By Oussama Raqui
By Oussama Raqui
Rabat – The training period is an important stage in the professional making of any teacher. But the recent reform fails to tackle real problems in teacher training. Instead of instructing trainee teachers in how to prepare for exams, teachers should be trained to teach effectively and evaluated through performance based assessment in classrooms.
Anthropologists say that fish are the last creatures to discover they live in water. (Kluckholn 1949, cited in Finnan 2000:9) The implication here is that culture surrounds our lives and interactions without us realising, in the same way as fish don’t notice they live in water until taken out of it. While participating in the training program in CRMEF (the regional centre of jobs in education and training) in Safi, we observed that there was a cultural context that shaped the training year and limited the effectiveness of the program.
Many Moroccan teachers maintain that internships are too theoretical and have nothing to do with their daily practices in classrooms. Benhima’s 2014 study revealed that teachers hardly ever put into practice what they learn in training. We argue that novice teachers look to their experience in the training centres for solutions to problems they face in the classroom, rather than the theories they learn. The sometimes damaging way they are taught in the training centres influences their own style of teaching.
The problematic situation among trainees, the administration and the trainers started in the regional center in Safi when, after not having received their scholarship money for three and a half months, teachers boycotted classes and demonstrated. The Ministry of Education, whose responsibility is to guarantee high quality training for the teachers-to-be, stopped providing material support to finance the training. The way the administration and trainers dealt with trainee teachers after the sit-ins in Safi is also worth discussing.
Chtatou (2014) says that ‘the time of the “teacher-lion,” …is over.’ It is not yet over. This kind of teacher was still present in the training centres. Many trainers threatened trainees and attacked them for boycotting the training and asking for their rights. It was disappointing that some trainers were urging trainees not to take part in demonstrations again. The trainers’ threats made us lose our desire to study and focus on our professional development; the dream of becoming a teacher started to turn into a nightmare. Furthermore, some of our colleagues in the English department were questioned simply because they criticized the management of the training on a Facebook page. This is what trainers taught novice teachers in an implicit way: never criticize or question your institution, just obey the rules. After the sit-ins, there was a general attitude of submission shaped by our culture and how we have been socialized in Moroccan society.
The cultural trope of submission was implicit throughout the training year. This aspect of Moroccan culture is outlined by Willis and Maaroof (2010):
By constructing an ideological discourse naturalizing the supplicant’s submissive attitude to the shrif and the saint, the maraboutic institution domesticates its followers and disciplines them into docile identities…Saint-goers already drilled by virtue of myth and ritual to submit to the power of the Saint also hope for an intertwined material salvation from the “distributing centre.
Through the cultural ritual of visiting saints’ tombs, submission has been constructed in the collective imagination of Moroccans. Instead of expressing themselves and demanding their rights from the authorities, citizens were socialized to accept their daily sufferings and to believe that saints can change their lives for the best. This worldview was apparent in the CRMEF training program. Trainers functioned as saints/sultans, wielding their power to pass or fail trainees. In this respect, the training centers were equivalent to “distributing centers,” the place where it is possible to change one’s life and material status by getting a job. Teacher training turned into a capitalist relationship between trainees and trainers.
The training was considered a way into a job rather than a learning process to be able to do the job well. Getting good grades in exams was the goal, in order to get a job in a good place with better working conditions. Trainers believed they had this power over the trainees as long as “the employee is hired not so much on the basis of a rational or bureaucratic assessment of skills but on the basis of “charity.” From the employee’s side it follows that there is a duty not of an economic or legal kind but of a binding social, religio-cultural and ethical kind, a gift-exchange cultural model characterized by the obligation not to “bite the hand that feeds you…” (Willis & Maarouf, 2010). Trainers were expected to be charitable by hiring trainees as a return for trainees’ submissive attitude towards the bad educational status of the training centre.
There were few expressions of resistance to this irrational state of affairs, where trainees had to show obedience in order to succeed. This cultural model “allows for an increase in rank and subsequent modifications in status” (Hammoudi 1999, cited in Willis & Maarouf, 2010:43). We argue that the situation of training in Morocco has been going in that direction shaped by the same culture towards successive failures in teacher education.
