Discovering Dalyan - The School of Tourism in the Community


Dalyan is a small town in the Muğla Province of Turkey that is almost solely dependent on the tourism industry to survive. The town began as a rich agricultural area which over the years has found success with cultivating, growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables which prosper in the area’s warm and sunny climate. Wherever you go around the Dalyan area, your eyes are fixed on a feast of oranges, lemons, olives and in particular pomegranates. But with modern technology allowing farmers all over the world to grow produce at a low cost, with easy and cheap ways of transporting goods, profit from agriculture in Dalyan is dwindling. This leaves tourism as the town’s key to survival.


Inside Dalyan's School of Tourism


In today’s political and war inflicted climate, recent events in Syria and Turkey have led people to believe that Turkey is not safe to visit. Dalyan’s returning visitors may well keep the town’s head above water, but this year particularly, there has been a distinct absence of new visitors and other areas of Turkey are said to be suffering even more. When a town like Dalyan is so dependent on tourism, it is a scary thought that terrorism and media reports could kill one of the most beautiful and friendly places in the world.


The Unspoiled Iztuzu Beach, Drawing Tourists to the Area


The School of Tourism in Dalyan is just one example of how important tourism is to the area. The tourism industry is a lifeline for most of the residents of the town, so much so that children are trained in various facets of tourism from the age of 14. Tourism is a curriculum, much like we would learn history or languages at home. The school is a prime example of how tourism is integrated into society and life in Dalyan. As a technical school, children go there to learn their trade, as locally, tourism is their future. They may decide to specialise in cooking, bar work or even front of house duties. Whatever jobs the tourism industry has to offer, the children can build themselves a future at the School of Tourism.


Students of the School of Tourism


But it is not just the children of Dalyan who benefit from the school’s work. The school is instrumental in the community, providing free food to children from Dalyan to as far as Dalaman and supporting local Syrian refugees. The school is also one of the leading forces in Turkey for the country’s EU integration programme, sending children from all over Turkey into Europe to learn about new cultures and how tourism works in other countries. The work that I was fortunate enough to see in action at the school was humbling, but it also reinforced for me, the fact that tourism is everything to Dalyan.


The Turkish High School System


Education was of great importance to Atatürk when he decided to reform Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence. He created a state supervised system designed to produce a skilful professional class for the social and economic institutes of the nation. Education is compulsory for 12 years and all education is financed by the state; public education is free. This was not always the case though, in fact it wasn’t until March 2012 that education in Turkey became compulsory for 12 years. Until 1997, children in Turkey were only obliged to take five years of education, in 1997 that was increased to eight years and in 2012, twelve years.

Students are Examined on Their Cooking Skills


Secondary education includes all of the general, vocational and technical education institutions that provide at least three years of education after primary school. Though the system for being accepted to a high school changes nearly every year, currently children are required to take an exam called a “Teog” at the end of year 8, which consists of two tests, the results of which are highlighted alongside their school record. The results of the “Teog” determines which school they go to. Vocational and technical secondary education involves the institutions that both raise students as manpower in business and other professional areas. There are schools in technical education, trade and tourism, religious education, multi-programme schools, special education, private education and health education.


The high school in Dalyan is a technical school, one of 35,000 in the country. The school specialises in tourism as that is the main industry of the area. There are 135 tourism schools in Turkey and Dalyan’s is one of the most highly regarded across the country. The whole province of Muğla is dependent on tourism and so there are now seven schools of tourism in the area. While Dalyan may be the best, schooling in tourism is also offered in Fethiye, Köyceğiz, Bodrum, Marmaris, Datça and the city of Muğla. Technical schools in Turkey differ according to the main trades of the area. Tourism is obviously the most important trade in the south of the country, but schooling in carpentry or carpet weaving would be offered in the north and farming in the south east as an example.


Teaching Staff at the School of Tourism


No matter the type of school, education is free and hugely supported by the government. In fact, education is so important to Turkey that local governments and municipalities provide funding to schools in their area to cover all costs of education, including transport to and from school and any books required by the students. Atatürk believed that the children of Turkey held the key for the country’s future and once said that “Teachers are the one and only people who save nations.”. This could not be more true in Dalyan.


Dalyan’s School of Tourism


The School of Tourism in Dalyan is one of the best in Turkey and just by walking through the front gates to the school you feel a sense of togetherness, education and happiness. The school is beautifully kept, with recreational grounds and a sterile environment inside. During school hours, the atmosphere is busy and full of life and enthusiasm. It was clearly a feeling that is inspired by the wonderful staff at the school and their principal, İlhan Küçükünal, who was proud to speak about his school and his students.


