Challenges and pitfalls overcome
Challenges and pitfalls overcome
As a follow-up to the World Conference on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand, 1990), the world community convened in Dakar, in 2000, in a world conference on the theme of “Education For All” (EFA), to review the achievements of Jomtien and launch an ambitious program for the period 2000-2015, centering on the following lofty goals:
Goal 1: Expand early childhood care and education;
Goal 2: Provide free and compulsory primary education for all;
Goal 3: Promote learning and life skills for young people and adults;
Goal 4: Increase adult literacy by 50 percent;
Goal 5: Achieve gender parity by 2005, gender equality by 2015; and
Goal 6: Improve the quality of education.
On the pre-school front, the Koranic schools scattered all over the country, and generally attached to mosques offered literacy and numeracy curriculum to children of 3-6 years, prior to registering into government schools for primary education. The teaching is insured by the muezzin (the religious man responsible for prayer calls and maintenance of the mosque). These men did, undoubtedly, a great job in spite of the fact that they had no pedagogical training and received no pay from the state. After 2000, the government, through the Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs, embarked on an ambitious program to rehabilitate Koranic schools and provide administrative status to the men in charge of them.
At the same time, the Ministry of National Education, enacted laws to encourage the private sector to expand pre-school through the kindergarten system and, since, these institutions have mushroomed all over the country, and this is, undoubtedly, a good and encouraging sign for strengthening general education.
However, the government has to meet, in the coming decade, the challenge of generalizing this type of education, especially in rural areas, through an ambitious program of modernization of Koranic schools, training their personnel and providing much-needed educational material. It must be stressed that Koranic schools play, as in the past, an important role in providing literacy and preparing rural children for general education.
The gross enrolment rate (GRE) has been on the increase since 2000 and especially among the females and this is a very good sign that ought to encourage the government to come up with an ambitious national pre-education generalization program for the decade 2015-2024.
Generalization of primary free education:
After independence, the Moroccan government put as priority, for development, the sector of education with four main goals: generalization, morrocanization, arabization and unification. After many decades, it was able to achieve all except generalization because of the rapid population growth and the lack of financial means. However, there was, then, gender inequality, whereby families favored sending boys to school and keeping girls to work at home and wait for the husband to show up at the door step. There was also geographic inequality whereby, the center was favored at the expense of the periphery; this led to massive migration of youth to Europe from 1960 to 1982 and to America and the Gulf states from 1982 until recently.
According to the specialized website: Researching virtual Initiatives in Education, the results achieved by the generalization of education are excellent:
The gross enrollment rates (GER) at the primary level have been consistently rising in 2000s. In 2007 the total GER at the primary level was 107.4 percent, with 112 percent for males and 101 percent for females. But the Gender parity Index for GER was 0.89, which shows that the issue of gender inequality persists at the primary level.
After the Dakar Conference of 2000, Morocco made a great effort to generalize access to education by building more schools in rural areas and providing teachers, but the most important measures undertaken that made a difference are:
- Providing grants to poor families to keep their kids in school; and
- Building numerous dormitories, especially dar taliba for females coming from distant rural areas and providing them with full board and pedagogical supervision.
These two important decisions proved to be extremely important in generalizing education, so, maybe, the government can do more of the same in the future.
Promoting learning and life skills:
There are thousands of NGOs countrywide, and especially in the countryside, fully engaged in providing assistance to poor people. The very good thing about these development associations is that they are homespun; know the economic hardships of the local society and most of all speak local idioms: Tamazight, colloquial Arabic or Hssani Arabic dialect. These communication skills allow them two things: firstly, to have the ability to talk easily to the population and, secondly, and most importantly, relate to them to gain their confidence and trust, which is, by far, the most important criteria for success, bearing in mind that the rural population mistrusts government moves, for one reason or another.
These NGOs have been extremely successful in undertaking functional literacy: teaching population literacy and numeracy and, after that, technical skills to start up a cooperative to make money and alleviate poverty. These cooperatives have been extremely useful financially to help poor families get an income, and especially women, head of monoparental families, to sustain their children.
The government aware of the tremendous work of local associations has created in the actual structure of its ministries, one devoted to civil society that came up with a charter and held its first national conference in June 2014 to discuss ways to finance NGOs and facilitate their work.
