Education is the basis of the development of any nation

New contributor Rime El Jadidi, drawing from her own experiences as a Moroccan student, shares her thoughts on how the system might be improved.

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Rime is a student at Al Akhawayn University 32 comments

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010


Education is the basis of the development of any nation. A country can spend money and time on touristic, infrastructural or any other short-term projects, but nothing would change if the citizen does not have a central role in the society. And this starts at school, this starts by giving the student/citizen responsibility and ability to make his or her own opinion.

My experience as a student

I am a student in a Moroccan university that follows the American educational system. I graduated from a French high school, after studying in a private Moroccan school until 9th grade. I only have little knowledge about the issue of education but I can give my personal opinion from my own experience as a student. And I believe that my different experiences in Moroccan, French and American-based educational systems enabled me to have a wider perspective on the subject.

From what I have experienced, the main issue in the Moroccan system is the absence of critical thinking. Students are not encouraged to question facts and concepts. Learning consists on memorizing without asking.  Besides, students are not encouraged – and sometimes not even allowed- to make their own opinion and express it, and when they do, they are usually penalized.

Not being allowed to criticize makes people afraid of criticism, especially when if is directed to them. This has a huge impact on people because they grow up not accepting criticism; they are not used to it.

The first step to cure a disease is to detect its origin

Another aspect is the lack of objectivity, especially in history. For instance, I never knew that Palestine was not a state until I went to a French school. Political issues should be taught in a non biased way. Of course, history is not the most objective subject; there are many “histories” in fact: teaching the First World War will not be the same in France and in Germany. But there are some aspects that should be taught to students without any religious or political bias. Indeed, I believe that it makes students/citizens more aware of what is going on in the world, and thus more able to act in to the benefit of their country. For example, if a Moroccan attends a debate on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and, while he or she is giving an argument, implies that Palestine is a state and has always been, everything he or she would say would then not be perceived as credible. This person might be considered either as ignorant or closed-minded and not able to debate. I don’t want to get into the Palestinian-Israeli issue, but it is a reality that the state of Palestine does not exist, and many people in Morocco do not know about his. I believe that we need to have the tools to defend our positions, and that is by knowing the reality of things, instead of learning them the way we think they should be. This argument also applies to religious and foreign policy issues. Objectivity is hard to find, but it is necessary to try to teach in the less biased way.

Paradox

The third issue in the Moroccan educational system is languages. There should be a real change in the way languages are taught. I will only give the example of Arabic. Until 9th grade (in Moroccan school), I could perfectly vocalize texts and apply grammar rules. When I went to high school in a French lycée, I took the International Baccalaureate Option (OIB) and I had to read novels in Arabic. At the beginning, it took me hours to read one single chapter and still, I could not understand it fully. I also had to do oral presentations and write essays that were 5 to 8 pages long. I had never done that before, and it took me three years of high school to be able to have a conversation in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), to make a 10 minutes long presentation, or to write a good essay in Arabic. Of course I’m an exception, and not all the students in French schools master Arabic. However, most people from Moroccan schools – just as I used to be- don’t master this language either. And this is mostly due to the lack of interest in it. I have heard many friends of mine from Moroccan schools telling me that learning Arabic was useless, and that I should focus more on learning English and Spanish.

Assimilating our incompetence

Studying in a university that applies the American educational system has its advantages. However, there are still some aspects of the backwardness of the Moroccan educational system, not necessarily in the way of teaching but in the attitudes of students. I remember that during my first semester here at AUI (Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane), I had a course of world literature; it was in Arabic. In all our courses, professors use the website Turnitin.com (an Internet-based plagiarism-detection service), but it is not used in Arabic classes. My teammates in this class were happy to know that they could now plagiarize without risking getting an F. This made me realize that people assimilated the idea that one, by his or her own, cannot do something good, that cheating is the only solution to succeed.

I’m not Socrates, nor Einstein

I don’t understand why students cannot get 20/20 in literature or philosophy. Actually, in philosophy, they cannot even get more than 13/20. The argument made by professors is that perfection cannot be attained in these two subjects. However, a student needs to be judged for his or her own capacities. In any field, a beginner cannot be judged according to the rating scale of someone in an advanced level. Besides, I do not understand why scientific subjects have the highest coefficient in middle school while there is no specialization yet.

No more Copy/Paste

I refuse to say that the French system is perfect or that Morocco should follow its path, what I’m saying is that it is obviously better than the Moroccan educational system. And I think that trying to copy-and-paste the principles of any educational system is making the same mistake again: accepting the idea that a Moroccan does not have the abilities to solve their own problems alone, without any external help.

