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Historical milestones


A society with the name of “Cemiyet-i Tedrisiyye-i İslâmiye” (Society for Islamic Education) was founded on March 30, 1863, by Yusuf Ziya Pasha, Gazi Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, Vidinli Tevfik Pasha, Sakızlı Ahmet Pasha and Ali Naki Efendi in accordance with an imperial order from the Sultan Abdülaziz. Its purpose was to support education of poor and orphaned children. The society attracted many of the Ottoman pashas and intellectuals as its members and became the first civilian organization for education in Turkish history.


Initially the society’s scope was limited to the education of apprentices in and around the Grand Bazaar. Classes were held in the old Valide Mektebi (School) in Beyazıt after the building’s renovation. There was only one classroom, and all classroom materials were supplied to the students by the Society.  This “apprenticeship school”, where all teachers were volunteers, was the first public school in Turkey. It continued its activities until 1873.


The Society started publishing a monthly magazine called Mebahis-i İlmiyye (Scientific Topics) in 1867. The magazine included mainly articles on positive sciences and was followed by a broad range of readers  including students of the Harbiye Mektebi (The Military School), the most progressive educational institution of its time. Textbooks and other supplementary books prepared for Darüşşafaka students were by now commonly used in other schools.


Construction of a new school building designed by the Italian architect Barironi and blueprinted by the chief architect of Dolmabahçe Palace, Ohannes Balyan, began in Fatih on a plot of land purchased with a donation from Sultan Abdülaziz. This large school building, with facilities superior to any other,  was the first of its kind allowing co-education of boys and girls.


The Society charter dated March 25, 1872, adopted the principle that “the Society will base its activities on patriotism and national dedication, and its staff will consist of people who will work under this principle.” The same charter demanded that the school being constructed at that time  “shall enlist girls and boys of 10 years or younger; all costs of the students shall be borne by the Society; an administrative and an academic board shall be formed; a headmaster and a headmistress to the school shall be appointed.” (The school actually did not have a headmistress until 1965 when Nazıma Antel was appointed; she worked at the school until 1973. Female  students were admitted  in 1971.)


Darüşşafakat’ül İslamiye (Orphanage of Islam) started its first academic year as a free, special-statute boarding school with 54 students on June 29 with the first lecture given by Captain Mustafa Effendi. While the academic program included primary, secondary and high school syllabi, it was more advanced than the program used in schools regulated by the Ministry of Education (Maarif Nezareti). The last two years of the eight-year education were called “high” (âli) classes and their syllabi were prepared in accordance with  pre-graduate programs. For this reason, graduates of Darüşşafaka were accepted as pre-graduate graduates until 1894. Moreover, the last year was called “Telegram-Science School” (Telgraf-Fen Mektebi), which led the school to become known as a “Telegram-Science School” between 1873-1894.


The Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878), also known as “War of 93”, impacted education at Darüşşafaka. Thousands of people from the besieged lands migrated to Istanbul, and more than a thousand girls and boys were housed by the Society in the Darüşşafaka building. Over time, some of these refugees  were transferred elsewhere, yet orphaned boys were registered in the school. For six months  the school was unable to perform its primary function due to a lack of teachers, many of whom had  to gone to fight in the war.


When the Cabinet decided to convert the School of Political Sciences (Mekteb-i Mülkiye) to a university, a report was submitted to Sultan Abdülhamit proposing  the transfer of the Darüşşafaka building to this new school. The Sultan replied with the understanding that “Darüşşafaka is established by philanthropists for the education and training of Muslim orphans and the school currently houses over 200 boarding and non-boarding poor students” and dismissed the proposal.


Darüşşafaka celebrates its first graduates. These  eight new graduates were employed by the Ministry of Postal and Telegram Services as a result of efforts by Izzet Effendi, the Minister, who was also a member of the Society. At that time,  125 students attended the school.


Until this date, there had been  no high schools in the country other than Darüşşafaka, Galatasaray, and military high schools. From  the 1880s  until the mid-1990s, Darüşşafaka teachers included many famous people such as the poet Namık Kemal, the chronicler Abdurrahman Şeref Bey, Manyasizade Mustafa Refik Bey, Babanzade Naim Bey, the composer Zekai Effendi, Ahmet Mithat Effendi, the painter Agah Effendi, Selim Sırrı (Tarcan), the poet Yahya Kemal (Beyatlı), the historian Yusuf Akçura, Tahir Olgun, and the painter Ali Rıza Hoca. . In addition, many other artists, scientists and thinkers were educated at Darüşşafaka, most of whom continued as teachers there. These included  the mathematicians Salih Zeki and Mehmet İzzet, the financier Hasan Ferit, the writers Ahmet Rasim and İsmail Sefa, the historian Osman Nuri Ergin, the pedagogue Ali Kami Akyüz (also the school’s headmaster from 1920 to 1940), and the painter Mahmut Cûda.


