Rabat - There are three main problems in Morocco’s educational system. First of all, students have a lack of respect for teachers and the educational establishment, Secondly, something in society has encouraged and promoted this trend. And finally, there is inadequate teacher training.
Rabat – There are three main problems in Morocco’s educational system. First of all, students have a lack of respect for teachers and the educational establishment, Secondly, something in society has encouraged and promoted this trend. And finally, there is inadequate teacher training.
Throughout the education system over recent years, students have been showing less respect for teachers and administrative staff, claiming that they don’t address their needs and expectations for a successful future. They berate the minister and the ministerial authorities in an attempt to expresses their frustration, believing the ministry is only out to suppress their dreams.
In these last few years, and especially this year, reports of physical and verbal abuse against teachers in high schools have become regular news stories. We have seen an increase in poor behaviour, from truancy, class participation, and homework, to widely documented cases of physical and verbal abuse of teachers, as videos ‘gone viral’ can verify. Cheating among students has seemingly reached an all-time high, and for students to consider cheating as a norm or even a right shows how low morality has fallen in the educational system.
This trend has been growing for the past thirty years, since the notorious reforms removed humanities and philosophy from the curriculum, and Arabized scientific subjects in secondary education but not in tertiary education. Since then, critical thinking, education on diversity and difference, tolerance of others, and responsibility for oneself has completely exited the system. The slogans of the time that portrayed the education system as differentiating between the poor and rural population and the socially elite, made many believe the educational system did not and would not provide equal opportunity for all Moroccans. The offspring of the few select and privileged families were educated in French and were able to graduate from foreign universities while the rest were crammed into huge classrooms where learning was difficult and frustrating, and the subjects taught were completely anachronistic, irrelevant, and worthless. Resistance to this educational model was fierce and so was the oppression to impose it.
The long-term consequence is that the quality and value of Moroccan degrees and diplomas has fallen until they have become utterly worthless too. The competitiveness of those with Moroccan diplomas on the job market is so low that recruiting them requires retraining them for years before they become an asset to their employer. The system allows young men and women to graduate with hardly any skills that fit the needs of the job market and that comply with the kind of attitudes it requires. A few exceptions are perhaps the small handful engineering and medical schools.
In this context, it has been observed that young people with no education at all, or those who dropped out in the earlier stages of their education, have been more successful in business and politics, as well as good citizenship. They have exhibited more positive attitudes toward work and ethnics. They have created their opportunities and made the best of them. So, it seems that the longer one stays in school, the greater the damage is to one’s sense of responsibility, initiative, creativity, and capacity to work hard. It is as if school demotivates and destroys imagination, initiative, combativeness, and social intelligence. Moroccan schools seem to have shaped minds and expectations to be satisfied only when taken care of and provided for by the state.
However, the more youth stay at school, the less undertaking and humble they seem to become. Contrary to those with little or no education, they have a limited idea of what they can do and how they can contribute to a wide range of job opportunities. This reduces their chance of taking advantage of the booming economic situation in the country. Many businesses have been compelled to seek manpower in Europe and other African or Arab countries to fill key positions, which, theoretically, one would imagine thousands of Moroccan could fill.
One particular but not uncommon example is a young man who had just completed a master’s degree in literature and was recruited by a language and literature department. He refused to teach a language class arguing that having written his thesis in poetry, he was not prepared to teach anything else. He mistook the academic exercise of writing a thesis – the work of a few weeks – as an exemption of what he thought was a demeaning task. The department that had recruited him offered only two poetry classes two hours a week, which was already covered by a tenured professor who was also teaching additional classes. How can one explain this graduate’s attitude?
In my own neighborhood, Sub-Saharan Africans are taking up vocational work such as shoemaking, electrical appliance repairing, car body working, mechanics, bricklaying and plumbing. More and more Iraqis, Syrians, and Eastern Europeans are arriving to become well diggers. The son of someone I work closely with refuses to practice the job he has been trained for on a government scholarship, namely in electronics and electrical coils. His father has failed to convince him to have his own shop, which he was ready to equip for him. Instead, the young man prefers to remain unemployed for years waiting for a position with the government.
Another example is a girl who failed the baccalaureate several times to whom I suggested should take up training in clothing manufacturing, catering, electronics or such. She was cross with me because she thought those jobs were degrading to a person who had gone through high school. She preferred to do secretarial studies in which, I have all reason to believe she will never excel in, as she has poor language skills. The argument that Moroccan hotels, restaurants and pastry shops have a serious problem hiring and are forced to recruit highly paid staff from Europe, didn’t seem to be a relevant argument for her. She only wants to work in an office. Anyone interested in verifying this need only talk to a construction contractor or a well digging company.
A serious cause of the problem is therefore the culture which schools convey to Moroccan youth. What school does not teach is that vocational work is a worthwhile, dignified and respectable profession like any other. There is no question as to how bad schooling has affected intelligence and attitudes toward work and aptitudes.
The idea the students have developed about their education is that they are useless and that they are designed to ‘unqualify’ for higher political, economic, and social positions. They are convinced that the purpose of the educational system in Morocco is to reproduce the economic and political power relationships within their society and to perpetuate the supremacy of those already in command. For those students, school is not on their side, rather it is their enemy. They are in a never-ending conflict with it; their objective is to defeat it and to neutralize the effect they imagine it strives to have over them.
There is an unfortunate consensus among observers including those who have conducted evaluations of the system for the government and for international organizations: the paradoxical situation is that the system, which has absorbed huge amounts of the national budget, has failed to achieve its objective and has produced a generation which has been trained neither to work nor to think nor to be creative nor responsible. We have a generation, which is best at protesting in front of parliament and ministries, and manipulated by politicians and ideologists.
Teachers and school staff, and to some extent the current minister himself, however, have no responsibility in how this has come about. Neither are they responsible for the curriculum nor the general orientations that have shaped the profile of its ultimate objectives. In a way, they are victims themselves. A fact that cannot be ignored, however, is that the current teaching staff is made up of two categories, none of which is apt to fulfill the mission they are expected to. One category is those of my own age – in their sixties – and of a similar training as mine, and those who have lost touch with the current generation. They don’t know how to talk to their students and have severe difficulties either identifying with their culture or identifying with their concerns or sympathizing with their ambitions and expectations. The gap has taken everyone by surprise and has grown too wide to be bridged. They all need to retire just as I did, as they do more harm staying than quitting. The other category is younger, but for reasons they have to explain themselves, are also unable to communicate, motivate, or convince students of their relevance, and need to be supported through difficult transitions with their students.
To conclude this discussion, and for it to be more meaningful to those not directly involved in the educational system and who are not familiar with its workings, one would need to be more elaborate on the evaluation of the curriculum and to look in depth into the syllabi of various components of every stream of the educational and training systems, and to compare them with the views of the users of their end products and their long term performance.
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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