During a lecture given by a former Moroccan Minister of communication in my university, he said that if people wanted good education in Morocco, they needed to pay for it. This person believes that universities as Al Akhawayn (AUI) and schools like the ISCAE (Institut Supérieur De Commerce et d’Administration des Enterprises) are the solution, while they only widen the gap between private and public education. When I argued that the French system was both free and good, this same person accused me of wanting to blindly copy the French system, which I do not agree with.

Yes, I can

All in all, there are many aspects of the Moroccan educational system that need to be changed: allowing critical thinking; giving more importance to languages, to written and oral communication; using technology; not to discriminate any specific field, etc. This list is non exhaustive, and all this can only be applied if teachers are given a specific training. Furthermore, all this needs a political will and decision. From what I know of Morocco, when our politicians really want to change something, they do: ten years ago, who would have thought that Moroccans would put the seat belt? Maybe this is a trivial change, but ten years ago, people would have laughed at anyone who would have said that this could happen. Last but not least, I think that Morocco needs to educate citizens that can serve it; Moroccans need to believe in each individual’s potential and power.

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Posted on Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

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32 comments on “Education is the basis of the development of any nation”

  1. “When I argued that the French system was both free and good, this same person accused me of wanting to blindly copy the French system, which I do not agree with.”

    Yes, you do. Morocco is not and has never been France. Morocco is not a republic. Morocco is not secular. Darija has never been a lingua franca. And the expansions we had have either been in the name of Allah or some family. Morocco is, by and large, a dirt-poor country and the little money the state has not even close to being well-managed.

    So…I disagree strongly. You indeed want to copy the French concepts of egalité and fraternité, ignoring that we have a different culture that revolves around Allah and the King. We don’t have the concept of equality in Morocco. One man is legally above all the rest by virtue of birth. Which is against everything France stands for.

    The seat belt analogy is bad, because there is a strong economic incentive to put it on. The mentality didn’t evolve. Neither did the constitution or the judicial system. I am probably as optimistic as you are, but let’s not pretend the norms are shifting towards critical thinking. The seat belt case is anything but critical thinking. It is a dogma: you put on the best or you pay up!


  2. morroco is ruled by france now so all your talk about freedom is risable. poor people in morroco are in a never never land of half education ie they dont know enough french and their arabic is rejected in most aspects of administrative life. they are kept in a dumb limbo by an imperilistic system .
    so regarding a country that is to frightened to recognise its own language is to the world a shamefull thing and morroco will never earn respect as long as this limbo exsists.
    by all means learn european languages and as many as you like. but until you are sure of your roots and have sorted them out you are nothing in the eyes of the world.
    regarding education it is now 30.000 pounds a year in the uk and students are in debt inthe usa it has reached 40.000 dollars.
    in the usa there are people going to food hall to collect food and long ques for food and these are working people in the uk many young people are entering the prison system or living in despaire as some are in france. you are lucky to have the time to discuss education as in europe they are to busy working in order to afford it.

    yes language should be made easier and less complicated and it should not be used as a weapon by making students write long essays that keep them busy for nothing and yes the arabic language has become dificult to learn becouse it has been undermined by french interests.
    regarding critical thinking the word criticise mean just that. to keep nit picking is not really clear thinking. to question just for the sake of it, without being logical or examining your motives is not clear thinking or honest debate .
    in fact i prefer pure motives and honest debate to the most clever debater as long words and big ideas are often a cover for not much substance.


  3. I’m unclear on why the deconstructive criticism and incendiary comments veering to the political debate. But I can all too well recognize the very ominously, know-it-all, dismissive tone the author is complaining about when mentioning criticism.

    Thanks for this post Rim. A for effort and grand vision. A+ for risk taking.

    Whether you realized it or not by “reaching for the stars” you opened a Pandora’s box, the audience of which will have no patience overlooking and engaging with you on the actual subject at hand. On the other hand, I’d argue that despite good intentions you diluted the original education subject. As hard as it might have been in this particular instance, it might served you better to stay as much as possible ‘on subject’ and keep supra root issues as light as possible. Sometimes the disease origin is to be tackled first, other times it is more efficient to come at it from a round about way. I like to call the Pandora’s box you opened: “fatalism” and it’s whole other ball of wax. It is just as ingrained and rampant in Morocco as it is in the above comments. I’ve witnessed it get better over the years though, so I believe there’s light.

    Short of having direct access to the disease origin or a cure in the form of a lucky social belonging, I believe there’s a lot that can be impacted via reaching out to one’s near circle of influence… and with faith, it grows from there. It is called giving back.

