Rabat – Weeks after both houses of the Moroccan Parliament adopted the controversial Law 51.17 on education and the change of the language of instruction, Morocco’s Education Minister, Said Amzazi, is calling for local authorities to “effectively implement” the new education bill by the start of the upcoming academic year.
In a number of official letters addressed to school authorities across Morocco in the weeks since the new bill received parliamentary approval, Amzazzi has made it his personal mission to counter the pile of criticism leveled at the education bill from conservative circles.
While Law 51-17 is officially said to be about rehabilitating Morocco’s stuttering public schools and making the country’s educational system “socially inclusive” and more competitive at the global level, the document’s articles 2 and 31 drew poignant criticism from conservative Moroccans.
The two articles insist on the “necessity” and “opportunity” of changing the language of instruction for scientific subjects from Arabic to French. Critics, mainly political and media figures whose political stance is mostly a blend of nationalism and Islamism, have widely interpreted the two articles as the culmination of a cultural and social capitulation to France.
Effectively adopting French in public amounts to pandering to France, critics have maintained.
In his instructions to local authorities across Morocco, however, Amzazi dismissed what he sees as reactionary attitudes from critics. The minister insisted that, regardless of the continued criticism, the provisions of the new law should be “effectively implemented” as early as the 2019-2020 academic year.
Where critics see the basis for sustaining the colonial hegemony of France through the Moroccan Francophone elite ruling over masses of Moroccans with no or a tenuous command of the French language, Amzazi sees the opportunity to “invest in the future of the Moroccan youth” in a fast-moving, technology and innovation-driven, globalized world.
As in his earlier defense of the contentious bill, Amzazi consistently pointed out in his instructions that the bill is actually meant to curb the traditionally widening performance gap between Moroccan students, further the 2015-2030 “strategic vision” for inclusive education, and equip Moroccan students to rise to the challenges of a globalized world economy.
Amzazi’s apparent resolution to “effectively implement” the new regulations as soon as this academic year is perhaps a response to the equally strong-willed, resolved group of critics vowing to “thwart all ‘Francization’ attempts” in Morocco.
Led by former Head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane, the group of vocal critics against Law 51.17 suggested in a press statement on August 7 that the fight against the implementation of the new bill is a fight for the soul of Morocco.
In the statement, the Benkirane-led group called on “all Moroccans to watch out for all threats to Morocco’s language, its identity, its civilization, and its glorious history.”