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Moroccan Education Minister Urges Schools to Implement New Law on Use of French in Technical Subjects

The framework law calls for teaching of scientific and technical subjects in foreign languages.

Rabat – Minister of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education, and Scientific Research, Said Amzazi, called on Monday, August 26, in Rabat for a collective mobilization to implement the framework law 51.17 at the start of the academic year 2019-2020. He urged all executives in the domain of education to multiply their efforts in order to develop the educational system.

The framework law 51.17 caused a lot of controversy, especially after the House of Representatives adopted it on July 22, 2019. Most of the articles contained in this framework law are not out of the ordinary, and aim to fix some of the inconsistencies that the educational system suffers from.

However, article 31 of this framework law, calls for the teaching of scientific and technical subjects in middle and high schools in foreign languages. This specific article caused a lot of controversy within the Moroccan society.

Minister’s justification

Said Amzazi defends this controversial legal framework with three main arguments. First, he explains that the use of foreign languages will help Moroccans embrace globalization, by addressing the negative impact that three decades of Arabization have had on Morocco’s competitiveness on the international level.

“Ours is an era of globalization. So we have to either catch the train, or we don’t, and then we exclude ourselves from the global dynamics”, Amzazi said. The majority of job offers on the Moroccan labor market require fluency in foreign languages, because most well-paid and status-enhancing jobs are offered by French multinational companies operating in Morocco.

Second, Amzazi explains that teaching in foreign languages, French in particular, is required for social justice. According to the minister, Arabization created two Moroccos separated by a socio-economic status, often associated with fluency in French. The changes presented by the framework law 51.17 will insure that Moroccan students are able to communicate in French.

Finally, the minister defends the legal framework by explaining that one of the reasons why university dropout rates are high is linguistic insecurity. While students are taught during their whole pre-university courses in Arabic, they face an important challenge at university, where all scientific and technical subjects are taught in French. Introducing some of the subjects in French at middle and high schools, as suggested by framework law 51.17, could prevent the challenging situation that new university students face.

Read also: Education Minister: Moroccan Schools Need French for Social Equality

Political opposition

The framework law 51.17 has faced and still faces strong opposition in Morocco’s political scene. Political parties PJD and Al Istiqlal have expressed, more than once, their anger towards this legal framework in the parliament.

In March, Abdelilah Benkirane, PJD member and former Head of Government, uploaded a 26-minute long video on his Facebook page, where he condemns this controversial law and explains how it is against the Moroccan constitution that recognizes Arabic as an official language of the Kingdom.

In the video Benikrane also forecasts a failure in the education system, as the language, French, might be a burden for some students. Benkirane also expressed his preference for English, as a teaching language: “If education in a foreign language is necessary one day, there is a better language for it than French”, implying English is a more appropriate alternative.

On July 22, two days before the House of Representatives approved of framework law 51.17, Chairman of the PJD at the House of Representatives Idriss Al Azami Idrissi submitted his resignation letter. Local media speculated that this move was due to his opposition to the adoption of the new framework law for education.

As for Moroccan streets, they are divided into those in favor of Arabic as an instruction language, and others who support the implementation of teaching in French. A third group calls for the use of a more international language, such as English.

Many experienced teachers might find it difficult to adapt to teaching scientific and technical subjects in a foreign language, as sciences have been taught in Arabic for more than three decades, and, so far, there has been no official training to insure that teachers meet the new standards.

Moroccan schools and teachers will have to speed up their preparations in order to adapt to the new framework law, before the official start of the academic year, on Thursday, September 5.

Read also: Moroccan MPs Approve Controversial Bill to Bolster French Language in Education