    PS: I came up through the French system in Morocco and very happy with the critical thinking it’s inculcated me but was appalled at the levels I discovered when I first arrived in France to study. So, is it a matter of Morocco? The bias to certain social categories attending French schools in Morocco? The resulting familial background and support? The selection of teachers present in Moroccan French Schools? A bit of everything? Something else? What could be learned from that and applied?

    PPS: Keep up the writing you have a good “plume”


  4. @Yacine: “I’m unclear on why the deconstructive criticism and incendiary comments veering to the political debate.”

    You can’t debate education in Morocco without getting political. Whether you like it or not, the Moroccan culture strongly opposes critical thinking. The norm is to shut your mouth on certain issues and mind your business. Otherwise, you can go to jail.

    Sorry…but this topic is inherently political. It’s about freedom of expression first and foremost.


  5. Good discussion! Finally someone wants to talk about it.
    I live in Morocco but I am not Moroccan. I grow up with totally different system that I will not describe here. Well what I see in Morocco is the LACK of real teachers. The one that are in collage or lycee are not well prepared. They have no background of basic education. By themselves they represents nothing – no culture – so they don`t transfer positive influences – they don`t care what is going around. Example: kids go out from school and just in front of the school they behave like wild animals -no rules, no respect to others and the teachers just pass by without any comments. The same with garbage – no one even explain what should be done. There is plenty of teachers that are just like the students – no rules away from school.
    How do you want to change the system as long you have disable teachers?
    How do you want to change anything as long parents don`t care what is going on?
    How do you want to compare different systems: paid and free of charge? Money talks here in Morocco. Unfortunately. Parents are afraid of speaking ( like you said – criticism and free thinking are not common thing in Morocco). Parents wants to pay so they feel that money will educate their kids.
    As long there are people that think like Samira : ¨we don`t have the concept of equality in Morocco¨ nothing will change for better!


    • @Monia: “As long there are people that think like Samira : ¨we don`t have the concept of equality in Morocco¨ nothing will change for better!”

      Samira presents a reality but I don’t think she condones it.

      The problem does not lie with lucid people like Samira. It’s the law and the culture that need changing. Indeed, defenders of the Makhzen often argue that, by nature, Moroccans only understand violence (kamouniyeen!) and they need a tyrannically strong authority to keep them in check otherwise they’ll start eating each other.


    • What are you expecting from a teacher who is paid 400 dollars or less a month ………….


      • Yeah yeah yeah…..because doubling their salary will obviously lead to a change in mentality and a firmer grasp of the cultural weak points of Morocco.

        Teachers are paid about the same in South Africa, and they inspire the students by teaching them to think rationally instead of filling their heads with bullshit religious junk.

        Stop blaming everything on socio-economics. It’s the culture, stupid!


      • Most of Moroccans don’t even have that 400 dollars a month!.


  6. Here’s a “round about way”:
    Arab teachers bring technology to classrooms: http://bit.ly/bqL4tG

    PS: Lucidity is different than fatalism. Being real and lucid is paramount but shouldn’t be pushed to the point of blinding us to opportunities, to doing our part and to the search of creative solutions, for which a ‘balanced’ lucidity is just as paramount to help sort out foolish dreams from promising solutions worth pursuing


  7. Manus McManus

    @ Yassine

    Although I understand your rational that can be mainly applicable in a developed society, your mantra of the power of positive thinking is really out of place. This is Morocco an authoritarian regime and a paternalistic backward society. Yes, it is political and for a long time. This is not predetermines or defeatism as you put it, but the experience of million of Moroccans as they live it. It is bleak. It is not fatalism. It is simply the third world.


  8. I’m honored to have here the representatives of millions of Moroccans. But blasphemous positivity aside for a moment, I wonder… 
    I wonder what one could call a stream of mostly true statements, exclusively pointing to what’s broken, but void of the smallest attempt at a creative suggestion or, God forbid, the merest miserable what-if. All strangely reeking of the “Don’t criticize, don’t think for yourself, sold as is” rule. I wonder… Anyone?


  9. Manus McManus

    @Yassine

    One could only admire your sense of can do attitude and self-help. However, even the most creative, successful, charismatic and respected of our people all around the world are reduced to insignificance once they land in our beloved country. Let us accept the blatant truth in our face. We are a nation of subjugated slaves and as long as one is not a free man, talking about bringing the best of our people is merely an illusion. Only freeman can shape their destiny. Slaves wait desperately for other freeman to release their potentials. An individual can only be free under the law, by voluntarily embracing it as his own, and that only can be feasible if a social contract is fulfilled between the state and the individual. Morocco is the personnel property of a minuscule oligarchy; the rest has no stakes in the new Morocco PLC.
    Moroccans are born free and everywhere you look they are in chains. Let’s find a way to break those chains first then we can talk about “creative suggestion”. Freedom is the greatest generational challenge facing us. Anybody, any suggestions……………..


