A plan by the Moroccan Ministry of Higher Education that would, among other things, bump up the number of years required to earn a bachelor’s degree from three to four years has stirred up opposition among both students and professors.
The plan was supposed to be implemented this academic year, but has been delayed by a year.
Morocco is one of the few Arab countries to have made many changes in its educational system in recent years. The changes the higher education ministry is now proposing would include a requirement for students to master English and would include in the new four-year undergraduate program a preparatory year to give students the knowledge and skills to succeed in the last three years of their education. The four-year degree is similar to the academic system followed in several other Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and some Gulf countries.
But these proposed changes are drawing a lot of opposition from those who feel that other longstanding needs for reforms—including higher pay for professors—are being neglected.
The proposed reforms came in an attempt to improve the quality of university education and the quality of students graduating from universities in the kingdom, according to Saeed Amzazi, Minister of Education and Higher Education and Vocational Training. “We are working to develop the university educational system in line with education in the U.S., which is characterized by openness and flexibility,” he said in a press briefing. “This will give students greater opportunities to develop skills and gain experiences during their study.”
Many believe that Morocco’s university system needs adjustments.
In a telephone interview, Abdelkader Lachkar, a member of Morocco’s National Syndicate for Higher Education and Scientific Research, a union for academics, said “there is a consensus among all the actors and those concerned with the higher education and scientific research system that there are several imbalances in the current educational system.” He said that the most important of these imbalances was the weak output of the Moroccan university education system, namely its graduates. That, he said, is reflected in the high unemployment rate, which is now at 18.9 percent. In addition, 16.5 percent of newly enrolled students quit their university studies after their first year. The proportion of students leaving the university without obtaining a degree is 47 percent.
Some put the blame for the high drop-out rate on Morocco’s schools and on policy confusion, including confusion about which language to teach which subject in. University students also struggle with such basics as transportation and finding housing near universities. (See two related articles, “The Latest in Language Confusion: Morocco Switches Back from Arabic to French” and “Finding a Place to Sleep—a Challenge for Moroccan Students.”)
Still, the proposed new educational system is widely criticized by university professors who say they weren’t included in developing the idea and are worried that it will fail if their recommendations are not considered.