By Adil Youssef Sayeh
By Adil Youssef Sayeh
EL JADIDA, Morocco – Reflections on the King’s Speech to the Nation on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of Revolution of King and People
Since the independence, using Arabic in teaching has become a priority in Education. The substitution of Arabic for foreign languages in education and making the former widely used in all aspects of communication and everyday life have become the main concerns of language planners as well as policy makers and governments. The aim is to make Arabic a national official language that fulfills all the political, economic, linguistic and cultural functions of the country.
In Morocco, language planning takes up a political dimension. Language planning is more concerned with the replacement of French language with Arabic language and aims at making the latter assume all the functions of the former. The primary task of the Moroccan government was to reorganize the system of education around four goals: Arabization, Universalization, Moroccanization and Unification of the system of education. The four goals were to be achieved by eliminating the dualism produced by the co-existence of two systems of education. Hence, the period between 1956 and 1980 witnessed several changes in language policy, which were mainly caused by the change of the ministers of education. After this period the Laraki plan was implemented and the first fully Arabized group was in the early 1990s.
Still, this process faced several problems during its implementation, especially in terms of methodology as well as some socio-political and socio-cultural implications. The process was taken in isolation from the socioeconomic realities of Moroccan society. Plans were constantly changed and abandoned before their implementation, and were disturbed by frequent changes of government and ministers.
The King Mohammed VI in his last speech of August 20th points to the discontinuity of plans stressing that the core of development is by capitalising on the positive experience of previews governments. He stresses that:
It hardly makes sense for each government to come with a new plan every five years, and disregard previous programmes, particularly as no government will ever have the time, during a single mandate, to fully implement its project. (Speech of His Majesty the King to Nation on Occasion of 60th Anniversary of Revolution of King and People)
Arabization stopped at the level of high school. Universities, higher institutes of technology and other related schools still use French as a medium of instruction. The use of the national language in higher education is limited to teaching human and social sciences, with the exception of economic and management studies. And the first to oppose Arabization of higher education is the Ministry of Higher Education.
… It was a clear decision taken in a meeting, whose date is known, held at the faculty of medicine in which teachers, deans and presidents of universities were present. The meeting was in January 88/89 and it was a “decisive” on. It was the first time that some voiced out that Arabization is impossible and that French should be kept in higher education. (Ben Yekhlef, 1996:35)
Another factor hindering the use of Arabic in higher education is the nature of the material used in teaching. Students no longer deal with textbooks designed by professionals, but rather use publications of authors and professionals in specialized fields, most of which are in English. Al Jabri (1996) claims that higher education needs English in science and other subjects. Also, a study conducted by Hajjaj-Hassouni & Gharbi reveals that books and publications in Medicine are in French or English and that Arabic language is very rigid to translate scientific terms and this constitutes a hindrance to Arabizing higher education (Hajjaj-Hassouni & Gharbi, 2008:75). Hence the major problem of undertaking higher education in science and medicine in Arabic is the lack of scientific material and references in Arabic. Consequently, Arabizing higher education would have negative effects on scientific research.
Nowadays, the language of science is English. Still, in Morocco French is widely used as language of science. The still Frenchified environment affects education because the majority of professions perform in French. The still Frenchified job market constitutes a major hindrance to Arabizing higher education in addition to knowledge production in Arabic. Hajjaj-Hassouni & Gharbi (2008) claim that in terms of scientific production the United States occupy the first place, whereas Arab countries are far behind not just North American and European countries but even behind some Latin American and Asian ones, and some African ones such as South Africa. It is almost impossible to Arabize science if non is produced in Arabic (Al Jabri, 1996).
So, to keep up with the rapid scientific development, mastering a foreign language becomes a necessity. And today’s language of science and technology is English. The problem today is not to Arabize higher education or to maintain French as the medium of instruction, but to keep up to date with the scientific and technological development, most of which is produced in English.