  10. @Yacine Baroudi:

    Secularism. How’s that for a creative suggestion?


  11. Manus McManus

    I granted you that Fawzi this is the perfect solution :-)
    Now we have a problem Yacine. The whole Moroccan establishment tries to avoid this issue, through many complex manoeuvres, and tortuous intellectual gymnastics. In such scenario what would we do with “Amir Al Mouminin” and “Khalifatou Allah fi Ardih” ???????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Let’s see – Any creative solutions !!!!!!!!!


  12. You think you’re too small to change the world? Try sleeping with a mosquito in the room — Unknown


  13. Manus McManus

    “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.” Voltaire


  14. Manus McManus

    I think a forum should be set up to contemplate all possible political outcomes and solutions of any plausible transition to democracy, an Islamist Republic, or anything else in Morocco.

    A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”

    Herm Albright


  15. i will try to sum up my speech
    as a student in public university over here in agadir , i am totally agree with all of comments that , there isno any opportunities of critism or free thinking ….
    i’d like also want to thank rim for her precise describtion


  16. @Manus: “I think a forum should be set up to contemplate all possible political outcomes and solutions of any plausible transition to democracy, an Islamist Republic, or anything else in Morocco. ”

    There should be a forum to discuss the pros and cons of state religion in general, and Islam in particular.

    I’m not holding my breath though. Hisham and Jillian prefer ignoring the 1000 pound elephant in the room.


    • @Manus: “I think a forum should be set up to contemplate all possible political outcomes and solutions of any plausible transition to democracy”

      Agreed. There’s obviously so much to be discussed and so many ideas to explore, so much so that the virtual lack of public debate in Morocco about issues as fundamental as democracy, good governance, religion and state, makes the permissible space of constructive thinking reduced to a mere cacophony and rehash of the official line. As a matter of fact, we’re working on making some important changes in the format of Talk Morocco to allow for more flexibility in dealing with different subjects from a wider range of contributors.

      @Samira: We’re making our best to bring as many views as possible into the debate. The current format, I agree, is quite rigid and allows only to dealing with one subject at a time. We are in the process of changing that very soon. As a matter of fact, our next topic is precisely about religion and religious freedom in Morocco. We will be discussing whether the state should be involved in matters of religion, belief (or lack thereof) etc.

      Please do join us by sending your contributions.


  17. Manus McManus

    To have a theocracy in Morocco will be without a shadow of a doubt a disaster. Having permanently the present regime in Morocco is another disaster of incalculable consequences. The only hope for Morocco is some kind of an acceptable Democracy that is accountable to its people based on secular values. Preferably a Republic or at least a Constitutional rather than the Absolute Monarchy we have at the moment.

    However, to have a lucid and an informed debate, it is imperative to include all the political forces that may shape the future of Morocco, including those who have ideologies one finds abhorrent.

    It will be very naïve not to take seriously the challenge that the Islamists may pose in any future political arrangement.

    Samira even the most radical and progressive of Moroccans including the intelligentsia, or for that matter anybody who lives there, are incapable of uttering or formulating any criticism when the issue is about “Al Mou9adassat”. Their critical mind simply escapes them. The idea itself of even thinking of an alternative system is tantamount to heresy in the eyes of this idiosyncratic regime. The moment one brings the subject of the role of Islam or “His Majesty” in a modern democratic society, one sees a confused stunned look in their faces and at the same time an agitation. They look around to see if there is no human “Telescreens” about and quickly disappear before the “Thought police” turns up.

    Morocco is an Orwellian sate with basic food and necessities for the majority of its people and that is by no means a credit to the regime, but the ingenuity and perseverance of Moroccans. In Morocco “Two and Two make five” and “Slavery is Freedom” but most of all “God is power “ Allah Iy barak fa 3mar sidi”.


  18. Manus McManus

    @Hisham
    Looking forw
    ard to the new enhancements, and many thanks for your dedication as if our voices are not heeded by the regime at least it will irritate them no end. At least a there is another space where people can freely express their views without ending in room 101. :-)


  19. it is a reality that the state of Palestine ??? are you sure?? i invite you to read about”Accords Sykes-Picot” and “Balfour Declaration of 1917” ;try to look deep not only frnach version


    • Palestine was not a state. There was a British mandate of Palestine (a geographical location) at the time. And before that, the land was under Turkish control as part of the Ottoman Empire.