School Principal İlhan Küçükünal


The school currently has 220 students and the number per year varies, but this year 30 students will graduate. The school is so sought after by those wanting a future career in tourism that they ask for a “Teog” score of 81/100 or higher. The school has the capacity to accept 120 students a year, but tend to keep the numbers down so that they accept only the very best students. This means that the children get more individual attention, in smaller classes, with more student teacher interaction.


Students in Cooking Classes


Dalyan’s School of Tourism is 100% government funded and runs four year groups accepts students from the age of 14 to 18. School officially starts at 8.15am and ends at 3.30pm, but there are also optional after school classes that run until 6.20pm. The first year of school has a standard curriculum which is consistent across all high schools in Turkey. Only in the second year do the students get a subject choice at all, but they are required to complete twelve hours of hospitality classes a week. In the third and fourth years, students finally get to choose their speciality. The most popular subject choices are service, cooking and front of house.


Students Take an Exam


Half of the school’s graduates go straight to work after they finish school, some staying in Dalyan, others go as far as Dalaman, Fethiye, Marmaris, Sarıgerme or even Bodrum to continue their careers. The other half of graduates go on to university for further study in either the nearby town of Ortaca or the prestigious Muğla University. This year’s graduating star student is Mehmet Çorapli, who is already working part time at Dalyan’s infamous China Town restaurant. I can firmly attest that he makes the best künefe that I have ever tasted! He will be working full time at China Town, specialising in Asian cuisine.


Star Student Mehmet Çorapli


Turkey’s EU Integration Programme


On the 14th of April 1987, Turkey applied to accede to the European Economic Community, what we now know as the European Union. Turkey has been an associate member since 1963 and after the ten founding members, was one of the first countries to become a member of the Council of Europe in 1949. Turkey was officially recognised as a candidate for full membership on the 12th of December 1999, at the Helsinki summit of the European Council. Negotiations began on the 3rd of October 2005 and were reassessed in March 2016, but the membership bid has become a major controversy in the ongoing enlargement of the European Union.


It is a difficult situation and the process is complicated, but there are a number of chapters that Turkey must complete successfully to be able to join the EU. Some are open, a few are closed and various members of the EU have blocked the opening of some, but Turkey continues the fight to join Europe. One of the chapters that Turkey is currently working on is “Education and Culture” and this is where Dalyan’s School of Tourism comes in. Dalyan is the country’s leading school for this chapter of the integration program and the school principal, İlhan Küçükünal, is not only an ambassador for the project but leads the way in organising events.


Turkey's Bid to Join the EU


The project began in 2014 when Mr Küçükünal took 80 Turkish students from tourism schools across Turkey to Sweden for a course on “Modernising Service Management”. It was the first project of its kind which connected Turkish students with young adults from Sweden, giving them all a chance to learn about each other’s cultures while having hands on experience and education in the tourism industry. They spent 21 days in Sweden and during that time, the students worked together to run a hotel. In 2015, a similar project was carried out in Portugal for 14 days where the students were given the opportunity to work in chocolate and cake restaurants, while having time to explore sites and learn about European culture.


Each year this programme gets bigger and bigger and it is an initiative that the school principal is passionate about continuing. There are big plans for the project in 2017 which is currently in the early stages of being organised. Next year, 120 EU students will be involved and it will take students from Turkey to Germany, Holland, Sweden, Portugal and Italy. The programme aims not only to teach Turkish tourism students about how their industry works in the EU, but also to broaden their minds and introduce them to different cultures. Not only will this aid Turkey’s wish to join the European Union, but it will open the minds of a new generation.


Helping the Syrian Refugees


There are currently 3.5 million officially registered Syrian refugees in Turkey today. Of those, only 750,000 have been integrated into the system so far. This means that only a fifth of the Syrian refugees in Turkey have proper homes, social security numbers, jobs and children in schools. When the refugees arrive in Turkey and are registered, children are required to learn to speak and write in Turkish before they are sent to school. As a result though, these refugees are entitled to all of the national perks that the Turkish citizens get. At present, there are 600 Syrian refugees in Ortaca, the town next to Dalyan, and so far 42 children have been put into the school system.