Darüşşafaka depended on the financial resources of the Society. The Grand Vizier Küçük Said Pasha was very pleased after his visit to the school in 1884 and allocated resources from the state to meet some of the school’s needs. Sultan Abdülhamit II received that year’s six graduates who presented their own paintings to  him as a display of gratitude. After this event, it became a tradition for graduates of every academic year to present their names and paintings to the Sultan.


The members of the Society were unable to meet due to the ban on gatherings of any kind and, as a result,  Darüşşafaka began encountering  financial difficulties. After Sultan Abdülhamit II became the patron of Darüşşafaka and the  state began requiring  companies which were granted privileges to donate money to the school, its financial problems were overcome.


Because of a student uprising, the Ottoman Government took over  control of Darüşşafaka and transferred it to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry cancelled unpaid teaching positions, and the Society for Islamic Education was dissolved. The school subsequently abandoned its original purpose when it became a public school and began to accept  students with parents as well as students from rich families. These practices continued until the Second Constitution.


With the establishment of the Second Constitution, Darüşşafaka graduates joined with  old members of the Society  to form an association, Alumni of Darüşşafaka, aimed at ensuring  the survival of the school.


Members of the Society for Islamic Education issued a call to  important politicians of the period and they convened under the presidency of the Grand Vizier. The Society, once again functional, applied to the Ministry of Education to regain control of Darüşşafaka. The transfer was completed within the same year.


The years during World War I and the following War of Independence were very difficult but also very important for Darüşşafaka:
• The school was financed by the Government from 1914 until 1916. The financial situation worsened towards the end of the war but ends were met with grants. During this time, the duration of education was increased from eight to ten years (reversed in 1919), and classes  devoted to training new teachers were included in the last year, thus transforming Darüşşafaka into a school for pedagogues.

• Women were admitted as members to the Society for the first time.

• Darüşşafaka Sports Club was established in 1914.

• The number of Society members, which was 150 during the re-establishment in 1909, rose to 700 in 1916 and to 1,400 in 1917.

• Because so many high school students had been recruited by the army (many of whom perished in the War of Gallipoli), there were no graduates between 1916 and1918.

• In 1919 and 1920 Darüşşafaka did not admit any students, resulting in a dramatically reduced student population  of only 200.

• The school began admitting new students again in the 1921-1922 academic year.


Following the Proclamation of the Republic, The Education Unity Law (Tevhid-i Tedrisat) of 1924 was introduced  to integrate and secularize the education system while emphasizing Turkish nationalism in the context of history and language. In keeping with these national educational objectives, The Foundation Board extensively reformed the school curriculum. Darüşşafaka was converted to a full-time high school which, as a private school, began to follow the academic program of public middle schools and high schools. The school adopted the official name of “Darüşşafaka High School”. The Ministry of Education approved these reforms and graduates of the school were admitted into Istanbul University and other universities without examination just like the graduates of public high schools.


Darüşşafaka opened up a “teachers class” equal to the senior year of the Education Faculties in order to train qualified teachers. The class  produced its first graduates in 1929 but  was closed in 1930 upon the request of the Ministry of Education.


A literature class was opened. This was significant because until 1931 the school had only science classes since nearly all previous Darüşşafaka students preferred scientific branches of universities.


The Society changed its name to “Turkish Learning Institution.” In 1939, 83 children who lost their parents in the devastating Erzincan earthquake were admitted to the school. In response, İşbank, one of Turkey’s leading financial institutions, generously met the expenses of these students. This act of care for the “Erzincan Orphans,” seen as a positive civic gesture, won the respect of the public.


Until 1940, students atDarüşşafaka, just like students at public high schools, had the right to repeat a year if necessary. In 1940, however, the Society took a new decision to abandon this in order to ensure effective upbringing of students and better utilization of the money and effort devoted to their education. The result was that students who failed a year were expelled from school.
In the 40s, prime ministers Recep Peker, Hasan Saka (also a member of the Society) and Şemseddin Günaltay showed keen interest in Darüşşafaka and focused on the admission  of girls to the school. Their respective governments supported Darüşşafaka.


New English language courses were added to the curriculum, supplementing the foreign language offering which had previously consisted of only French language courses.


Fatih Atabinen Dormitory was opened for Darüşşafaka graduates who pursued a university education.


