Maarif Foundation a global education brand: Chair Birol Akgün

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation has become a global education brand providing high-quality education across a vast geography spanning several continents, the chair of the foundation, Birol Akgün, said Monday.

Speaking during the foundation’s 10th consultation meeting held online in the capital Ankara, Akgün said the Maarif Foundation aims to cultivate virtuous individuals able to successfully represent Turkey in line with their own national values in the field of international education.

Underlining that Turkey’s top educational foundation abroad celebrated its fifth year by adopting values for the common good of humanity, Akgün said: “Our educational activities, which started in five countries in 2016, reached 18 in 2017, 31 in 2018, 39 in 2019, 42 in 2020 and 44 countries in 2021, along with Kyrgyzstan and South Africa.”

As they aim to increase the number of countries hosting Maarif schools to 50 by the end of this year, he noted that the foundation has representative offices in 52 countries and that they conduct activities in 67 countries. Of the 67 countries, 44 have active Maarif educational institutions, with a total of 354 schools and 41 dormitories hosting nearly 43,000 students.

Of these educational institutions, 216 were handed over by their host countries after the foundation proved their links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), Akgün said, adding that the other schools and educational facilities were opened in line with Turkey’s strategic priorities.

In addition, the foundation signed 77 different protocols to take over the FETÖ-linked schools and to open new schools in 45 more countries, Akgün stated.

“I want to state that we are marching on with firm steps toward our president’s target of launching educational activities in at least half of U.N. member countries by 2023,” he added.

Maarif Foundation Chairperson Birol Akgün, June 19, 2020. (AA Photo)
Maarif Foundation Chairperson Birol Akgün, June 19, 2020. (AA Photo)

Turkey’s Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop noted the Maarif Foundation’s investments in human capital, calling the move “admirable.”

“Investment in human capital benefits all countries. The schools of Turkey’s Maarif Foundation serves this lofty aim,” Şentop told the meeting.

Şentop underlined that online education and services are here to stay, even once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

“Both on a global and local level, we will continue to invest in technology, which increases Turkey’s competitiveness,” he said.

The foundation, which was founded on June 17, 2016, officially started its activities a few months later after there was a brutal coup attempt by the FETÖ. One of Maarif’s missions was to take over the schools formerly operated by FETÖ, which is known for its international network of institutions. Over the last five years, the foundation has also established new schools and educational centers around the world.

Maarif schools offer a diverse curriculum with a touch of Turkish. The foundation offers science courses, coding and IT classes, classes on local cultures and teaches many languages as well as Turkish, allowing the foundation to compete with other international schools in each country that it operates. Maarif’s institutions naturally prioritize Turkish education and set up a special curriculum that aims to help every graduate achieve fluency. It also hosts education fairs to attract foreign students to Turkish universities.

FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the quelled coup attempt in Turkey, which left 251 people dead and 2,734 injured. The group has a considerable presence outside Turkey, including charter and private schools that serve as a revenue stream for the terrorist group. FETÖ was also behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions.

Half of the remaining FETÖ schools are in the U.S. and Europe. In the U.S., the terrorist group has 312 schools, including four universities and 155 charter schools. The biggest FETÖ-linked schools are located in Texas, Ohio, California and Florida. It is estimated that the organization receives over $500 million (TL 3.71 billion) in annual income from the U.S. state from these 155 schools across 27 states.

The FBI has already conducted investigations on some schools linked to the terrorist group, although it did not provide details on the progress of the investigations, focusing on the schools’ questionable business practices. Back in November 2020, the U.S. slapped a $4.5 million fine on a FETÖ school for engaging in noncompetitive bidding practices.