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Syrian refugee student lauded for exam success

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After arriving in Turkey as a refugee from Syria, Muhammad Khalil has come a long way in terms of adapting to his new home. The young boy is all the talk in Kilis, a border city with Syria teeming with refugees after he enjoyed surprising success in the nationwide high school entrance exam known as the LGS. Overcoming the challenge of a foreign language and a different curriculum, Khalil managed to correctly answer all the questions in the June 1 LGS exam, whose results were announced on Monday, broadening his chances for admission to top-notch schools.

The son of an architect who now works as a furniture workshop worker, Khalil says he owes his success to his Turkish teachers who have guided him since he started studying for the exam in the sixth grade. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Khalil said they first settled in Gaziantep, another border city, but his family took him to Kilis later after hearing about the superior education opportunities there. Once in Kilis, the boy enrolled in a fourth-grade class at a temporary education center run by the Promoting Integration of Syrian Children into the Turkish Education System (PICTES). Meeting his teacher Mehmet Avcu in the sixth grade helped him a great deal, Khalil said. “He did so much for me and would sometimes even visit our house so he can give me private lectures,” he added.

Khalil says he started out “badly” and could only garner low points in tests ahead of the exam. “Gradually, I picked more difficult tests and saw I could do them. I had the highest score in my class in a test and this motivated me,” he says. His father Abdulkader said Muhammad studied hard for the exam and “it paid off.” “We couldn’t give him anything but prayers for his success,” he added.

Mehmet Avcu is proud of Muhammad’s success. “In tests to measure children’s success before the LGS, I saw he stood out. I thank God for coming across such an accomplished student. This is mostly the result of his hard work. Me and other teachers only tried to guide him,” he said.

Cumali Çelik, the principal, gifted a bicycle to the boy for his outstanding success.

In its efforts to educate Syrian refugees, Turkey stands well ahead in the schooling rate of refugee children of grade school age at 96.3 percent, far higher than the world average of 61 percent. Access to education for refugee children among more than 3.5 million refugees from that country is now higher than the average schooling rate of refugee children in other countries. Turkey hosts more than 520,000 refugee children in public schools. They are taught a Turkish curriculum. A sizable number of refugee children also attend “temporary education centers” that serve as schools for refugee children only. The number of temporary education centers recently dropped to 215 from 280 as Turkey pursues a drive to enroll more refugee children in public schools rather than understaffed education centers that are temporary, as their names imply.