School) was set up in 1887 to educate a staff of veterinarians, which would be employed by municipalities as well as provincial authorities. Graduates of this school would also be engaged in preventing animal diseases, which crippled Ottoman agriculture and created an obstacle in the export of livestock to Europe. This school is noteworthy since top-level Ottoman-Turkish public intellectuals such as Mehmed Âkif Ersoy and Ziya Gökalp received education at this institution. 57

A crucial feature of the Hamidian era education in Istanbul was the foundation of three industrial schools for girls. One of them, Leyli Kız Sanayi Mektebi, included boarding facilities and aimed to accept orphan girls or girls from modest backgrounds. However, all these schools proved to be rather popular among Muslim population of Istanbul, and even numerous wealthy families wanted to register their daughter to these institutions. 58

An educational institution of a unique character was the Aşiret Mektebi (School for Tribes), founded in 1892. This school, combining primary and secondary-level courses, was established to educate boys of influential tribal leaders from Kurdistan, Arabia, and North Africa. Selected boys would be transferred from remote parts of the Empire to Istanbul, and hosted at its boarding facilities. During the five years of education, pupils would learn Ottoman Turkish, reading and writing, Classical Arabic, Persian, French, Islamic sciences, mathematics, history, geography, bookkeeping, hygiene etc. The aim was to raise individuals who would become culturally Ottomanized and loyal to the Ottoman State. This school, located at Beşiktaş, functioned until 1907.59

The foundation of the university (Darülfünun) was the last major educational investment during the period between 1878 and 1908. Though this project was proposed in 1846, and attempts were made in 1863-65 and 1870-72, it was opened in 1900. It consisted initially of the faculties of theology (Ulum-ı Aliyye-i Diniyye Şubesi), literature (Edebiyat Şubesi), and mathematical and natural sciences (Ulum-ı Riyaziyye ve Tabiiyye Şubesi). 60

During the Hamidian period, the Mekteb-i Mülkiyye (School of the Civil Service), became a professional college, providing three years of secondary school education (idadi) and two-year professional classes. This school became an institution where some of the more distinguished intellectuals of the Empire taught, such as Mizâncı Murad Bey, Abdurrahman Şeref Bey, Sakızlı Ohannes Pasha, and Akyiğitzade Musa Bey.61

Finally, the existing two normal schools, one for training rüşdiyye instructors, the other for primary school teachers, were united into a single body known as Great Seminary for Teachers (Darülmuallimin-i Aliyye) in 1892. This institution was reformed in order to raise instructors for ibtidai-, rüşdiyye-, idadi- and sultani-level schools.62

16- The students and their instructors.

Expansion of Muslim Private Schools

The success of the Darüşşafaka orphanage created an encouragement for the development of other private educational initiatives in Istanbul as well as in the provinces. Many of the founders of modern private schools in Istanbul were former instructors at the Darüşşafaka. All Muslim private schools in Istanbul shared the common worry of providing sound Islamic knowledge to pupils. Having this common denominator, one group of schools combined Islamic knowledge with modern course subjects, whereas another group of schools put a major emphasis on religion.

Schools such as Şemsülmaarif (Sun of Education, 1873), Halile-i Mahmudiyye (Wife of Mahmud, 1878), Darülfeyz-i Hamidi (the Hamidian Abode of Enlightenment, 1880), Mekteb-i Hamidi (the Hamidian School, 1882), Nümune-i Terakki (Example of Progress, 1884), Mekteb-i Osmanî (Ottoman School), Burhan-ı Terakki (Evidence of Progress, 1888), Şemsülmekâtib (Sun of Schools, 1890) were institutions serving the upper middle-class and wealthy citizens of Istanbul. The courses were designed to match their educational counterparts in Western Europe. In all of these schools French was given priority.63 Among these institutions was the Şemsülmaarif, founded by Abdi Kâmil Efendi, a member of the Dönme-community from Salonica.64 On the other hand, Mehmed Nadir, founder of Nümune-i Terakki, was a mathematical genius who previously had instructed at the Darüşşafaka and also at Şemsülmaarif. Most of these schools had also sections for female students.65

