Rabat - Human phenomena hardly have one single and simple cause. Education in Morocco is no exception. The dramatic drops in the performance of students at the various school levels are not either. For a long time, the studies that have attempted to explain them have been at difficulties pinpointing the most preponderant factors in the process.
Rabat – Human phenomena hardly have one single and simple cause. Education in Morocco is no exception. The dramatic drops in the performance of students at the various school levels are not either. For a long time, the studies that have attempted to explain them have been at difficulties pinpointing the most preponderant factors in the process.
In fact, while they identified living standards as possible factors of the drop, found flaws with the quality of teaching aids and the adequacy of initial teacher training and the relevance of in-service development programs. And while they concluded to the obsoleteness of the curricula, the backlash of off target objectives, the anachronism of the pedagogical methods adopted, the changing learning attitudes of the students and the competition of the virtual sphere, they were unable to design solutions that could invert the trend. Actually, the curve of the drop kept getting steeper and steeper and none of these factors was found to have a determining effect.
Like everyone else, I had only these factors to hold to in hope that addressing them would avoid a wreck. Most attempts, mine as well as those of colleagues, each at his own level, remained in vain. This year, however, and after a long resistance, I was overcome. I had no choice but to accept that I was completely wrong. The temptation I was resisting for years was to admit that some sort of moral decay had been undermining society at large and aspects, layers of the educational system in particular.
Many years ago, there was talk that cheating was taking many new forms. In addition to the ingenuity of test takers who innovate in fraudulent methods using electronic devices, information technology, and mobile telephony, there were also cases of staff who leak tests, schools that inflate continuous assessment grades to favor their students, regional administrations that cater to their failures by guaranteeing pass grades to students in classes they had hardly taken, teachers who assign undeserved grades for ethnic, regional, ideological, and political reasons, and exam supervisors who help candidates cheat. Scandal was everywhere!
I had heard of these issues and as a matter of fact had also documented a few cases, but like everyone else, I had preferred to think they were limited and of minor scope. A few days ago, after the baccalaureate exam, footage of candidates admitting that supervisors were kind and helped them cheat in the exams changed my mind. The system has been unable to be redressed because corruption has been undermining all its structures and infecting many of its human resources. In such cases, the problem is that a bad fish rots the whole basket.
What I had not heard about before is that some of these difficulties were familiar in other countries, too. In fact, I have learned recently of cases of classes that did not have teachers for some key subjects such as math for the three months preceding the baccalaureate were not that rare in France. The difference between the cases in Morocco and in France may, however, be that in the case of Morocco solutions have been, according to students, negotiated with the Academies while in France, students and families are left to their own. No solutions are proposed, and students are left to themselves. The fact that more are swimming against the current does not, however, make it easier or more pleasant!
The dominating mood among young Moroccan students is such that many expect teachers to cheat, to help them do so, and to close their eyes to their cheating. Should an invigilator venture to want to enforce regulations, they are very likely to be met with physical violence either in the exam room or out of school. Cases are not rare.
A candidate for the first year baccalaureate told me that competition is not fair and that unless your parents have a talk with whomever is concerned, or you are allowed to cheat the day of the exam, you will have no chances to make it with average grades that would allow you to do what you would like to later in life. My efforts to explain away his attitude were vain. His conviction that the system was corrupt beyond redemption was much stronger than my arguments.
It also happened that students of my own complained that I was not fair in expecting them to perform at the level of their classes, keeping them in class for the whole time scheduled for the session, asking them to do homework, not being flexible with attendance, and actually taking absence into account in their final grades. When I explained that my job took place in compliance with regulations and within professional and moral frameworks, they thought I was either not realistic or overdoing it. In any case, no one cared, they seemed to be convinced. In a few cases, some tried to negotiate grades and were very short of offering compensation.
To sum up, the problem seems to be not one of syllabi, quality of teaching materials, teacher training, or commitment of teachers. It seems that it is far more complex. While it may include any of the factors already mentioned or all of them, it is essentially one of perception, social assessment, mentality, culture, and attitudes. The perception, whether accurate or not, is that society is not fair, and because of this, it neither acknowledges excellence nor does it reward effort.
Consequently, it is assumed that achievement is possible only to those who can use the system, manipulate it, and beat it at its own games. Correcting the system would therefore require work on these perceptions and providing evidence to all that achievement depends exclusively on merit. This in turn, depends on equalizing achievement opportunities to all. This, however, is not the exclusive responsibility of the educational system. It involves eliminating from the learning environment all the effects of economic and social status as well as those of geography and administrative organization in the country. The question, it seems, is one of trust in the system and in its moral capacity to treat citizens equally. It is not moral. It is political and social. It has to be addressed politically and socially.
Meanwhile, cheating remains an offense, and offenders must be dealt with according to the laws in effect.
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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