The history of higher education in Morocco goes back to the 9th century when Al-Qarawiyyin University was founded in 859.
By Rajae Khaloufi
Rabat – Later on, Benyoussef University was created. Education in these universities was mainly religious, though many sciences were taught there, namely math, medicine, law, literature, etc. In the 20th century, a new modern kind of universities emerged. The first Moroccan modern university (Mohammed V University) was founded in 1957.
As Morocco was under the yoke of the protectorate system, the modern Moroccan University system was a mere reproduction of the French one. Following the same model, more universities were founded after the independence and the number of students and university teachers increased gradually to reach 3300 students and 150 teachers in 1960; 74000 students and 2171 teachers in 1980; 198000 students and 6187 teachers in 1990, not to mention the various public and private institutes in the fields of economics, trade, management and technology. The apparent aim of the government behind establishing and encouraging the creation of such institutions was to meet the increasing demand for technicians and managers.
As the economic and social scene in Morocco became more and more deteriorating, due to the huge number of graduates in useless specialties or the firms’ refusal to recruit inexperienced youth regardless of their degrees and the ensuing unemployment issue, the need for an educational reform became urgent, a process that started in 2000.
The main features of this reform process are the LMD system (Licence: BA- Master- Doctorate) and the emergency plan. The latter aims at increasing the capacity of universities, implementing a program of rehabilitation and maintenance of the equipment and infrastructure in all Moroccan universities, providing educational streams which are more adequate to the demanding and suffering economy of the country, increasing the number of graduates and limiting the number of dropouts, encouraging excellence, fostering scientific research and improving the social services targeting students.
These were the main objectives of the so-called emergency plan whose weaknesses were acknowledged by the national education minister himself. In fact, this acknowledgment has come far too late, because many teachers and even students foresaw this failure through comments and discussions posted on forums and Facebook pages shortly after the launch of the emergency plan. This exemplifies the broken communication between education authorities on one hand, and students and education practitioners on the other hand.
If put into practice, such communication would have relieved a lot of suffering inflicted upon the field of education in our country. Such suffering could be noticed in the very details of the daily miserly life in Moroccan schools and universities. A short visit to any Moroccan public school or university shows clearly the failure of the emergency plan, and the reform process as a whole. In many universities throughout the kingdom, students cannot find a chair to sit in while attending their lectures, let alone use and manipulate sophisticated didactic tools. The LMD system that aimed at improving the level of education and accommodating the educational content to the social and economic needs had reverse effects on new graduates.
With the advent of this new system, students spend the academic year bouncing from an exam to another. They, thus, care little about understanding fully the subjects they are taking. At the end of this infernal circle, they find themselves in their third and final year (the BA year). Exhausted and empty headed, they find the new technology “copy and paste” a best help in their final projects. This gloomy picture of the LMD system makes many teachers, observers and students themselves long for the old fashioned four-year system and criticize bitterly the so-called “new system”.
One of the few fruits of the reform is the increasing number of graduates and the decreasing number of dropouts. Thanks to the periodic primary school-like exams, university students’ grades have become inflated. Thus, most students manage to graduate regardless of their real achievements, unlike their predecessors in the “old system”. This good aspect, however, is fulfilled at the expense of many other aspects, namely a good and a serious formation coupled with appropriateness with the requirements of the labor market.
Moreover, the inflated grades do not necessarily reflect any excellence as teachers either at the school level or at university level tend to applaud any minor achievement their students could attain through giving them exaggeratedly high grades. The main cause behind this is the deteriorating academic level of students, a phenomenon that has complicated educational and social roots that should be tackled in an independent subject. This makes of any modest essay (for example) a great achievement in the eyes of teachers.
Yet, has excellence really disappeared from the Moroccan educational scene? Definitely not: many Moroccan students do attain well-deserved honorable academic results. Unfortunately, this does not help them access good universities, and thus, get good jobs. Again, the reason behind this is fake grades inflation. This causes good advanced schools and universities to accept only a very limited number of students. And when corruption interferes with access to such schools, matters become more and more complicated.
Excellent students and even inventors suffer from marginalization in Morocco: Anouar Abad, the baccalaureate student who was ranked first at the national level in the bac results this year (2012), is a true example of marginalization. He received only a few gifts instead of an exceptional good scholarship that would boost his academic perseverance, and thus ensure him a better future, knowing that Anouar is the son of a large modest family. Perhaps, this is the reason why he was not given all the care he deserves!
Thus, two thorny paths are before our genius students: leaving their motherland and constructing a new life in a country that values such human jewels, or paying high fees at a good private school that would surely know how to refine these youth’s skills. However, even those who have the opportunity to access an advanced institute, are not excluded from a gloomy insecure future in Morocco.
After sweet promises and years of hard studies, private institutes’ graduates see their dreams collapse as they hit the iceberg called “equivalence” with national diplomas. The latter is impossible in our country regardless of the academic value of any private diploma, especially after the abrupt and severe decision of the new higher education minister Mr. Daoudi not to consider any equivalence application if the applicant is a holder of “a paid diploma” as he calls private diplomas, even if the diploma is awarded by a national Moroccan university under the supervision of official teachers and administrators at the same university. But this is another issue that worries hundreds of Moroccan students and families and that deserves another new article.