The Medrese-i Hayriyye (School of Benevolence, 1876), Darüttalim (Abode of Education, 1882), Rehber-i Marifet (Guide of Knowledge, 1887), Darüttedris (Abode of Instruction, 1890), Mekteb-i Edeb (School of Literature) were schools offering a mainly Arabic-language oriented and Islamic-based curricula. These schools satisfied the educational and religious needs of the lower middle-class and modest Muslim families of Istanbul, who were concerned that government schools and modern private schools would weaken the religious beliefs of their children.66 The founder of Darüttalim, Hacı İbrahim Efendi, was a well-known personality due to his controversial claim that Ottoman Turkish should be considered only a “dialect” (şive) of classical Arabic, the language of perfection. According to him, Ottoman Turkish could be properly taught only if the pupils would be instructed classical Arabic. Since this claim was put forward at a time when cultural Turkism was in rise, Hacı İbrahim’s ideas created lively press debates in Istanbul of the 1880s.67

A different kind of school was the Ravza-i Terakki (Garden of Progress), opened in 1887 by Eğinli Faik Bey, a graduate of Darüşşafaka. As a former orphan who suffered from hardships in his childhood, he dedicated himself to children in poverty. He opened his school in a poor neighborhood of Üsküdar, Istanbul. Most of the instructors were graduates of the Darüşşafaka, who taught at this school for free. In a few years this school became known to be a successful educational institution.68

Looking at the student body of these private schools, it is striking that schools such as Şemsülmaarif, Halile-i Mahmudiyye, Darülfeyz-i Hamidi, Nümune-i Terakki included sizable numbers of non-Muslim students. This was true even for the more Islamic oriented school, Rehber-i Marifet.69

17- The class of artillery corps at Mühendishane-i Berr-i Hümayun (the School for Artillery Officers) (Yıldız Albums)

Around 1894, schools available for Muslims in Istanbul were as follows:70

1. Military Schools

Mekteb-i Harbiye-i Şahane (War Academy)

Dersaadet Mekteb-i İdadisi (Preparatory School for War Academy)

Hendesehane (Engineering School)

Mekteb-i Fünun-ı Bahri-i Şahane (Naval Academy)

Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane (Military Medical School)

Mekteb-i İdadi-i Tıbbiye (Preparatory School for Military Medical School)

Askeri Baytar Mektebi (Military School of Veterinary Sciences)

2. Civil Higher and Professional Schools

Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Mülkiyye (Civil Medical School)

Mekteb-i İdadi-i Tıbbiye (Preparatory School for Civil Medical School)

Mekteb-i Mülkiyye (School of the Civil Service)

Mekteb-i Hukuk (School of Law)

Hendese-i Mülkiye Mektebi (School of Engineering)

Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (School of Fine Arts)

Darülmuallimin-i Ali (Grand Seminary for Teachers)

Darülmuallimat (Normal School for Female Rüşdiyye Instructors)

Mekteb-i Sultani (Galatasaray Lycée)

Turuk u Meabir Mektebi (Galatasaray Civil Engineering School)

Ticaret-i Hamidi Mektebi (Hamidian School of Commerce)

Mülkiye Baytar Mektebi (School of Veterinary Sciences)

3. Preparatory Schools and Schools Offering Secondary Level Education

Ebe Mektebi (School for Midwifes)

Leyli Kız Sanayi Mektebi (Industrial School for Girls with boarding facilities)

Nehari Kız Sanayi Mektebi (Day Industrial School for Girls at Aksaray)

Nehari Kız Sanâyi Mektebi (Day Industrial School for Girls at Üsküdar)

Dersaadet Mekteb-i İdadisi (or Vefa İdadisi)

Mercan İdadisi

Üsküdar İdadisi

Aşiret Mektebi (School for Tribes)

4. Schools Offering Upper Primary Level Education

Mahmudiyye Merkez Rüşdiyyesi, located at Aksaray

Beyazıt Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Ayasofya Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Unkapanı Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Galata Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Celalbey Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Fatih Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Davudpaşa Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Beşiktaş Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Üsküdar Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Feyziyye Merkez Rüşdiyyesi, located at Tophane

Beylerbeyi Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Mirgün Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Kartal Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Gebze Merkez Rüşdiyyesi

Dilsiz ve Âma Mektebi (School for Deafs and Blinds)

Aşı Memurları Mektebi (School for Health Officials)

