The Moroccan government’s six-year-old, ongoing education reforms have created huge public demand for arts teaching, but critics say the strategy is flawed.
“There is an unparalleled demand from students,” according to Tariq El Yazidi, director of the Centre for Artistic and Literary Awakening in Tangier.
“A large number of families are keen to register their children at the centre,” he told Al-Fanar Media.
El Yazidi’s institution in Tangiers is one of 60 regional centres set up so far by the Ministry of National Education. More are planned by the end of the decade.
The ministry’s Strategic Vision of Reform 2015–2030 puts a high priority on improving the quality of all components of the kingdom’s educational system, from preschool to higher education and vocational training.
It includes the establishment of regional “centres of artistic and literary awakening” with courses in theatre, cinema, music, and the plastic arts, given by specialist teachers.
Previously, music and the plastic arts were taught only at the primary and secondary stages in public education. The classes were for only two hours a week, and were available to only 5 percent of students, according to the ministry.
The new regional centres are open to all students, but critics say the reforms have not gone far enough.
‘An Incomplete and Truncated Vision’
Tawfiq Moftah, a researcher in art and culture, believes the establishment of the centres was necessary because the teaching of arts in Moroccan schools had deteriorated to “a fragile situation.”
“We seek to enhance the students’ openness to their artistic and cultural surroundings.”Mubarak Muzain
Head of Social and Cultural Activities Development at the Ministry of Education
He added, however: “The project of artistic and literary development institutions has not yet received the necessary care from the ministry.”
Deploring what he called “an incomplete and truncated vision,” he said that not all of the plan’s elements had been built, and that the legal status of the centres was unclear.
For his part, Mubarak Muzain, head of Social and Cultural Activities Development at the Ministry of Education, said in a statement to Al-Fanar Media that the establishment of the artistic and literary awakening centres was “of great significance.”
The aim is “to improve the education and training system by making school spaces more attractive, open and integrated,” he said.
“We seek to enhance the students’ openness to their artistic and cultural surroundings,” he continued, and to manage the activities of the centres “in a manner that ensures equal opportunities and achieves fair benefit for all students.”
A Student’s Experience
Anas Al-Zamati is among the students who have benefited from the new centres.
Coming from the south of the country, Al-Zamati graduated from the Artistic and Literary Awakening Centre in Guelmim and is now studying cinema at the Higher Institute of Audiovisual and Film Professions, in Rabat.
Al-Zamati hopes to achieve his dreams after obtaining higher degrees. He told Al-Fanar Media: “Our generation is fortunate, because we found the Centre for Artistic and Literary Awakening during our middle and high school stages. We learned a lot in the field of arts, whether theatre or cinema, in the city of Guelmim, where there are no art and film institutes.”
Tariq El Yazidi, director of the Tangier centre, said there was growing public awareness of the importance of training in the artistic and linguistic fields.
“Our generation is fortunate, because we found the Centre for Artistic and Literary Awakening during our middle and high school stages.”Anas Al-Zamati
A graduate of a regional centre who is now pursuing cinema studies in Rabat
He emphasised that the centre is “open to all parties concerned with art and culture.” It has signed a number of partnership agreements with other artistic, literary and cultural institutes in Tangier, he added, and brings in well-known artistic and cultural figures to talk to students and organise exhibitions.
These activities also play a role in training teachers and coordinators of educational clubs in schools, he said.
Challenges and Demands
Tawfiq Moftah agreed that “the awakening centres play something similar to the role of mediator with educational institutions by preparing and motivating schoolteachers in the fields of arts.”
He argued, however, that the centres are too remote from mainstream education. “In order for this project to succeed, it must break with isolation from educational institutions,” he said.
“These centres cannot replace the school in arts education, because they do not provide the same opportunities for everyone, because they are of a regional nature.”
Ibrahim El-Haisen, an artist and critic, believes that “the problem of technical education in Morocco can only be solved by creating pathways and divisions for plastic and applied arts in faculties.” This, he said, would allow holders of specialised bachelor’s degrees to complete their training and become teachers of plastic arts education in primary and secondary schools.
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In a statement to Al-Fanar Media, El-Haisen called on the Ministry of Education to issue a decree setting standards for “the work of the institutions of artistic awakening, regulating the methods and techniques of work within this institution and reconsidering the programs and decisions of art and plastic arts education in schools.”
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