Darüşşafaka High School Basketball Team became the champions in the 1950-51 season, suddenly making the sport very popular at Darüşşafaka. The Darüşşafaka Sports Club now offered basketball, football, and volleyball activities. The Darüşşafaka Basketball Team became the Turkish champions in the 1960-61 and 1961-62 seasons, and in 1962 it became the first Turkish team to play in the quarter finals in a European cup.. The team won many cups and raised many successful players and coaches for Turkish basketball.


The Society adopted the name “Darüşşafaka Society” through a charter amendment.


Poet and writer Sait Faik Abasıyanık passed away. Following his wishes, his mother Makbule Abasıyanık donated the copyrights of his works, as well as some of his other property, to the Darüşşafaka Society. The “Sait Faik Story Award,” awarded to the writer of the best story book of the previous year, commenced on May 11, the date of the writer’s passing, the following year. The awards were awarded in collaboration with Yapı Kredi Bank from 2003 until 2011 and then with İşbank Publishing House from 2012 onwards.The writer’s house in Burgazada was turned into a museum and opened to the public in 1964.


The school introduced a two-year prep class and English was adopted as the primary academic language in the 1955-1956 academic year, marking a significant milestone in Darüşşafaka’s history. Science and math classes were given in English for the first time.


For the first time in the school’s history, the admission exam was given outside of Istanbul. Students from Adana, Ankara, and İzmir  were admitted to the school.


Investment policies were significantly restructured in order to ensure a secure future for Darüşşafaka and to maintain stronger, more sustainable sources of income. “The Darüşşafaka Complex,” a development consisting of a shopping mall and an entertainment centre, was built on Halaskargazi Street in Şişli and was opened by Prime Minister Adnan Menderes.


Students from low-income families whose fathers are still alive were also admitted to the school. (This policy was later abandoned in 1976.)


The Board decided on the construction of a “Girls School” building and to move to co-education in 1969.


New facilities designed by the distinguished architect, Prof. Emin Onat, were put into service at the beginning of the 1971-72 academic year. Girls were admitted to Darüşşafaka for the first time.


The renovated five-floor school building with conference and sports halls, laboratories, a modern kitchen, a cafeteria and lodgings was opened by President Cevdet Sunay.


Children of soldiers killed in service during the Cyprus Peace Operation were accepted into the school without having to pass the entrance examination.


Darüşşafaka had its first female graduates.


Darüşşafaka Society is  exempted from all taxes, fees and other duties (Law 3685, December 5, 1990).


A decision was taken to move out of the facilities in Fatih and to build residencies for donors to spend their old age in a safe and sanitary environment. A part of the land in the Maslak Barabandere area on Büyükdere Street, which was allocated to the Ministry of Defense and due to be transferred to Istanbul Municipality, was transferred to the Society with the special efforts of Minister of Defense Zeki Yavuztürk and with the intervention of President Kenan Evren. Master Architect Dr. Fatih Gorbon’s project won the competition for the new facilities and construction of the Maslak campus began.


Darüşşafaka Schools’ new Maslak campus was opened. The 120-year-old building in Fatih was sold to Ziraat Bank.


Darüşşafaka graduates had been doing poorly on the university qualification tests since the mid-80s. A panel around the theme “Project for Improvement of Education at Darüşşafaka” was convened in 1992 and followed by a study to identify sources of this underperformance. Subsequently,  a report,  written by Prof. Dr. Bozkurt Güvenç, Prof. Dr. Barlas Tolan and Associate Prof. Dr. Pervin Olgun, all former headmasters,  opened up a discussion in a forum titled “Darüşşafaka Towards the 21st Century” in 1995. At the end of extensive discussions where issues such as  reviving the weakening Darüşşafaka spirit, the expansion of the base for selection of students, strengthening the faculty, employing graduates in jobs within the school, providing effective counselling to students on careers and university selection, establishing closer relations between students and the Society took place, several new evolutionary steps were put on the agenda.
Darüşşafaka was categorized as a foreign-language Anatolian high school.


In order to create a new flow of donations to Darüşşafaka, as well as to provide peaceful and comfortable housing to affluent elderly people, the “Residences” project was designed as a new donation and financing model. The first of these residences, Darüşşafaka Yakacık Residence, was put into service. The sports facilities in Maslak were completed and opened in the same year.


The history of Darüşşafaka was published in the book, “History of Darüşşafaka 1863-1994,” following comprehensive research in collaboration with the Foundation for the Social and Economic History of Turkey.


In the aftermath of the devastating Kocaeli earthquake on 17 August, 119 students were granted admission to the school including  78 children of soldiers and police killed in service.