In his speech of 60th Anniversary of Revolution of King and People, the king mentions the importance of learning and mastering foreign languages to compete with foreigners in vocational jobs and technical and manual jobs which appeal to many foreigners who come to work in this promising sector. He stresses:
Moroccans should, therefore, be encouraged to learn and master foreign languages, in addition to the official languages specified in the Constitution. They would thus expand their knowledge base, refine their skills and gain the competence needed to be able to work in Morocco’s new professions and areas of employment, in which there is a significant shortage of skilled workers, as is the case in the car industry, in call centers, in the aeronautic industry and in other areas. (Speech of His Majesty the King to Nation on Occasion of 60th Anniversary of Revolution of King and People)
Currently, the job market is still Frenchified in Morocco and it necessitates a good mastery of foreign languages, notably French and English. Arabic is totally absent in international commerce, and in marketing and advertisement industry, and is not used in leisure and sport industry, and in scientific and technological innovations. It faces a great challenge with the expansion of English in all sectors of everyday life. More than that, graduates who master other languages possess a better ability of communication, an asset which enables them to find jobs in a large range of sectors that use these languages more than Arabized ones who find themselves faced with a problem that reduces their chances of getting a job. In his speech, the king mentions the importance of unifying the medium of instruction in basic and higher education. He points:
The education sector is facing many difficulties and problems. They are mostly due to the adoption of some syllabi and curricula that do not tally with the requirements of the job market. Another reason has to do with the disruptions caused by changing the language of instruction from Arabic, at the primary and secondary levels, to some foreign languages, for the teaching of scientific and technical subjects in higher education. Accordingly, students must be provided with the necessary linguistic skills so that they may fully benefit from training courses. (ibid)
A research done by Sayeh (2013) shows that the change of the medium if instruction plays a role in students’ failure at the university and there are other factors that play an important role in their performance in higher education. He stresses that one of these factors is the way French is taught in basic education. In Morocco, teaching is more inductive rather than deductive or hypothetical. Up to middle school, the focus in teaching French is on grammar. In high school, students are taught narratives, based on novel and short-story analyses in terms of plot and character analyses, whereas students of science mostly need to study science related texts and to be acquainted with other genres of text, such as descriptive and analytical ones which they are more likely to encounter during their higher education studies.
The research also shows that more than 58.33% of the respondents haven not been admitted to high institutes of limited access is because of the exams are in French, and only about 33% claim that the difficulty of the questions or the unfamiliarity with the subjects being examined at are behind their failure. As for the difficulties respondents face at the university, the majority relate them to the use of French in teaching, the way teaching is carried out at the university and the lack of scientific training in high school. All combined, we notice that the problem does not only lie in the change of the medium of instruction but is also due to the lack of training and preparing students to higher studies by providing them with the necessary skills that enables them enrol high institutes and universities without difficulties.
Both French and English are taught in basic education as foreign languages. The number of hours allocated to each is rather low. French is allocated four hours per week and the focus is much on literary studies rather than text analysis and grammar. The nature of the texts students study at these levels of education and the way they have been taught make of them unable to cope with the material they receive in higher education because they lack training in the skills in French needed in higher education. This suggests that even students who are competent in French may face problems at the university since the way French is taught in high school does not prepare these students to deal with highly advanced material in this language.
There are other factors that contribute to the low achievements of students at the university and the use of Arabic as a medium of instruction in essential education cannot be held responsible for students’ failure or success alone. The way teaching is carried out at the university is different from the way it is carried out in high school. The transition alone without the change of the medium of instruction is difficult. Students lack the adequate training to take up their studies in higher education. They need time and some personal efforts to adapt themselves to the new situation.
To level the quality of education in Morocco, careful consideration should be allocated to redesigning syllabi and curricula in a way that tally with the job market taking into account skills development in both foreign languages in a way that enables students to fluently make the transition from basic to higher education without further complications and thus be prepare to the job market.
Sayeh, A. Y. 2013. The Impact of Arabization on the Educational System in Morocco: The Case of Higher Education Science Students and their Achievements at the University Level. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing
Bentahila, A. 1983. Language attitudes among Arabic-French bilinguals in Morocco. Multilingual Matters
El Biad, M. 1985. A Sociolinguistic Study of The Arabization Process and Its Conditioning Factors in Morocco. Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Grandguillaume, Gilbert. 1983. Arabisation et politique linguistique au Maghreb. Islam d’Hier et D’Aujoud’hui, Editions G.-P. Maisonneuve et Larose. Paris.
Hajjaj-Hassouni, Najia & Gharbi, Mohamed El Hassan. 2008. “Réflexions Sur renseignement de la médecine en arabe au Maroc.” (ed) Conseil Supérieur de l’Enseignement. Al-Madrassa Al-Maghribiya. Casablanca: Libreairie des Ecoles. pp:67-90
Hammoud, N.S. 1982. Arabicization in Morocco: A Case Study in Language Planning and Language Policy Attitudes. Unpublished Ph. D dissertation, University of Texas
(See El Biad (1985
See Hammoud (1982), Granguieum, (1983), Bentahila, (1983) and El Biad (1985)
See Sayeh (2013:11)
Speech of His Majesty the King to Nation on Occasion of 60th Anniversary of Revolution of King and People
See Hajjaj-Hassouni & Gharbi (2008)
Adil Youssef Sayeh IS An EFL teacher since 2006 at the Ministery of Education. A Master holder in Linguistics and Literary Studies, Hassane II University, Faculty of Letters & Human Sciences Ain Chock in 2012.