By Bilal Zouheir
By Bilal Zouheir
Morocco World News
Rouen, France, July 7, 2012
How the “Classes Preparatoires” are destroying our youth’s potential and slowing our country’s development.
After a very long delay due to professors’ strike and refusal to correct the papers, the National Joint Competitive Exam (known as the CNC) results are supposed to be posted online today. And just like how every year ends for CPGE (Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles) students will be split into three categories based on their rankings: a large category will face an uncertain future, others will be somewhat relieved because they’re not in the first group, and as for those who scored the best marks, they will leave the country.
It starts in middle school where every student in this country is presented with two options. The first is choosing Sciences Mathématiques in high school, and then aspiring to be accepted in scientific “Classes Préparatoires.” The second is basically, everything else. Parents, friends, scholars and recruiters automatically perceive those who choose the first option as students of higher intellect and better potential and the others as the unfortunate crumb of the system.
With more than 5000 students taking the exam each year only about 3000 pass it. That is approximately 2000 top-notch brains facing an uncertain future and an undeserved failure experience. The system’s failures do not end here.
Emptying the country of its best minds
Students who excel within a system which regroups the best minds nationwide can only be described as the best of the best, our nation’s pride and hallmark. Naturally, we should find among them our future leaders, scientists and thinkers. However, these students do not consider staying in the country which has financed their expensive studies for so long. And they are not to blame, since there isn’t a single Engineering school, or job opportunities in Morocco worthy of even their attention.
The MEN (Ministry of National Education) is aware of this issue and focuses on helping these students. However, it does not build more institutions to broaden their perspectives, nor does it try to seduce them to stay in any other way. Instead, it has the most illogical policy of giving the students who choose to leave scholarships of more than 5,0000dh/year ($ 7,000) and even paying for their plane tickets. I would hate to be general of an educational system as foolishly accentuate brain drain as the MEN has been doing about these students.
The best trick that MEN officials could think of to make students receiving these scholarships return to work in Morocco was to make them sign a contract prior to leaving the country. But with the salaries offered to a Polytechnic or HEC graduate in France being up to five times as much as what they can find in Morocco, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that students do not honor that contract and have come up with ways to stay away from its unclear (and potentially non-existent) sanctions.
A lousy imitation
I seriously doubt that back in the 80’s, when this system was introduced, that any form of serious study on what the best system could be was made. Instead, the usual “let’s just do what France is doing” magic formula was followed and inevitably led us as always to a dysfunctional structure.
But how could anyone think that such an imitation would be successful? In France, CPGE are one way to prestigious undergraduate studies, not the only way. In France too, students with high grades are presented with many other choices: world-class universities, research institutions (such as SciencePo and the Ecole Normale Supérieure), etc. It may have something to do with France needing highly qualified lawyers, judges, politicians, businessmen and scientists other than just engineers.
“Prepa killed me”
That is how Fatma El-Behbeti, a student at CPGE Ibn Ghazi in Rabat, describes the impact that this educational system has had on her. Just like Fatma, most students find it nearly impossible to put up with the tremendous workload and extreme strains on time and effort. “Before “prepa” we used to be happy and full of life and hope. Now we’re full of stress and fear and doubts. It seems like all our life hangs on that single result, like there’s no more life outside of that system. It sucks you and spits you out and leaves you hopeless and afraid of everything in life,“ she said. “It has taken every bit of humanity in me, and stripped me of my will to live and put down the sparkle of my youth. It’s a system that takes you away from the life you’re supposed to have at 18. You know nothing about the world that surrounds you; you don’t see your family anymore, or go out either, “she continued.
Many of those who will find out this afternoon that they haven’t passed the CNC will have spent two years of “hell” and gotten out without a diploma and with an expired high school certificate. In France, to solve this problem, students are given 120 ECTS credits by the end of the CPGE. They can, thus, pursue their studies in university or elsewhere. To this day, Moroccan authorities do not deliver any form of recognition whatsoever and Moroccan students’ studies are literally worthless if they do not pass the CNC, or if they want to study outside Morocco and France, the only two countries in the world where the CPGE system exists.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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