Darüşşafaka opened its doors to provide emergency lodging for 108 victims of the Bingöl Earthquake.


Darüşşafaka pioneered the “Nursing Home Project.” The Maltepe and Şenesenevler Nursing Homes, including  state-of-the-art, specialized physical treatment and rehabilitation units, opened their doors to Darüşşafaka donors.


Private Darüşşafaka High School started organizing the “Hey, Young Sait Faik!” story competition for Istanbul high school students  in memory of Sait Faik Abasıyanık.


The Society and the school administration implemented the following changes:
*A five-year strategic plan (2007-2012) to serve as a guideline for Darüşşafaka’s evolution was developed at the end of a series of meetings between Society and school leaders, teachers, parents’ society representatives, opinion leaders and others in the academic community.
*Urla (Izmir) Residence was opened.
*Private Darüşşafaka Elementary School launched  the journalistic writing competition, “Ahmet Rasim is Alive,” amongst elementary school students in Istanbul in memory of its  former student and teacher, the writer-journalist Ahmet Rasim.


* Reinforcing the principle of equal opportunity in education and extending opportunities to high-aptitude students in rural areas with even more limited resources than the others, the entrance exam system was changed from knowledge-based to aptitude-based to increase the success rates of these students. The exams also were made available in additional provinces.
*The “Darüşşafaka Seeks Its Parents” program was launched to initiate annual fundraising  campaigns among Darüşşafaka Alumni.
*The ”81 Students from 81 Provinces” project was launched in collaboration with Türkiye İş Bankası (İşbank), and the  project’s first students were admitted to the school.


* Darüşşafaka, admitted five students following the tragic events in the village of Bilge, Mardin.
* A Supreme Advisory Board consisting of opinion leaders  was established to contribute to Darüşşafaka’s evolution towards new horizons in light of changing global conditions.
* The “From Dreams to Reality” social responsibility project was launched in collaboration with Procter&Gamble Turkey to raise future leaders of Turkey.


* Turkish Law Number 6009,  allowing commercial use of a school campus without any hindrance to academic activities, became effective as of August 1, 2010 after being published in the Official Gazette.
* A series of efforts was launched for the establishment of governance principles.


*Darüşşafaka Schools Regulations, Ministry of Education Private Darüşşafaka Elementary School Regulations and Ministry of Education Private Darüşşafaka High School Regulations were individually approved by the Ministry of Education’s Head Council for Education and Morality on 13 September 2011.
*The ”Nazıma Antel Awards,” in memory of Nazıma Antel, the first Headmistress of the school, were established to recognize successful students in English language extracurricular activities.
*In order to commemorate the 40th year of accepting female students at Darüşşafaka, the “Daçka Girls 40th Year” campaign was launched by former female students to collect TL 1 million, with the aim of educating 10 girls for 10 years.


* Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president-by-right of the Darüşşafaka Society, presided over the Grand Assembly on 14 April, when the Society amended its charter to include an article allowing for children whose mothers are deceased to be admitted to Darüşşafaka. Another defining phrase, “Turkish-Muslim children,” in the same article was modernized and re-worded as “Citizens of the Republic of Turkey.” In addition, the personal traits that Darüşşafaka seeks to  develop in its graduates were  explicitly stated in an article in the Charter.
*Students without mothers were permitted for the first time to take the Darüşşafaka exam and begin their education in the classrooms of Darüşşafaka in the 2012-13 academic year.

*Urla Yaşam Nursing Home & Special Care Centre opened its doors.


*Darüşşafaka Society celebrated its 150th year.

*Sait Faik Abasıyanık Museum was renewed and reopened for its visitors. 

*Darüşşafaka Society became the first NGO in Turkey to receive a Capital Markets Board of Turkey (CMB) Corporate Governance Principles Compliance Rating. Darüşşafaka Society successfully received a rating of 8,4 out of 10.


*Five students who have lost their fathers in the Soma mine disaster were admitted to Darüşşafaka without an exam.

*Darüşşafaka Techno-Entrepreneurship Youth Center was opened.

*Darüşşafaka launched a scholarship program for non-Darüşşafaka graduate university students. 

*Darüşşafaka’s corporate governance compliance rating grade increased from 8,4 to 8,64. 


*Darüşşafaka’s corporate governance compliance rating grade increased from 8,64 to 9,08.

*Darüşşafaka Society was granted “special consultative status” by United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 


*Darüşşafaka’s corporate governance compliance rating grade increased from 9,08 to 9,29.


*Darüşşafaka’s corporate governance compliance rating grade increased from 9,29 to 9,43.