  20. Manus McManus

    So was the whole region and most of North Africa for a period of time under the Ottman Empire……and your point is?

    Kamal is absolutely right, Palestine as The Sykes–Picot Agreement clearly recognized a separate entity that was Palestine and it was going to be separate Arab state.

    “Lord Balfour wrote a memorandum from the Paris Peace Conference which stated that the other allies had implicitly rejected the Sykes-Picot agreement by adopting the system of mandates. It allowed for no annexations, trade preferences, or other advantages. He also stated that the Allies were committed to Zionism and had no intention of honoring their promises to the Arabs”

    “The United Kingdom later promised to favour the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine in the Balfour Declaration of November 1917. The Churchill White Paper, 1922 stated that the letter that the “districts west of Damascus” also included the Sanjak of Jerusalem and the Vilayet of Beirut (that is, Palestine)”


  21. i completely second yacine baroudi’s opinion on taking a roundabout alternative rather than pointing to what’s broken and attempting to utter the same thoughts on different chords , let’s not over-estimate our foe to a fatalistic extent.
    today there’s a problem wich is education , any ideas ? this way a brainStorming will take place , and the bubble will keep on growing .
    besides we are in a different era , where knowledge is everywhere , can we just use Web2.0 to influence the moroccan education? Yes we can , and this is in my opinion a promising track .
    why don’t we stop rehashing , and hit the next phase wich is , contribution to a homogenous content rather than producing shattering , conflicting ,and overly intellectual thesis .
    here’s my own idea :
    using Social Media to set a platform uniting worldWide student and engage continuous exchange , this way we can reach a universal teaching system , undependant of whatever gouvernement , whose goal is knowledge .

    Regards


  22. well, it’s really nice to talk about education in marocco from some one who attend maroccain school;however i read till”…and that I should focus more on learning English and Spanish….” instead of describing things let’s look for solutions, there is a conflict betwen poors and rich and poor are like means of productions we ‘the poor must protest and stuggle, or die’ in order to provide for the next generation a wonderful a typical atmosphere of stadying.
    get you right and don’t be afraid.


  23. i would simply say that the education system in morocco is not completely bad espacially when we talk about what is being thought to student .when we comparing it with other countries around the world morocco recieve a huge amount of information in numerous subjects when in other countries students recieve only little


  24. ( Moroccans need to believe in each individual’s potential and power ) ..
    I do fully agree with you regarding this sentence ..But if we’ll get a bit realistic we’ll surely discover that we’ll just muddy the waters by struggling for improving our education .. Here in Morocco , when you endeavor your best to spark off a relevant changes , people undoubtedly brand you as a nutter . I think that Morrocan’s people entail at least more than 50 years so as to get rid of the so called ( scare ) .. It’s damn undeniable that most of morrocans are wholly scared and not willing to take any risks ..
    Concerning your point about educational system .. It’s widely asserted that if you want to get a successful career , you should attend a foreign university or AUI as you said ..Because of the highly educational system and the availability of high academic resources and programms . If you want to become just small worker with a small monthly payment .. You can reap it through attending morroco’s schools and universities .
    Anyway .. One page seems not enough to describe rightly the horrible quality of education here .. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best in the future .. and we should bear in our mind that there’s nothing we can do to alter something in this country .


  25. ان كنا نرى المشكلة من خارجها دون اصلها, ان كنا نصفها من دون ان نعيشها فعندها نكون قد حاولنا ان نفهمها و ليس حلها. كم من ابتدائية أو ثانوية جديدة أقيمت مثلا في الداربيضاء في السنوات العشر الأخيرة, وكما تعلمون ساكنة البيضاء يزيد سكنها دون مرافقها التعليمية ؟ عدد التلاميذة اليوم في اقسام الثنويات اصبح يناهز 50 في القسم الواحد؟
    ابنوا المزيد من المدارس والثنويات
    أعيدوا لدور القرآن احترامها ووقارها.حفظ كتاب الله الذي انزل بالعربية الفصحى هو أول خطوة يخطوها الطفل النابغة نحو التكوين الصحي. أعيدوا للغة العربية دورها في البلاد لتشمل كل المجالات الاقتصادية والإجتماعية والسياسية وذالك بالتركيز على عملية دقيقة وشاملة ومداومة على ترجمة كل ما كتب في الغرب الى اللغة العربية. علينا ان نعود المغاربة ان يتكلموا الفصحى دون الدارجة. والسؤال هو لمن له المصلحة في أن يكون التعليم في المغرب متدهورا؟


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