5. Schools Offering Girls Upper Primary Level Education

Sultanahmed İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Atpazarı İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Molla Gürani İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Küçükmustafa Paşa İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Eyyüb İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Beşiktaş İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Fındıklı İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Mirgün İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

Üsküdar İnas Rüşdiyye Mektebi

6. Schools Offering Primary Level Education (İbtidai Mektepleri)

41 ibtidai schools, offering mixed education

2 ibtidai schools for boys

2 ibtidai schools for girls

7. Elementary Schools (Mahalle Mektepleri: Quran Schools or Sıbyan Schools)

195 schools

8. Muslim Private Schools Offering Secondary Level Education

Darüşşafaka Secondary School (only for boys)

Nümune-i Terakki Secondary School (separate classes for boys and girls)

9. Muslim Private Schools, Offering Rüşdiyye Level Education

12 schools, including separate classes for boys and girls

6 schools, only for boys

The Second Constitutional Era (1908-1918)

Educational Policies

18- The graduates of Mülkiye Mektebi (the school for civil servants) (former name of the Faculty of Political Science)

The Young Turk Revolution of 1908, which originated in Macedonia and forced its will upon the Yıldız Palace and the Sublime Porte, actually caught Istanbul by surprise. When the Muslim Turkish population of the capital city became aware of the declaration of liberty and the nature of the regime change, a massive demand for education erupted instantly. As a consequence, numerous clubs and cultural associations emerged which aimed to provide free education for the masses. Noteworthy political organizations which were engaged in popular education included political parties like İttihad ve Terakki Cemiyyeti (Committee of Union and Progress) as well as associations such as the Cemiyyet-i İlmiyye-i İslâmiyye (Islamic Association of Science) and the Türk Ocağı (Turkish Hearth). Popular courses were mostly offered in the form of evening schools, where some courses taught basic skills like reading and writing, whereas others provided specific subjects such as French lessons, book keeping, banking, etc. The Committee of Union and Progress offered evening lessons at the Süleymaniyye, Aksaray, Şehzadebaşı, Fatih, and Pangaltı clubs, which actually resembled primary school education. Such evening schools, offered to the popular masses, were crucial in expanding education to working adults. 71

19- The shooting demonstration of the school of naval officers (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Atatürk Library)

The Young Turk Revolution led to crucial changes in Muslim education of Istanbul. This era could be understood in three periods: The period from June 1908 to the Revolt of March 31, 1909, when there was no clearly defined educational policy; the period from April 1909 to the Balkan Wars (1912-13) when haphazard reform steps were undertaken; the period from January 1913 until October 1918, when the Unionist dictatorship took more or less consistent steps of reform.

The early years of the Second Constituitonal Era was characterized by contrasting measures in regard to educational policies. Whereas the Committee of Union and Progress defended the policy of administrative centralization, the same committee tried to set up its own school network. Schools attached to the Committee of Union and Progress and ranging from primary schools to lycées were opened in Istanbul and other parts of the Empire. In Beşiktaş, the İttihad ve Terakki Sultanisi (Committee of Union and Progress-Lycée) was founded in 1910. The aim was to raise a generation imbued by political and social ideals of the committee. However, the committee abandoned these schools after 1913 when the military wing of the commitee made a coup d’état. Having the complete control, the committee felt the necessity to develop a more comprehensive educational approach. 72

20- The students and instructors of Sıbyan Mektebi (Elementary School) in Kağıthane

A novelty of this period constituted the attempts of the Ministry of Pious Foundations to modernise Quran schools (mahalle mektebi). Numerous instructors of the Quran schools were ready to adjust themselves to a reformed curriculum, and some of them even took the initiative to teach subjects in addition to the Quran and texts of catechism. Meanwhile a number of Quran school buildings were repaired, and those lacking hygiene conditions were demolished. Those Quran school pupils below the age of seven were strongly encouraged to go to the recently-founded government kindergarten (nezaret ana mektepleri).73

