Casablanca - Any teacher would be astonished to hear one of the latest statements made by the Minister of National Education, Mr. Belmokhtar, in which he expresses his intention to realize a very promising project that may snatch our education system from the jaws of failure. His idea is to provide an electronic tablet for every pupil all over Morocco.
Casablanca – Any teacher would be astonished to hear one of the latest statements made by the Minister of National Education, Mr. Belmokhtar, in which he expresses his intention to realize a very promising project that may snatch our education system from the jaws of failure. His idea is to provide an electronic tablet for every pupil all over Morocco.
Without questioning the utility of tablets in revamping our education system, this unrealistic dream surpasses our very modest and humble expectations to eradicate the educational issues in our country. I describe this as dream simply because we all know that our schools are still struggling to overcome even the most fundamental financial problems. Moreover, this unrealistic project undermines the Ministry’s attempts to reduce expenses in education as a response to instructions from the World Bank, which perceives free education in Morocco as squandering of financial resources in an unproductive sector.
Before Mr. Belmokhtar, the previous minister Mohamed Elouafa uttered that “Obama does not have schools like the ones we have in Morocco.” in an attempt to convince us that our schools and education are in good condition. These statements made by our ministers imply their very limited knowledge about the reality of schools and schooling in the rural areas.
We all know that our education still suffers from very complicated issues especially in rural areas where the rates of dropouts are still tremendous due to Geographical, socio-cultural and economic factors. In the event the pupils manage to remain in classes, other issues emerge such as poor quality education due to insufficient supply and quality of instructional materials chiefly in languages and scientific subject such as physics, chemistry, and biology where the instruction is mostly theoretical.
The issue gets more complicated with the language barrier that affects the Amazigh language speakers (the main inhabitants of the mountains). As children of most Amazigh families hardly speak any Arabic the medium of instruction in schools.
In cities where some of these factors are negated, other issues float on the surface related to overcrowded classrooms, lack of enthusiasm and motivation among students. All these factors eventually lead to lack of competitiveness with other countries and lack of practical skills required in labor market.
However, we must be fair: the minister’s idea might be a solution to lighten the little pupils’ school bag as they get rid of the heavy burdens they carry every day to school, such as books, notebooks etc. Apart from that, no one can assure that electronic tablets would generate any glorious change. From a more practical perspective, instead of buying expensive tablets for each student, the ministry could furnish classrooms well and equip them with textbooks, dictionaries and other teaching materials. If the minister’s intention is to eliminate the burden of carrying these heaving materials to school, then tablets could serve as a first step to reforming the educational system in Morocco.
Since independence, consecutive Moroccan administrations and ministers of national education have been thoroughly trying to reform the educational system originally established by the previous French colonizer. However, each reform complicates the issue more as each new generation seems to be less competent than the previous one: the ministry and the decision-makers failed to properly detect the real causes of previous failures, and their analyses were merely enumerations of obvious effects and symptoms of these failures. In the event that decision-makers manage to spot the origin of these failures, the designed interventions work on healing the symptoms instead of uprooting the problem.
Throughout previous reforms, serious research or field studies were never held to design a viable solution and measure its feasibility. Instead, reformers arbitrarily patch the defect as an involuntary reaction to any report made by a foreign organization about the failure of our educational system. The question is: How could an outside organization be the first to detect our problems while we, who are directly involved, have no idea about what is going on?
Moreover, interventions by foreign powers tend to adopt the “copy and paste policy” that has resulted in epic failure on multiple occasions. This comes as no surprise; what works in France, Belgium or elsewhere is not guaranteed to function in Morocco due to many variables such as culture, economy, and history.
Failing to diagnose the nature of this illness that is gnawing at the body of our educational system is worse than the illness itself, as persistent prescriptions of the wrong remedy are aggravating the situation. These failed policies and reforms cost the national treasury a fortune, and as a result the gap between us and other peer countries widens.
Politics has also become an obstacle of progress in the education sector, which often serves as an arena for conflicts where politicians struggle to score points against each other and deviate from their main role. Each administration works on exposing the failure of the previous one as a way to promote and propagate their ideology. Thus, many projects in education and other fields are suspended whenever the government or even the ministerial portfolio-holder changes. Outside the government, instead of playing a strengthening role through constructive criticism, the opposition plays the devil’s advocate to confuse the government’s endeavors by criticizing its work without suggesting any alternative.
In a recent statement, the Supreme Council of Education placed a large portion of the blame on primary school teachers. The council stated that primary education in Morocco produces failed pupils even before they start their educational career. These pupils land in middle schools almost illiterate, then take off to high schools with very limited knowledge and competencies. Many of these pupils can not read and understand properly, especially in French, the pet peeve subject of most pupils.
On the surface, we can discern that there is a very crucial and influential problem in the way primary school teachers are appointed and distributed across Morocco. In general, older, more experienced teachers are crowded in the urban areas whereas younger, less experienced ones are sent to the mountains and remote rural areas.
This seems to be a very logical distribution, but if we examine closer, we notice that older teachers become less motivated and active as they age, and the generation gap that emerges between them and the pupils seems to exacerbate teacher effectiveness. A teacher may teach both a father and his son. For instance, I was taught by a teacher who is currently teaching my sister who is 23 years younger than me. And with the extra years added by the government to save the pension fund, he may teach my kids as well. It is understandable if this “amortized” teacher might fail to communicate with the new generation.
On the other hand, the newly hired teachers in remote rural areas are not satisfied with the living conditions there and may be accustomed to a different lifestyle, especially if they are from big cities. This certainly affects their performance in the classroom and their ability to relate to their students.
However, primary school teachers alone cannot be blamed for the failure of the educational system in Morocco. We cannot even blame any teacher, or student. The whole society is responsible for this failure due to this overwhelming negativity we breathe everywhere. As a matter of fact, students get contaminated with this general negativity and start to get used to it or even relish it. We are all intentionally or unintentionally participants in this failure, and we should thus be participants in finding the solution by spreading positive thoughts and provide a source of inspiration and motivation for future generations.
Getting back to the project of tablets in classrooms; no one can deny that the use of ICT in education has become one of the most worldwide-spread mottos in teaching methodology. The use of Technology in classrooms has become a locomotive force to improve education in many countries. However the use of ICT and tablets would serve as no more than Band-Aid to the problem of our educational system because it is like an iceberg that reveals only its tip. The major part of the problem lies mainly in unrevealed policies and invisible hands that are tampering this fundamental sector. With this persistent failure of reforms, I won’t be exaggerating if I say that some of our decision makers do not have a will to make a real change.
A change can be made only if our decision makers put themselves in the shoes of pupils’ parents and feel their disappointment. It is not fair that those who make decisions for our education system send their kids to study abroad and keep messing up our education. This directly reveals that they, themselves, do not trust the public schooling in Morocco.
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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