The Moroccan school system
The Ministry of Education, Training, Research and Universities (ENSSUP) is politically responsible for schools and universities. The Moroccan government formulated the educational policy goals in the strategic plan 2015-2030. The key points of the plan are early childhood education, basic education, a quality offensive at all levels and close cooperation between state and private actors.
According to militarynous, the Moroccan education system is divided into three sectors:
- Modern education, based on the French model
- Technical and vocational education
- Religious Education (Enseignement Originel)
In 1963, compulsory schooling for children aged 7 to 13 was introduced in Morocco. As part of the “Decade for Education” (1999-2009) and on the basis of the “Charte Nationale de l’Education et de la Formation”, compulsory education was extended in 2002 and is now officially valid from 6 to 15 years (6 years of primary school, 3 years college).
The illiteracy rate is falling, but…
According to UNESCO, around 25 percent of the Moroccan population over the age of 15 are illiterate (17 percent of men, 36 percent of women). The numbers look better among young people (9 percent on average), but here too the female share is disadvantaged: 13 percent of girls up to and including 15 years of age can neither read nor write.
The state hardly plays a role in early childhood education. Although a good half of the children in Morocco attend a preschool or kindergarten across the country, most of them are religious Koran schools or private institutions that often work without adequate quality assurance. Only a small part works according to international standards.
Almost 100 percent of all children start school and most of them finish primary school. However, only 89 percent of children across the country make the transition to college (middle school) after the 6th grade. Children are particularly disadvantaged in rural areas. There only 69 percent switch to middle school, and many drop out prematurely. Only 30 percent of boys and 20 percent of girls in rural areas meet the requirements for the transition to upper level (technical college or grammar school). A maximum of 15 percent of a year group pass the Abitur nationwide (see Germany: over 50 percent).
In addition to the high drop-out rate, the public education system suffers from a lack of equipment and quality. According to recent studies, the majority of children in public schools can neither adequately read nor solve math problems in fourth grade.
King Mohammed VI announced in 2015 that the reforms in the education sector should have priority, including the reintroduction of the French language from grade 1. Critics argue that the main problem is not the language, but the lack of qualifications of the staff in schools, especially in pedagogical and didactic matters. In addition, activities in the Moroccan school system in Morocco are not held in high regard. Therefore, a skilled workforce would work in other sectors.
Historical outline, national development efforts
Before and during the French Protectorate (1912-1956), most Moroccan children only had the option of attending a Koran school (Kouttab, Msid / Fkih). In 1912, the number of children who attended such schools is said to have been around 150,000. Access to the modern French education system was largely blocked for Moroccan children. For decades, they were only allowed to attend primary school, if at all. It was not until 1944 that Moroccan children were allowed to go to French schools and graduate from high school in large numbers. As a result of the discrimination, the number of illiterate people was very high, girls and women were twice as badly affected as men.
After Morocco gained independence in 1956, all children theoretically received the right to free public schooling. In 1963 compulsory schooling was introduced. The Arabization of the education system began in the 1970’s and ended in 1989. Humanities subjects were taught in Arabic, math and science in French. To compensate for the shortage of local teachers, the Moroccan government recruited teachers from Romania, Bulgaria, France, Syria and Egypt. French remained the language of instruction in important parts of the education sector, including engineering.
Despite extensive investments and various efforts, the public education system remained inefficient. At the end of the 1990’s, around 50 percent of the total population was still illiterate. Immediately after taking power in 1999, King Mohammed VI launched. a national decade of education (1999-2009). In October 1999 he presented the “National Charter for Education and Training” in a speech from the throne. In it he called for fundamental reforms and modernizations of the education system and the school system. In the course of decentralization, regional academies for teacher training were set up. In 2002 compulsory schooling was extended to 9 years by law. In 2003 Berber was introduced as a subject. From 2009-2012 the national project “Najah” ran (Success) and the so-called “Plan d’Urgence”, followed by the “Medium-Term Plan”. The focus was on the quality of education, governance and equal opportunities. Financial support, technical assistance and advice were provided by the African Development Bank, the European Development Bank, the European Union, the Agence Francaise de Developpement, the Spanish AECID, the World Bank, UNESCO and USAID.
According to the National Education Charter of 1999, preschool in Morocco should be compulsory from the age of four and accessible to all children of the age group. So far, that is still a long way off. There is no legal claim. According to official figures, only a good half of a year attend a pre-school facility, mostly Koran schools. Traditionally, Moroccan children learn the Koran by heart in these schools and thereby acquire basic skills in reading, writing, arithmetic and general education. The Msid are under the supervision of the Ministry of Religion.
Primary school, college, lycée, vocational training
The Moroccan state school system is threefold: the primary school lasts six years and ends with an examination (CEP, Certificat d’Etudes Primaires). This is followed by the three-year college (BEC, Brevet d’Enseignement Collégial). If they fail the BEC, students can switch to a kind of vocational college and graduate with a simple degree. Upon successful completion of the Collège, depending on the final grades and inclination at a Lycée, you can take the general Abitur or a job-oriented Abitur (Baccalauréat, BAC for short). In the general BAC, students can choose between three branches: mathematical and natural science; scientific-experimental; literary-philosophical-linguistic. These branches are each subdivided again. At the same time, schools for vocational training offer various qualifications and further training courses in skilled trades and in accounting, as well as recently also for the professional field of renewable energies.
On average, around 4 million Moroccan children are enrolled in primary schools; about 1.6 million children study in middle schools; around 1 million young people attend high schools.
Moroccan higher education
Morocco’s educational landscape is in a state of upheaval in the context of globalization and privatization. The first Moroccan university (Mohammed V University in Rabat) was founded in 1957. Most students in Morocco either attend a state university or one of the “Grandes Écoles”, where, for example, engineers, business administrators and administrative managers are trained. The entrance requirement at both universities and elite schools is the Abitur with the appropriate grades and the appropriate focus. At the Grandes Écoles, there is usually an entrance examination. At universities, there are strict access restrictions for the subjects of medicine, pharmacy, engineering and architecture.
Most state universities are not very prestigious. Career -conscious young people apply primarily to the “Grandes Écoles” to study, for example at the engineering school École Mohammadia in Rabat-Agdal or at the semi-private Akhawayn University.
Trends: privatization, non-formal education
Private schools are trendy in Morocco. In all levels of education – from elementary school to university – the number of private institutions has more than doubled within 10 years, while the number of public schools and universities grew only slightly in the same period. In 2018 around 15 percent of all Moroccan primary school students attended private schools – three times as many as in 2000.
Another trend is so-called “non-formal” educational opportunities. In view of the high number of people who are still sitting and dropping out of school, private initiatives such as the Zakoura Education Foundation try to enable the children and young people affected to re-enter an educational career.
There is a large gap between urban and rural areas when it comes to education in Morocco. In some regions, private initiatives are trying to improve the situation, as this film from Switzerland shows.