Salonica (Salonika or Thessaloniki) was one of the major cities of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, following its capital Istanbul, due to its cosmopolitan nature, active cultural and political life, and most importantly, its wealthy economy.

The modernization movements in the Ottoman Empire such as the Tanzimat (meaning reorganization) reform era was having its repercussions in Salonica and the principles of the French Revolution were becoming popular in this city within the empire.

It was inevitable that a city with such a lively social and cultural life undertakes the responsibility of being a pioneer also in education in the Ottoman Empire.

Terakki Foundation Schools were established in such a milieu in 1877 by a group of prominent Turkish businessmen as a private school under the name of “Mekteb-i Terakki” meaning “Terakki School”, the word terakki being equivalent to “progress”. The school then offered elementary and mid-level education.

The school administration consisted of a committee having the principles and structure of a foundation. The committee was, at the same time, one of the first few non-governmental organizations established in Salonica and it set out its own administrative principles by preparing a charter. According to these principles, the students and teachers of the schools would be under the supervision of this committee and be inspected twice a week by two of the committee members. The goal set was to raise young people with good morals who speak foreign languages, who are entrepreneurs and are knowledgeable about business.

Five Qualities Of Terakki Schools

Since its foundation, there have been five qualities of Terakki Schools that stood out:

  • Terakki Schools have placed special emphasis on teaching foreign languages.
  • In line with the economic needs and changing social structure of Salonica, “business and economics courses” have been given great importance.
  • The matter of educating girls has been handled with utmost care and the Terakki School’s Committee has opened two schools for girls since 1890s.
  • The school has been managed with an open-minded attitude. The members of the committee and the school administrators have considered attendance of teachers and students, and co-curricular activities such as cultural and sports activities very important.
  • Terakki School has been one of the first few educational institutions with a kindergarten in the Ottoman Empire.

Later the school continued developing. On March 27, 1880 the name of the school was changed as “Salonica Terakki School” and the school started offering a high school programme after middle school. Becoming one of the impressive schools of Salonica due to its rapid development and the quality of the education offered, the Salonica Terakki School opened a boarding school and a section for female students upon the request of parents. At the beginning of the 20th century, the school’s name changed as “Yadigar-ı Terakki Ticaret Mektebi” meaning “the token of progress business school”.

In 1912 Salonica was undergoing a turbulent time due to the Balkan War. The Muslim Turkish community of the city had to immigrate to the eastern regions, primarily to Istanbul and Izmir, because of the war, pressure, and turbulence. Following the Lausanne Treaty in 1923 the last section of the Terakki School in Salonica named Yalılar was shut down just like the other Turkish properties. Thus, the 55 year-old history of the school in Salonica came to an end. However, four years before the last section in Salonica was closed down another school that embodied Terakki spirit was established in Istanbul. A groups of young people who studied at Salonica Terakki School and emigrated to Istanbul during the Balkan War established a school titled “Şişli Language School” on April 5, 1919 to continue the tradition of their previous school as a home of wisdom and to help younger generations undergo the same tradition. The Şişli Language School that was opened on September 3, 1919 at the Mahmut Celalettin Mansion had to move to the Nuri Pasha Mansion in Pangaltı on September 1, 1920 as the Mahmut Celalettin Mansion was burned down on June 24, 1920.

From 1921 and on, the school’s name was changed as “Şişli Terakki School”. A committee made up of founding and protective members called “Encümen” was administering this school just like it was when it was first founded.

By the time the Şişli Terakki School owned its own building in 1935, it hired mansions between Nişantaşı and Pangaltı that were convenient to serve as a school and developed as a fully-equipped boarding school for male and female students.

The Şişli Terakki School operated at the building that belonged to Ferit Paşazade Mehmet Bedri Bey and his mother in 1922; in the Şerif Pasha and Münire Sultan Mansions in 1924; in Halil Rıfat Pasha Mansion in 1927; and in the Baş Mabeynci Mansion in Nişantaşı in 1928.

In 1935 the Baş Mabeynci Mansion was purchased from the Bank of Building and Construction (Emlak ve Eytam Bankası) and in 1949 the mansion was pulled down and a new and modern school building was constructed. The construction of the building was finalized in 1962 and front façade was overlooking the Teşvikiye Street and the rear façade was overlooking the Akkavak Street and there was a great courtyard in the middle. In 1969 two floors were added to the front façade.

On March 17, 1934 the Şişli Terakki School was handed over to the limited company with the same name. This was a formal handover because the partners of the company had signed a written contract stating that they would never ask for a dividend that suited the soul and principles of Terakki.

In 1963 the company was transformed into a “facility” which was the legal term for “foundation”, ie. the structure that it had when it was first established. In 1967 the law numbered 903 enabled establishing a “foundation” and Terakki Facilities were turned into a Terakki Foundation and the school was started being managed by this foundation. The founding members of the foundation were Abdurrahman Malta, Ahmet Elberger, Akif Akev, Fahri Refiğ, İbrahim Telci, Necdet Üçer, Nuri Türen, Osman Üçer, Reşat Atabek, Yusuf Kapancı, Ata Refiğ, Rifat Edin, Fikret Güvenç, Mehmet İnal, Memduh Paker, Nazmi Eren, Vedat Uras, Ecvet Gürses, and Neş’e Deriş.

The first step towards the campus in Levent with the current modern facilities was taken in 1966 as the 25.800 m2 land was purchased. In 1973 the construction of the building of the primary school in Levent was initiated and the first section of the building was opened in 1975 and the second section was completed in 1983. The foundations of the Levent campus including all units of the Terakki Foundation Schools were laid on July 14, 1991.

The principle behind establishing the educational facilities in Levent was to integrate the applied education and social, cultural, and sports education in order to raise the human power required by a country that was transforming into an information community and getting industrialized. Therefore, students whose number is getting higher and higher each day are provided with all kinds of modern facilities and opportunities including specially designed classrooms, labs, libraries, conference rooms, lunch halls, cafeterias, information technology center, culture centers, art gallery, and sports halls designed with advanced technology.

Terakki Foundation Schools has been serving as a preschool, primary school, and high school with modern facilities in Levent, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Istanbul since 1994-1995 academic year. From 2014-2015 academic year and on the new campus in Tuzla/Tepeören will start serving as a school in preschool, primary, middle, and high school levels

Another important aspect of the Terakki Foundation Schools is that it has never been a profit seeking institution since its foundation. The founding principle “Terakki School exists for and exists on benevolence” progressed in line with its founding purposes and turned into an education vision highlighting the motto “Being a Terakki student means getting prepared for life in its full sense”.

The history and development of the Terakki Foundation Schools is the strongest evidence of the fact that the Terakki Foundation Schools is a great school with a long-standing past in the Turkish national education.

*Terakki means progress in Ottoman Turkish.