RABAT—For three years as a young public-school teacher in Morocco, Abdelghani Erraki taught physics and chemistry in French without a hitch. But in 1983, following a wave of Arab nationalism, the Moroccan government decided to change the language of instruction in science, math, and technical classes from French to Arabic.
Erraki was given two weeks of training from the Ministry of Education and was expected to begin teaching completely in Arabic at the start of the school year.
This year Erraki, is having a sense of deja vu: The Moroccan government is telling teachers to switch back to French. And this time, instead of just two weeks of training, teachers will get none.
“Changing from French to Arabic and then from Arabic to French has had a negative impact on the quality of education,” said Erraki, who now serves as the head of the teacher’s union branch of the Democratic Confederation of Labor. He blames politicians who flip-flopped to please voters for the instability and ineffectiveness of Moroccan education.
“Improvisation in government has been the reason that we haven’t gotten any results,” said Erraki. “There hasn’t been a plan.”
The latest language change from Arabic to French will also ultimately affect universities even though university students are already largely studying in French. The law passed last year changed the language of instruction in science, math, and technical classes from Arabic to French partly to combat dropout rates in public universities and to increase in-country scientific research.
Language Debate’s Long History in Morocco
Experts and politicians have debated the language of instruction in public schools since Morocco gained independence from France in 1956. Following independence, Moroccan nationalists wanted to eliminate French and elevate Arabic to reclaim a sense of national identity. Their primary goal was Arabization, expanding the influence of the Arab language and culture, which they started in 1962.