The recent changes in the procedures of hiring teachers initiated by the ministry are just a stopgap to prevent trainings from repeatedly failing. Trainee teachers are no longer considered teachers-to-be. They are simply job applicants. They have to pass the training as well as an examination to join the teaching profession. We wonder to what extent this procedure will make trainees unwilling to criticize and question aspects of the training. There will always be a hesitation to swim against the current and express one’s opinions freely about different aspects of the educational system in Morocco. The same cultural schema of submission will be directing interactions on a large scale. Students will be doing their best to please trainers and the administration in order to get the job “as supplicants expect the maraboutic distributing centre or saint/sultan to be charitable with them, feed them, protect them, or smooth their life course.” (Willis & Maarouf, 2010)
The above modifications in hiring teachers do not take into account the culture surrounding the process of training in Morocco and will not bring good results for many reasons. The way trainees are assessed in CRMEF needs to be reconsidered. Our performance in classrooms was not given much importance in the evaluation process. In fact, four colleagues failed to pass the training simply because they did not get a passing grade in a module of phonetics. This was the case in various centres in different regions, where many trainees failed although they performed well in practical examinations in schools.
No one denies that the level of students graduating from Moroccan universities is questionable, but it is high time to adopt performance-based assessment to a greater extent for evaluation purposes. Darling-Hamond (2010) points out that “performance assessments that measure what teachers actually do in the classroom, and which have been found to be related to later teacher effectiveness, are a much more potent tool for evaluating teachers’ competence and readiness, as well as for supporting needed changes in teacher education” (p5). And the key to modifying and improving teacher education also lies in performance-based assessment, rather than coming up with measures that further students’ abiding passivity. “[A]ny innovative idea or procedure needs to be critically inspected not only for its potential effectiveness but also for its pertinence to the cultural context where it is to be implemented” (Maarouf, 2015). The way teachers are currently trained and evaluated limits their development of certain characteristics necessary for improvement and success in daily practices in Moroccan classrooms.
It is essential for teachers to possess and acquire certain qualities to succeed in their jobs, but the current situation of training does not seem to initiate this process. It goes without saying that teaching is one of the most difficult jobs. It requires passion, hard work and an ongoing spirit of research in the field. Robert J. Walker conducted a study for fifteen years to discover the best qualities that need to be found in every teacher. The study outlined twelve characteristics that make up influential teachers (see Walker 2008). Being creative, respecting students and admitting mistakes are some of these qualities. The reality of training in Morocco does not foster such qualities in teachers. When Chtato (2014) says that “[the teacher of the future] should also face the information influx with perseverance, wisdom and rationality, through lifelong continuing training, “the teacher’s lifelong learning,” to preserve “teaching fitness,” he illustrates the importance of having teachers who are not only qualified in their field of specialty but also have outstanding characteristics to keep themselves ready to deal with different kinds of problems. This is the missing link in the development of effective teachers in Morocco.
Without giving teacher education enough attention, the reforms have no foundation. Teachers are important players in the educational system in Morocco. Their participation in any reform is crucial to the success of new plans and changes. But the dismal results of training in Morocco are signs of failure to achieve these goals. Teachers are not welcomed to the teaching profession in a spirit of hard work and collaboration. Throughout the training period there was a sense of pessimism about the situation of education in Morocco. This bad start leads to a problematic sense of status for teachers, and might be one of the reasons for the collapse of education.
The Ministry of Education has recently initiated a new examination to hire teachers after they finish their training this year, but it has not yet revealed the nature of this evaluation. We urge the ministry to adopt performance assessments in order to evaluate teachers. Written exams do not reflect teachers’ effectiveness. In addition to this, depriving trainees of their title as trainee teachers and making them unsure about joining the teaching profession will only worsen the situation of training and teaching in general. Trainees must get on the right track from their first years in education or else they will lose their way, leading to a situation worse than what we are experiencing today.
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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