Among the ministers of education of this era, Emrullah Efendi stands out in terms of his reformist endeavours. When Emrullah Efendi became Minister of Public Education his efforts were concentrated on the reformation of primary education. His main contribution was the promulgation of the Tedrisat-ı İbtidaiyye Kanun-ı Muvakkatesi (Provisional Law of Primary Instruction), issued in 1913. In order to create a popular basis for the reformation of ibtidai-schools, committees (maarif encümeni) were elected at the level of quarters (mahalle) to oversee local primary schools. The Provisional Law of 1913 stipulated the foundation of government kindergarten in the Fröbelian approach throughout Istanbul, which would pervent under-age children to continue at primary education. The same law also took a major step in dissolving the remaining rüşdiyye-schools by integrating them into the existing ibtidai-schools under the name mekatib-i ibtidaiyye-i umumiyye (general primary schools).74

On the other hand, the longstanding problem of primary school buildings in Istanbul could not be solved even during this era of reforms. Since the late Tanzimat-era, primary- and rüşdiyye-schools lacked proper buildings constructed for educational purposes, and the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti therefore had to rent private homes and mansions which were ill-fitted for education. Though Şükrü Bey, another reformist minister of this era, did his best to secure funds to construct at least 100 primary school buildings in Istanbul, the outbreak of World War I (1914) put an end to these efforts. 75

21- Students at Physical Exercise Class

In 1916 the Committee of Union and Congress, under the influence of the Unionist ideologue Ziya Gökalp, took a radical decision by severing the ties existing between the Quran schools and the Ministry of Pious Foundations, and transferring Quran schools under the jurisdiction of the Maarif-i Umumiyye Nezareti . Through this step an important part of elementary religious education in the capital went under the control of a secular bureaucratic body. 76

Looking at secondary and higher education, the existing preparatory schools for males (idadi mektepleri) in Istanbul were transformed to lycées (sultanî mektebi). 77

During the Second Constitutional Era, female Muslim education witnessed a major boost. Until 1908 female education had remained confined to primary and rüşdiyye schools as well as to the School of Midwifery, Seminary for Female Teachers, and industrial schools for girls. In 1911 for the first time a preparatory-school for girls (İnas İdadi Mektebi) was opened. This school was elevated in 1913 to a girls’ lycée (Bezmialem Sultanisi).78

State Schools

During the Second Constitutional Period, numerous state schools with different professional specializations were founded. However, many of them were little more than short-term courses established within ministries or the Municipality of Istanbul, and others did not achieve an institutional continuity. Those schools mentioned below are those which deserve to be called as institutionally independent educational bodies which functioned at least for a certain number of years.

One of the first state schools, established following the Young Turk Revolution, was the Polis Memurları Mektebi (School for Police Officers), in 1909. This school was founded when the public security apparatus was reorganized following the deposition of Abdülhamid II. The Polis Memurları Mektebi provided instruction at the level of a secondary school. 79

Another school, founded at the same year, was the Dişçi Mektebi (School for Dentists). This school was originally a kind of a professional school providing secondary-level education. It filled a hitherto-existing crucial gap in the field of public health. 80

22- The students of Fuyuzat-ı Hamidiye School

In 1911, the Kondüktör Mektebi (School for Technicians) was opened to train construction, public works, and machine-building technicians who would assist engineers. This school was offering secondary-level education. 81

The Kadastro Memurları Mektebi (School for Land Survey Officials) was founded in 1911 to educate teams of specialized officials to survey and register real estates throughout the Empire. Graduates of secondary schools were admitted to this institution of higher education. 82

Since the foundation of the Sanayi-i Nefîse Mektebi (School of Fine Arts) in 1881, there had been no significant educational investment for other higher schools specialized in other categories of arts. In 1914, the Darülbedayi (School for Theatre) was opened. It for the first time provided academic instructions in performing arts in the empire. 83

A rather new type of school, founded in 1914, was the Terbiye-i Bedeniyye Muallim Mektebi (Seminary for the Teachers of Physical Training). After the Young Turk Revolution, an Ottoman National Olympics Committee was formed, and the Committee of Union and Progress projected to include physical training as a mandatory course to all government schools. This school, after a series of postponements, was opened through the efforts of Selim Sırrı Tarcan. 84

In 1915, the İnas Darülfününu (University for Women) was founded. This institution did not emerge at once. Following the Balkan Wars, in 1913, the idea emerged to open special courses at the university to provide high-level knowledge to women who displayed academic curiosity. These special courses, offered for free, were on mathematics, cosmography, physics, women’s rights, physical education, history, hygiene, and pedagogy. At the end participants were formally examined. These special courses proved to be a success due to major demand and participation at the classes. The university for women emerged from these special courses. When this university was founded, it consisted of the faculties of literature, mathematics, and natural sciences. 85

