The History of Darüşşafaka

By decree of the reigning Sultan, The Cemiyet-i Tedrisiye-i İslamiye (The Islamic Education Society) was established on March 30th, 1863, by leading members of Ottoman society, namely Yusuf Ziya Paşa, Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Paşa, Vidinli Tevfik Paşa, Sakızlı Esat Paşa and Ali Naki Efendi. The purpose of Darüşşafaka was, and still is, to educate fatherless children who demonstrate both academic potential and financial need.

The founding of the school represents one of the first non-governmental initiatives in Turkish history and the Foundation’s membership included luminaries such as progressive Ottoman statesmen and leading intellectuals.

In 1919 and 1920 Darüşşafaka did not admit any students, and the population of the student body dropped to only 200. The 1921-1922 Academic Year saw the school again accept new students.

The Tevhid-i Tedrisat (Education Unity Law) of 1924, in accordance with a Proclamation of the Republic, aimed to integrate and secularize the education system while emphasizing Turkish nationalism in the forms of history and language. In keeping with these national educational objectives, The Foundation Board extensively reformed the school curriculum. These reforms were approved by the Ministry of Education and Darüşşafaka was recognized as a comprehensive high school where national middle- and state-school educational programs were applied. At that time, the school adopted the official name of “Darüşşafaka High School” and graduates of the school were granted the same privileges as those who had graduated from state-run high schools, most significantly, free admission into Istanbul University and other public colleges.

Darüşşafaka opened up a “teachers class” equal to the senior years of the Education Faculties in order to train qualified teachers. The class gave its first graduates in 1929. However, it was closed in 1930 upon the request of the Ministry of Education.

Initially Darüşşafaka focused exclusively on math and science instruction, and graduates were limited to seeking university placements in those disciplines.
Literature classes were first offered in 1931.

In 1939, 83 students orphaned in the devastating Erzincan earthquake, were admitted to school. In response, İş Bank, one of Turkey’s leading financial institutions, generously met the expenses of these students.

The 1955-1956 Academic Year marked a significant milestone in Darüşşafaka’s history. That year, the school introduced a two-year prep class and English was adopted as a primary language of instruction. Additionally, science and math classes were offered in English for the first time.

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

The entrance criteria changed, placing a greater emphasis on financial need and dropping the requirement that a candidate’s father be deceased. The traditional entrance criteria was reinstated in 1976.

Darüşşafaka admitted its first female students, making it a co-educational institution.

Children of soldiers who died during the “Cyprus Peace Operation” were granted admission to the school.

Darüşşafaka Educational Institutions moved to its new campus in the Maslak district of Istanbul.

Darüşşafaka embarks on a ten year initiative during which time 78 children, all of whom lost their fathers in military service to the nation, were granted admission.

In the aftermath of the devastating Kocaeli earthquake, 41 students were granted admission to the school.
Darüşşafaka opened its doors to provide emergency lodging for 108 victims of the Bingöl Earthquake.

Darüşşafaka pioneered the “Nursing Home Project”. The Maltepe and Şenesevler Nursing Homes open their doors to our generous donors, as do state-of-the-art, dedicated physical treatment and rehabilitation units.