The Tanzimat or Reform Period of 1839-1876 marks the beginning of westernization in Turkey. One of the important innovations of these years was the establishment of vocational schools for girls who had graduated from primary or junior high schools, the first being the Dârülmuallimât or Teacher Training College for Girls which opened in 1870, followed shortly afterwards by the Girls College of Art. Another important turning point was the Regulations for Public Education of 1869, which made primary education compulsory for boys and girls.

To train women teachers for girls' schools, Minister of Education Saffet Pasa established a teacher training college, and an entrance examination was held on 8 February 1870. Thirty-two girls won places at the new school, whose curriculum was to consist of religion and morality, grammar, arithmetic, domestic science, embroidery, drawing, calligraphy, Ottoman history and geography. Music lessons would be introduced at a later date. The school's first headmaster was an elderly intellectual named Emin Efendi, and the teaching staff, consisting of both men and women, included Musa Efendi (religion and morality), Haci Râsid Efendi (calligraphy), Ismail Efendi (history and geography), Zalker Efendi and Madame Palker (art), Hatice Hanim, Madame Eliza Maynok and Madame Arnik (embroidery).

A large house in the neighbourhood of Yerebatan in Istanbul was rented to house Istanbul Teacher Training College for Girls, which was opened by Saffet Pasa on 26 April 1870. At the opening ceremony he delivered a long speech about the respect and esteem owed to girls and women, the importance of their education and training, and the adverse consequences resulting from the neglect of female education in eastern countries. The opening of this school was an important landmark for the education of women in Turkey. Initially, the course lasted one year, and in 1871 Turkey's first 17 women teachers graduated and were appointed to teaching posts at girls' schools in Istanbul. They were the pioneers of Turkish female teachers, who today number hundreds of thousands.

Subsequently the degree length was extended, first to two years and then to three, and the subjects taught increased with the addition of Turkish reading, teaching methods and music. Teaching methods were taught by Ayse Sidika Hanim and music by Refika Hanim. Gradually the number of pupils also increased, and the college divided into two sections for primary teachers and junior high schools teachers respectively. Although the male teachers appointed to the college were all elderly, they were not permitted to converse with the female teachers or pupils, and were escorted from their studies to the classrooms. Even during lessons, male teachers were not permitted to come eye to eye with their pupils. At a time when it was regarded as improper for a woman to reveal her face to any man other than close relatives, this was not seen as strange. Despite any cultural idiosyncrasies, young girls dreamt of admission into the school, a place where they could propel their futures and, someday, careers.

In 1895 the college moved to Mahrukîzade House in Koska, and in 1903 Arabic, Persian, composition, health, housekeeping and handwork lessons were added to the curriculum. By 1911 the college had trained 737 teachers, and now began to accept boarders from the provinces. In 1912 the college moved to Dervis Pasa House in Çapa, but this burned down shortly afterwards, and for two years the college was housed in temporary premises until moving to a magnificent new building of its own in Çapa. The façade and some parts of the interior were decorated with Kütahya tiles and ornamental plasterwork, and over the door the inscription read Dârülmuallimât-i Aliye (Higher Teacher Training College for Girls).

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