23- Students performing prayer in the school prayer room

In the same year, the Şimendifer Memurları Mektebi (School for Railway Officials) was opened. This school was founded due to the pressing need of specialized staff to operate the railways within imperial borders. A significant part of Anatolian railways were operated by British and French companies. When World War I broke out, both Britain and France got the status of an enemy state and as a consequence British and French nationals were expelled from the Empire, including technical personnel who operated railway lines. In order to continue the functioning of these railway lines, it became necessary to set up this institution. 86

The final noteworthy institution, founded during the Second Constitutional Period, was the Darülelhan (Conservatory). It was set up in 1916 with the aim to raise musicians specialized in traditional Ottoman music as well as music instructors for public schools. 87

Muslim Private Schools

The Young Turk Revolution opened new opportunities for the foundation of new Muslim private schools. Though private schools already emerged in the 1870s and expanded during the reign of Abdülhamid II, the owners of these schools were able to organize themselves into associations only after 1908. In 1910, the Şirket-i Tedrisiyye-i Osmaniyye (Company of Ottoman Instruction) was formed by a number of wealthy Muslim Turkish individuals which aimed to found boys’ and girls’ primary, secondary, and higher schools in Istanbul. This company was followed by a series of other similar educational enterprises. In 1911, some of the private educational companies established an association to coordinate their efforts. This association, named as Osmanlı Mektebleri Tevhid-i Mesai Cemiyyeti (Association of Ottoman Schools for Unifying Efforts) decided to open the Mekatib-i Hususiyye İdadisi (Private Preparatory School) which would admit graduates from private primary schools. Between 1908 and 1918 at least twenty new Muslim private schools were opened in Istanbul.88

Around 1916, schools available for Muslims in Istanbul were as follows:89

24- The students and instructors of Istanbul Numune School

1. Military Schools

Mekteb-i Harbiye-i Şahane (War Academy)

Dersaadet Mekteb-i İdadisi (Preparatory School for War Academy or Kuleli İdadisi)

Hendesehane (Engineering School)

Mekteb-i Bahriye-i Şahane (Naval Academy)

Mekteb-i Tıbbiye-i Şahane (Military Medical School)

Mekteb-i İdadi-i Tıbbiye (Preparatory School for Military Medical School)

Askeri Baytar Mektebi (Military School of Veterinary Sciences)

2. Civil Higher and Professional Schools

Darülfünun (University)

Tıbb Fakültesi (Civil Medical School)

Mekteb-i Mülkiyye (School of the Civil Service)

Hendese-i Mülkiye Mektebi (School of Engineering)

Turuk u Meabir Mektebi (Galatasaray Civil Engineering School)

Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (School of Fine Arts)

Darülmuallimin-i Ali (Grand Seminary for Teachers)

Mekteb-i Sultani (Galatasaray Lycée)

Mercan Sultanisi

Vefa Sultanisi

Kabataş Sultanisi

Üsküdar Sultanisi

Gelenbevi Sultanisi

Davutpaşa Sultanisi

Ticaret Mekteb-i Alisi (School of Commerce)

Halkalı Ziraat Mektebi (School of Agriculture at Halkalı)

Orman Mektebi (School of Forestry)

Ticaret-i Bahriye Kaptan ve Çarkçı Mektebi (School of Maritime Trade, Shipmaster, and Chief Engineer)

Eczacı Mektebi (School of Pharmacists)

Dişçi Mektebi (School of Dentists)

Dilsiz ve Âma Mektebi (School for Deafs and Blinds)

Aşı Memurları Mektebi (School for Health Officials)

3. Girls’ Schools Offering Higher and Secondary Level Education

İnas Darülfünunu (University for Women)

Darülmuallimat (School for Female Rüşdiyye Instructors)

Bezmialem Sultanîsi

Ebe Mektebi (School for Midwifes)

İstanbul Kız Sanayi Mektebi (Industrial School for Girls with boarding facilities)

4. Schools Offering Primary Level Education (İbtidai-Schools)

44 ibtidai schools for boys

26 ibtidai schools for girls

10 ibtidai schools, offering mixed education

5. Elementary Schools (Quran Schools or Sıbyan Schools)

[No reliable data is available concerning the actual number of mahalle mektebs in Istanbul]

