Politicians, activists, and academics signed a petition in support of continuing to use Arabic as a language of instruction, denouncing the potential “Frenchification” of public education.
Rabat – Over 150 Moroccan figures signed a petition calling on the government to abandon a proposed education bill, Law 51.17, that would replace Arabic as a language of instruction for scientific subjects in schools with French.
Among the 150 were politicians, activists, linguists, academics, and public figures who took part in signing the petition, which was handed to a number of MPs, including Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani.
The petitioners call on the government to have public schools use the constitutionally-recognized national languages of Arabic and Amazight (Berber).
The signatories call for “linguistic equality,” denouncing the provisions of Law 51.17 for the education system, particularly its provision that public schools can teach scientific and technical subjects in French.
The petition calls on the government to “enter into an open national dialogue” involving all parties, from civil society activists and students to linguists, and to put aside all “feigned conflicts” in Morocco’s interests.
The petitioners want Arabic or Amazigh to be used for instruction of scientific subjects at lower levels of education, saying “scholars in the areas of multilingualism have proved that Arabic is capable of functioning as a language of instruction, and in all domains.” Universities teach most of their courses in French, but primary and secondary schools teach in standard Arabic.
Fouad Bouali, the president of the coalition, stated that the petition also aims to denounce the “Frenchification” of public schools.
The National Coalition for Arabic Language initiated another petition on Avaaz.org with the same goal, which has so far received over 1,800 signatures.
While government was expected to meet on April 8 to discuss the draft law, the dispute over language is still creating heated debates and widening the divide, especially between proponents of Arabic and French.
On March 31, former Head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane appeared on a live video on Facebook and denounced the proposed adoption of French as a language of instruction at public schools.
Though the final version of the draft law was agreed by the leaders of political parties in Parliament, the government has delayed a vote on the bill several times.