Bread for the Local Children and Refugees


Syrian refugees in this area do not have to pay for food. Dalyan’s School of Tourism provides food for the refugees.


The School Lunch Programme


One of the best programmes run by the Dalyan School of Tourism, funded by the government, is the school lunch programme. School expenses are covered by the national and local governments, which includes the cost of books and transport which is provided for free to students who live in the small villages around Dalyan or live too far away to walk.


Lunches Provided by the School of Tourism


Another expense covered is the cost of school lunches, which are provided around the region by the School of Tourism in Dalyan.


The purpose of the school lunch programme is firstly to teach and secondly to feed.


The Programme's Kitchen Team


The programme is run by the Food and Beverage Department Manager, Taytın Kesgin and the school employs six professional workers from the local tourism industry to work in the kitchens and deliver the food.


Food and Beverage Department Manager, Taytın Kesgin

Rifat Bakan is the Chief Production Manager or head chef.


Head Chef Rifat Bakan


Under him there are three more chefs, Coskun Öksüz, Kazim Yilmaz and Sinan Derali.


Professional Kitchen Staff


Once the food is cooked and packaged, the containers of food are delivered by driver Sabri Kocaöz and his assistant, Mehmet Ali Kaplan.


Delivery Staff Members Work Alongside the Kitchen Staff


As it is always important that the school is educating as well as providing, a team of five students rotate to work in the kitchen and are paid 35TL a day as an educational support payment. Four million Turkish lira a year is donated to the school lunch programme in Dalyan by the government and the initiative is non-profit.


Educational Support Students


The programme is supported by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Economy and the Treasury. At the beginning of each year, the school creates menus for the entire school year which are then passed on to the government for approval. They make sure that the meals are balanced, nutritious and contain the correct number of calories. The calorie count of each meal is different depending on which year group the food is being prepared for.


A Calorie Counted Diet for Children


A standard meal would be chickpeas with meat, bulgur, salad and rice, or chicken sauté with yoghurt, but every meal will include meat. Samples of the food are kept for a few days in a fridge in the kitchen should the government want to test the food for any reason and daily, weekly and monthly reports are done to ensure that the food supplied remains healthy and beneficial to the children.


Food Samples


Preparations begin at 5am when the chefs arrive to do their day’s work and the students on rotation arrive at around 7am. The food is prepared in large vats.


Food is Prepared in Large Vats


Once they are cooked, they are separated into cling film wrapped metal containers which are then placed into large plastic transportation boxes.


Food is Separated into Separate Containers


Transportation Boxes


These are then loaded onto the van for delivery.


Food is Delivered to Local Schools


Two thousand meals are created each day to feed 1800 children. Primarily, the food is provided to children whose schools are too far from their homes where they could be fed by their parents. However, the kitchen prepares 20% extra food each day and as a result, most of the children at the schools delivered to are fed for free.


Local Children Are Fed For Free


The school delivers to 26 schools, primary and secondary, locally in Dalyan but in Ortaca too and even as far as Dalaman. One thing that the school kitchens prize themselves on is that there is no wastage. If the extra food is not eaten by local school children, left overs are donated to local animal shelters.


Students on Rotation in the Kitchen

Lunch is Served at Dalyan's Primary School


So, it is not just tourists who benefit from the efforts of the tourism industry in Dalyan, tourism here really is a community effort. The young children of Dalyan and the town’s surrounding areas are fed by the students and local tourism workers.


Local Children Benefit from the Tourism Industry


The refugees are also well looked after and even the street cats and dogs get fed. But more importantly than that, it teaches the generation of the future the most important trade in the area. Tourism is such an important industry in Dalyan that even education is provided to train young adults to work successfully in the industry. The chefs, waiters, hotel staff, tour guides and even groundsmen learn their trade from a young age. Education here is geared towards the one industry that earns local families a living. Turkey is home to some of the best hospitality in the world and now it is easy to see why. In England or America, a job as a bar tender or waitress is often seen as a side job or a way to pay university fees. In Turkey, it is a trade, it is a career, it is a way of life. Tourism is a trade that they desperately need to keep alive.


Read our other Dalyan Exposé articles here!


The Dalyan exposé has begun! The project will run until the 23rd of May and will include a lot of exciting articles and videos on our YouTube channel with interesting interviews with business owners and those who work in tourism in Turkey. We'll also be tackling safety issues and what terrorism means for Turkey and the beautiful riverside town of Dalyan.See our Exposé Page HereFollow us:

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