Rabat - Undoubtedly, the current debate on Moroccan schools still remains a delusional subject since it does not address the main challenges these schools face, fails to offer a reasonable glimpse into the national education system and neglects to investigate the many issues plaguing that permeate throughout the country. On the contrary, this debate still favors hesitation, lagging and evasion, and relies most on a pragmatic ideology serving no benefit or goal to education. What we hear most in those talks is simply a trickery language; a deceptive discourse. Otherwise, the many councils, committees, decrees, memos and suggestions that had been made in the recent years, either by state officials or by academic activists and experts, should have resulted in change.
Rabat – Undoubtedly, the current debate on Moroccan schools still remains a delusional subject since it does not address the main challenges these schools face, fails to offer a reasonable glimpse into the national education system and neglects to investigate the many issues plaguing that permeate throughout the country. On the contrary, this debate still favors hesitation, lagging and evasion, and relies most on a pragmatic ideology serving no benefit or goal to education. What we hear most in those talks is simply a trickery language; a deceptive discourse. Otherwise, the many councils, committees, decrees, memos and suggestions that had been made in the recent years, either by state officials or by academic activists and experts, should have resulted in change.
We can confidently say that Moroccan schools still live in a non-homogeneous academic climate and have a blurred vision; unable to overpass their devastating ineffectiveness and all current attempts to do so are doomed to failure. The first step to reforming the education system is by attempting to identify the reasons why Moroccan schools are failing to begin with. From ambiguity in thought in the ideas of Moroccan intellectuals who always refer to theories, through the double dealing in politics in the shameful pragmatism of Moroccan law makers, and to the immaturity of teachers extravagantly obsessed with living rather than with teaching, observers can reasonably conclude some of the root causes.
While it may be difficult to have a straightforward and satisfying answer to this provocative question, one thing is clear: Moroccan schools are in crisis. Consequently, the structure of Moroccan education is shattered and there are only few fragmentary evidences to prove the opposite.
I spent more than a decade working as an elementary teacher in Moroccan schools. I worked in three different institutions in three different regions. The situation back then was not promising with inadequate teacher training, insufficient classroom materials, poor logistics, unreal objectives, ineffective follow-up strategies, etc. Time has passed and, obviously, no serious changes have been made. Our classrooms are still isolated compartments wherein teachers can only recall pain and suffering, low income, improper work conditions and a mysterious horizon.
I may have to admit that the ideas I attached to in the past, the conclusions I made and the possibilities of change I saw were not matured enough to be achievable. Now, the situation is quite a bit different. The answer I propose in this modest piece touches upon four different levels of consideration. At each level, the reader may find a solution, an escape from the siege of failure or at least some sort of comfort.
First, any reasonable discussion on Moroccan schools should ultimately lead us directly to the issue of political will; to what we may define as the sustainable commitment of the ruling parties to have the right vision, to provide the necessary resources and to seriously invest in education. In the absence of such willingness, education is thwarted and so are the plans of its reform. Normally, this political will “manifests through public commitments, financial support, and close formal relations between politicians, policymakers and technicians,” according to Angela W Little, in a 2010 London conference on education in developing countries hosted by the Institute of Education. Unfortunately such a political will is still absent in Morocco. Otherwise, we would not wallow all these years in the mud of failure. There is nothing to justify to lack of resources, financial aid or the lack of clarity in new policies. This political will is absent in the sense that our leaders have not yet prioritized education. From the 1960’s up until the 1980’s, the state’s main objective was to consolidate political stability and authority in post-protectorate Morocco. With his Majesty, King Mohamed VI in power, the state’s policies, driven by socio-economic forces, began to concentrate on social security, with the philosophy behind the “National Initiative for Human Development” serving as a vivid example. There was never an investment in the education sector.
“Our schools are central to the mission of building knowledge societies”, wrote Harry A. Patrinos in World Bank Magazine. In Morocco, we do not know yet of this centrality; of such an ideology, philosophy or focus because we do not yet have satisfactory answers to a list of challenging questions such as the key players in the education sector, who is being acknowledged in the current education dialogue, the available infrastructure in schools, the forces driving reform, procedures implemented for monitoring progress and the work ethic of teachers. These questions have been brought forth to the debate on education since independence but have never been systematically and credibly discussed leaving us in a justified state of doubt about the future.