6. Muslim Private Schools, Offering Higher Level Education

Darüşşafaka-School (only for boys)

İstanbul Sultanîsi (former Nümune-i Terakki School) (separate classes for boys and girls)

Üsküdar İttihad Sultanisi

Hadika-i Meşveret Mektebi

Mekteb-i Tefeyyüz

Menbaülirfan Mektebi

7. Muslim Private Schools, Offering Primary Level Education

3 schools only for boys

2 schools only for girls

9 schools, offering mixed education


Akyüz, Yahya, Türk Eğitim Tarihi, Istanbul: Kültür Koleji, 1994.

Baltacı, Cahid, “Osmanlı Eğitim Sistemi”, Yeni Türkiye, 1996, Eğitim özel sayısı, vol. 7, pp. 467-470.

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1 Halil İnalcık, The Ottoman Empire. The Classical Age 1300-1600. 2d ed., New Rochelle: Aristide D. Caratzas, 1989, pp. 76-88; Cahid Baltacı, “Osmanlı Eğitim Sistemi”, Yeni Türkiye, 1996, special issue on education, no. 7, pp. 467-470.

2 Abdülaziz Bey, Osmanlı Âdet, Merasim ve Tabirleri, ed. Kazım Arısan and Duygu Arısan Günay, Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 1995, p. 62.

3 Abdülaziz Bey, Osmanlı Âdet, pp. 85-93; Osman Ergin, Türkiye Maarif Tarihi, Istanbul: Eser Neşriyat, 1977, vol. 1-2, pp. 65-66.

4 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 317-321, 327, 334-368; Sadreddin Celal Antel, “Tanzîmât Maarifi,” Tanzîmât I: Yüzüncü Yıldönümü Münasebetiyle, Istanbul: Maarif Vekaleti, 1940, p. 444; Kemal Beydilli, Türk Bilim ve Matbaacılık Tarihinde Mühendishane, Mühendishane Matbaası ve Kütüphanesi (1776-1826), Istanbul: Eren Yayıncılık, 1995, passim.

5 Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, “Tanzimat Öncesi ve Tanzimat Dönemi Osmanlı Bilim ve Eğitim Anlayışı”, 150. Yılında Tanzimat, ed. Hakkı Dursun Yıldız, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1992, pp. 368, 386.

6 Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye Nezâreti. Târîhçe-i Teşkilât ve İcrââtı, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1338, pp. 6-10; Niyazi Berkes, The Development of Secularism in Turkey, Montreal: McGill University Press, 1964, p. 105.

7 Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, p. 20; Ali Akyıldız, Tanzîmât Dönemi Osmanlı Merkez Teşkilatında Reform (1836-1856), Istanbul: Eren Yayıncılık, 1993, pp. 225, 226.

8 Akyıldız, Tanzîmât Dönemi , p. 237; Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, p. 40.

9 Aziz Berker, Türkiye’de İlk Öğrenim I: 1839-1908, Istanbul: Milli Eğitim Basımevi, 1945, pp. 13-14.

10 Akyıldız, Tanzîmât Dönemi, p. 235; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 441-443; Bayram Kodaman, Abdülhamid Devri Eğitim Sistemi, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1988, p. 12; Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, p. 34.

11 Akyıldız, Tanzîmât Dönemi, pp. 235-236; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, p. 441; Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 35-36.

12 Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 60-61.

13 Akyıldız, Tanzîmât Dönemi, pp. 236-238; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 443, 445; Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 38, 39; Abdülkadir Özcan, “Tanzîmât Döneminde Öğretmen Yetiştirme Meselesi”, 150. Yılında Tanzîmât, ed. Hakkı Dursun Yıldız, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1992, p. 444; Cemil Öztürk, Atatürk Devri Öğretmen Yetiştirme Politikası, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1996, passim.

14 Yahya Akyüz, “Türkiye’de Öğretmenliğin Temelleri Sağlam Atılmıştı”, Yeni Türkiye, 1996, Eğitim özel sayısı, no. 7, pp. 471-475.

15 Akyıldız, Tanzîmât Dönemi, pp. 239, 240; Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 40-44; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 449-453.

