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.
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.