Second, we have some brief remarks on Moroccan culture and how it influences education. In many respects, the absence of a true, solid and comprehensive cultural project in a certain society serves as an indication of educational failure. This explains the quantity and quality of investment made in art; be it theater, cinema, painting, language, artisanal work or music, in developed countries. We expect our schools to cultivate social values, ethical norms, humanitarian ideals, discipline, etc. However, these expectations require an investment in culture wherein these values can nestle in harmony with those schools usually try to realize. In other words, these expectations require a moral obligation.
In his article “Morality in the Sphere of Education,” Joan Caldarera brought Socrates’ dictum that “ethics concerns no small matter, but how we ought to live” forward. In Caldarera’s perspective, the words of this great Greek philosopher in Plato’s Republic “should be reflected in our philosophy of education; should condition the way we respond to those needs, to the universal right of living in a good and meaningful way.” One of the main challenges for Moroccan education resides in the absence of such a reflection. Let us say it more clearly and directly: we dissociate school life from society. We wrongly and unconsciously assume that educational activities start in classrooms and end there with a bell ring.
No doubt that many scholars have long demanded a reverent feeling and attitude towards morality; towards its social, cultural and political significance. Their demand comes as a logical response to the idea that:
moral growth is as essential as physical and intellectual growth, and is nurtured in everything, from the smallest consciously-formed gesture; watch a kindergarten teacher carefully folding a cloth, to the grandest idea elegantly stated; hear a high school teacher describe the flowerlike pattern formed by tracing the arcs of the orbit of Venus.
With this idea of Caldarera in mind, we may have to ask: to what extent does our schooling system advocate moral obligation? We must reflect on the state of chaos and disorder in Moroccan society; in the living habits of Moroccans. These range from the smallest act of living; such as the way we smile to others, we cross a street, we get on a bus to the highest level; observe the way our politicians answer their constituents. We live in immorality, in irresponsibility and in the absence of duty to oneself, to community, and to society as a whole. How can we expect Moroccan schools to succeed then?
Third, we consider the technical issues; the way schools operate. In this modest article, we chose to go beyond the different and various elements the experts usually discuss in details; we see beyond human resources, techniques, materials, communication, objectives, staff development, management of finance, scientific research, training, disciplinary laws, assessment, calendar, school demography, etc., and we keep our focus on methodology; which we can refer to as: philosophy of teaching, what is purely didactic. In a lecture given in Amman in 1985, the late Moroccan thinker Mohammed Abed al-Jabri said:
a schooling that is based on memorization rather than research, supports memory instead of understanding, submission instead of critique and exercises power and authority instead of encouragement and positive enforcement is absolutely an old-fashioned schooling. It belongs to the past and therefore it does not produce and cannot produce.
More than three decades passed, and we barely realize the necessity for change.
Out of freethinking grows the blossom of knowledge. To this end, whether a first grade student draws a flower in his or her art class, a middle school student solves a math problem or a high school student works on a science fair project, the quality of teaching and learning lies in their abilities to bring forth new ideas, to introduce new explanations or to simply participate. A true and effective schooling system can only be built upon experimentation and active engagement. Now, we can reframe the question arose earlier in this passage-why are Moroccan schools failing-into the following forms: How can we teach our kids to be fully human, to be fully educated? How can we prepare them morally, intellectually, physically and spiritually? How can we secure them in a more challenging world of innovators and entrepreneurs?
At last but not least, comes the teacher, the key player in all of this. We can claim without any kind of reservation that the current state of academic failure partially arises in the dissociation of teachers from true academic concerns; in their extravagant obsession with their living conditions. We can assume that there is an obvious upside to emphasis on salaries, promotions and compensations at the expense of a true engagement in the teaching profession.
For teachers to inspire and motivate, they should be motivated themselves. They clearly deserve respect, adequate income and fair treatment. However, they need also to realize that everything in schools rests upon their commitment, their engagement and moral obligations. What they receive sometimes may not be sufficient; however, this should never be an excuse for disengagement, negativity or detachment. They should continue to improve their teaching qualities and enriching their knowledge in a way that is sufficient enough for them to truly inspire.
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