16 Tuba Demirci and Selçuk Akşin Somel, “Women’s Bodies, Demography, and Public Health: Abortion Policy and Perspectives in the Ottoman Empire of the Nineteenth Century”, Journal of the History of Sexuality, 2008, vol. (17), no. 3, pp. 395-396.

17 Mehmet Ö. Alkan, Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyet’e Modernleşme Sürecinde Eğitim İstatistikleri, Ankara: Başbakanlık Devlet İstatistik Enstitüsü, 2000, p. 17.

18 Berkes, Development of Secularism, pp. 152-154; Roderic H. Davison, “Westernized education in Ottoman Empire,” The Middle East Journal, Summer 1961, pp. 289-301; Kodaman, Abdülhamid Devri, p. 15.

19 Kodaman, Abdülhamid Devri, pp. 15-16.

20 Kodaman, Abdülhamid Devri, p. 16.

21 Berker, Türkiye’de İlk Öğrenim , pp. 46-47.

22 Berker, Türkiye’de İlk Öğrenim , pp. 46-47.

23 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 1-2, pp. 464-466; Hasan Ali Koçer, Türkiye’de Modern Eğitimin Doğuşu ve Gelişmesi (1773-1923), Istanbul: Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, 1970, pp. 83-85.

24 Berkes, Development of Secularism, p. 179; İhsanoğlu, “Tanzimat Öncesi”, p. 370; Kodaman, Abdülhamid Devri, pp. 20-22.

25 Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 102-109; Antel, “Tanzîmât Maarifi”, p. 450.

26 Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 102, 103.

27 Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 103-105.

28 Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 106-109.

29 Kodaman, Abdülhamid Devri, pp. 120,125.

30 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 477, 478.

31 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 476-479.

32 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 479,595-596, 602-604.

33 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarih, vol. 1-2, pp., 594-619; Joseph S. Szyliowicz, “Elite Recruitment in Turkey: The Role of the Mülkiye”, World Politics, 1971, vol. 23, pp. 371-398.

34 İhsan Sungu, “Galatasaray Lisesinin Kuruluşu,” TTK Belleten, 1943, vol. 7, pp. 315-347; Adnan Şişman, Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultanisi’nin Kuruluşu ve İlk Eğitim Yılları (1868-1871), Istanbul: Edebiyat Fakültesi Matbaası, 1989, passim.

35 Akyıldız, Tanzîmât Dönemi, pp. 228-230; Ali Arslan, Darülfünun’dan Üniversite’ye, Istanbul: Kitabevi, 1995; Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, “Darülfünun Tarihçesine Giriş. İlk İki Teşebbüs”, TTK Belleten, 1990, vol. 54, no. 210, pp. 699-738.

36 Roderic H.Davison, Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856-1876, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963, pp. 245-246; Fethi İsfendiyaroğlu, Galatasaray Tarihi, Istanbul: Doğan Kardeş Yayınları, 1952.

37 Berker, Türkiye’de İlk Öğrenim , pp. 56-58; Özcan, “Tanzîmât Döneminde Öğretmen”, p. 450.

38 Selçuk Akşin Somel, The Modernization of Public Education in the Ottoman Empire 1839-1908, Leiden: Brill,  2001, pp. 80-92.

39 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 1-2, pp. 458; Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 74-75; Berrak Burçak, “The Status of the Elite Muslim Women in İstanbul Under the Reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II” (MA Thesis), Bilkent University, Ankara, 1997, p. 24.

40 Rifat Paşa, “Ahlâk Risâlesinin Zeyli,” Müntehabât-ı Âsâr, Istanbul: Ali Bey Matbaası, 1293, vol. 7, p.18.

41 See Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, pp. 457-458; Berker, Türkiye’de İlk Öğrenim, p. 100, Özcan, “Tanzîmât Döneminde Öğretmen”, p. 457.

42 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol.1-2, pp. 487-488; Mehmed İzzet, Mehmed Esad et al., Dârüşşafaka: Türkiye’de İlk Halk Mektebi, Istanbul: Evkaf-ı İslamiye Matbaası, 1927, p.3.

43 İzzet and Esad, Dârüşşafaka, p. 183.

44 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 1-2, p. 490.

45 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 1-2, p. 491.