Increasing adult literacy:
Adult literacy is an area where the government has been extremely helpless, while, even the poorest countries in Africa have achieved resounding success; Morocco’s results remain very humble. According to the website statistiques.mondiales.com, the rate of literacy of 15+ is 56.1%, in 2010. The problem being that, up to now, the government has been unable to spell out a clear policy in this area. First, there was a department in charge of this important matter within the gigantic Ministry of National Education. Then, there was ministry devoted to literacy proper, but actually the ministry was not created for purely academic and technical reasons, but just to provide an extra ministerial position to a political party in the majority.
The failure of government action in this area can be easily attributed to the following reasons:
- Lack of a national program comprising : primary and secondary objectives, expected results, implementation tools, timed activities and an independent evaluation scheme;
- Need to hire literacy specialists to undertake the program and ban ministry functionaries from making educational and technical decisions; and
- Necessity to provide the needed funds.
However, where the Ministry of National Education failed, the Ministry of Waqf and Islamic Affairs has achieved a tremendous success, especially among women, by using available mosque structures for much-needed literacy programs.
Gender parity and equality:
In a Muslim country, to achieve gender parity and equality, especially at a time when there is a rise of religious fundamentalism and social conservatism, is undoubtedly quite a challenge.
But, Morocco seems to be in the right position because of its political set up that makes of the king the highest religious authority in the country: amir al mu’minin « Commander of the Faithful », and whose influence is predominant.
One important indicator of future gender parity and equality is the predominance of females in secondary schools and universities. This might not be a fail proof argument but it is an important trend.
In the countryside, the government has been successful in convincing families through grants to keep their daughters in schools and, also, by building female dormitories dar taliba to accommodate rural girls of poor background and encourage their families to let them pursue their education.
The reform of the decade of education 2000-2009, initiated by COSEF, might not have achieved all its expected results, but it has certainly put the emphasis on the need for quality education. Now, most of the public educational institutions are certainly aspiring to achieve quality education. The will is certainly there, but what is badly needed is the way, and the government has to come up with the way in question.
But quality is, also, pertinence of content in school programs and teaching methods, stated indirectly by Sobhi Tawil, Sophie Cerbelle and Amapola Alama, in their insightful work:
Au-delà du vieux défi d’élargir l’accès et de combler les inégalités d’apprentissage, la crise du système éducatif marocain est à présent plus fréquemment énoncée en termes de « crise de contenu » et de nécessité d’améliorer la qualité des résultats scolaires, à travers l’introduction de contenus et de méthodes plus pertinents. De nouveaux programmes et manuels scolaires basés sur l’approche par les compétences ont été développés aux niveaux du primaire et du secondaire 1er degré, intégrant des principes relevant des droits de l’Homme et éliminant, dans une large mesure, les contenus biaisés, en particulier ceux se rapportant au genre.
It goes without saying that the best way to achieve quality education is by building within the educational system a permanent evaluation mechanism operated fully by an independent body, and whose results and conclusions ought to be implemented by government authorities. Independent evaluation has to become an established culture and the implementation of its teachings an obligatory action.
To achieve fully quality education, the government has to use incentive such as prizes awarded to institutions and cash handouts to individuals.
Alongside, it has to encourage academic research to come up with homespun strategies to improve quality.
Conclusion: remaining challenges
All in all, It must be said that Morocco is, undoubtedly, a somewhat success story in initiating and achieving the EFA goals set up by the Dakar conference of 2000 and adhering closely and faithfully to the philosophy of such lofty objectives. The political willingness of the government is there, what is needed is the best way capable of making the necessary changes, bearing in mind, obviously, the anthropological make up of the country, the sociological construct and the religious beliefs.
Morocco, is certainly on the right track of the EFA philosophy and culture, it only has to persevere in this direction and strive to achieve more in the years to come, with the same level of political willingness and positive dedication.
Morocco, is, also, called upon to strengthen further the EFA culture among the political elite: decision makers, ministers, political parties, and trade unions and associate intellectuals, thinkers, religious scholars and civil society in its environment.
Morocco, has, definitely, to work very hard on the level of quality and evaluation, and this can be attained only if the actors entrusted are among the best: a teacher who is assured of employment for life will certainly do nothing to give the best of himself to the job, this has to come to an end and, at the same time, good teachers have to be rewarded to give them incentive.
It goes without saying that gender parity and equality is not an easy job to achieve. There must be, first, adequate anthropological and sociological research to determine the obstacles and hurdles and the religious impediments, if any. Afterwards, viable strategies can be set up and implemented with the help and supervision of experts and religious scholars.
Also, the government has to continue, with the same force and dedication, to generalize access to education and literacy programs and ought to consider providing school transportation in rural areas to bring schools within the reach of pupils there, bearing in mind that many drop out of school because of problems of proximity.
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