46 Alkan, Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyet’e, pp. 21-23.

47 For a thorough examination of the Hamidian ideology, see Selim Deringil, The Well-Protected Domains: Ideology and the Legitimation of Power in the Ottoman Empire 1876-1909, London: I.B. Tauris, 1998.

48 Art 25, in Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, p. 319.

49 Art 26, in Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, p. 319.

50 Art 27, in Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, p. 319.

51 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol.1-2, pp. 469-475; Kodaman, Abdülhamid Devri, pp. 70,157; Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, pp. 507-508.

52 Art 2 of the Regulation of Public Education. See Mahmûd Cevâd, Maârif-i Umûmiyye, p. 470.

53 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 3-4, p. 1093.

54 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1123-1124.

55 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1136-1143.

56 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1151-1157.

57 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1173-1175.

58 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 912-914; Selçuk Akşin Somel, “Sources on the Education of Ottoman Women in the Prime Ministerial Ottoman Archive for the Period of Reforms in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century”, ed. Amira al-Azhary Sonbol, Beyond the Exotic. Women’s Histories in Islamic Societies, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005, pp. 296-305.

59 See Alişan Akpınar, Osmanlı Devleti’nde Aşiret Mektebi, Istanbul: Göçebe Yayınları, 1997, passim.

60 See Arslan, Darülfünun’dan, passim.

61 Ali Çankaya [Mücellidoğlu], Yeni Mülkiye Tarihi ve Mülkiyeliler (Mülkiye Şeref Kitabı), Ankara: Mars Matbaası, 1968-1969; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 1-2, 594-619; Szyliowicz, Elite Recruitment, pp. 371-398.

62 Berker, Türkiye’de İlk Öğrenim, p. 138; Hasan Ali Koçer, Türkiye’de Öğretmen Yetiştirme Problemi (1848-1967), Ankara: Yargıçoğlu Matbaası, 1967, p. 28; Özcan, “Tanzîmât Döneminde Öğretmen”, p. 455.

63 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 948, 951-956, 997-1020.

64 Özcan Mert, “Atatürk’ün İlk Öğretmeni Şemsi Efendi (1852-1917)”, Atatürk Araştırma Merkezi Dergisi, 1991, vol. VII, no. 20, p. 337, fn.42; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol.1-2, pp. 470-471.

65 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 951-956, 997-1006, 1015-1016, 1020-1023, 1025-1026; Erdal İnönü, Mehmet Nadir. Bir Eğitim ve Bilim Öncüsü, Ankara: TÜBİTAK, 1997, pp. 6-12; Necdet Sakaoğlu, Osmanlı’dan Günümüze Eğitim Tarihi, Istanbul: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi, 2003, pp. 83-84; Maârif-i Umûmiyye Nezâret-i Celîlesi İdâresinde Bulunan Mekâtib-i İbtidaiyye, Rüşdiyye, İdadiyye, Âliyye ile Mekâtib-i Husûsiyye ve Ecnebiyyenin ve Dersaâdetde Tahrîri İcrâ Kılınan ve Taşrada da Mevcûd Bulunan Kütüphânelerin İstatistiki. 1310-1311 Sene-i Dersiyye-i Mâliyyesine Mahsûsdur, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Osmaniye, 1311, p.21.

66 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 3-4, pp, 948-951, 992-996, 1016-1018, 1020-1023.

67 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 3-4, pp. 957-987.

68 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1018-1020.

69 Maârif-i Umûmiyye Nezâret-i Celîlesi İdâresinde Bulunan, p. 21.

70 Alkan, Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyet’e, pp. 50-64; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 883-1026, 1085-1195.

71 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1485-1489.

72 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1280-1281.

73 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1284-1285.

74 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1273-1277, 1287-1288, 1310-1311, 1313, 1338.

75 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1321-1322.

76 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1321-1322.

77 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1433-1443.

78 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1427-1432, 1444-1445.

79 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1498-1501.

80 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1504-1507.

81 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1516-1517.

82 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1520-1521.

83 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1531-1541.

84 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1545-1547.

85 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1553-1566.

86 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1568-1572.

87 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1578-1584.

88 Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi, vol. 3-4, pp. 1451-1453.

89 Alkan, Tanzimat’tan Cumhuriyet’e, pp. 165, 171, 225, 235, 246, 264, 275; Ergin, Türk Maarif Tarihi vol. 3-4, pp. 883-1026, 1085-1195.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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