Friday, 10 April 2020 08:23

The reform of higher education in Morocco: an unfinished project

The reform of the university is a major political issue, given the systemic crisis that challenges its role, mission and its place in the context of globalization. In Morocco, as elsewhere, the university is facing several challenges ranging from political (renewal and sustainability of the elite), economic (promoting development) to sociological (social mobility). The university can no longer claim the sustainability of these motor functions of progress.

Formerly a bastion of intellectual opposition, source of knowledge, guaranteeing equal access to scientific research, and finally, a springboard for access to employment, Moroccan university has been sinking, over the years, in what is now a structural crisis. This feeling is shared not only by the experts but also by the demonstrating unemployed graduates who testify of the faculty members lacking motivation, the frustration of the recent graduates all of which is the forefront of a spiral of protest reaching the activist sphere linked to movements’ protesters.  

Beyond the diagnosis of crisis, the objective is to contribute to the development of proposed structural, educational and ergonomic reforms without changing the current architecture, since Moroccan university adopted eight years ago, the "Licence-Master-Doctorate" (LMD) system.

More concretely, it is the difficulty of the proposed transposition of a comparative model implemented in major European universities that is felt between the lines of the reformers of all stripes. This model can inspire policy makers and teachers to take the best, most adaptable and most suitable for the Moroccan university. Also, such a project should be subject to debate, explanations for a practical reform, away from polemics and ideological differences.

 

Some keys elements explain the crisis of the Moroccan university, based on conclusions shared by the community of professors and researchers, by students and by foreign observers as to the quality of the educational offer, the employability of graduates and the scientific position of Moroccan universities vis-à-vis the professional world.

For over a decade, the Moroccan university, particularly in its 'general' branches has had its employability rate becoming increasingly low. Public Service, (Education, Interior, plants, etc. Administrations) continues to absorb more than 30% of graduates. The access to employment dictated by urgency is based on a quantitative logic in the form of equivalent budgetary units. Despite the introduction of the LMD, which puts more emphasis on mobility and inter disciplinary bridges, general education courses (humanities, languages, social sciences, basic science courses ...) continue to predominate as the tubular model. Professional dimension has not been structurally highlighted during the transition to the LMD.

 

Thus, more than three quarters of students enrolled in any given sector remain there from the first year of their bachelor until the last year of the masters, without being provided with the possibility of horizontal mobility (from one sector to another) or parcourtielle (from research to the professional training). For ten semesters constituting the path to obtain a bachelor and master degrees, students randomly take on internships in the real world of work (authorities, economic operators, engineering, etc.) Students end up with a training disjointed in a triple way: a base of theoretical knowledge that lacks methodological rigor, critical capacity and analytical mind which ultimately is the key to employability. A university course without mandatory and practical internships that would boost employment opportunities. Courses only touch upon jobs’ repository and don’t really emphasize professionalism. Diplomas do not reflect the academic fields required. The conclusion is widely shared by the experts, Moroccan and foreign researchers. The basic prerequisites have hit rock bottom. The number of students who can pursue their studies in France fell by over 60%, and that, regardless of the constraints associated with obtaining visas. Many applications are rejected after examination of school records by Campus France.

 

General programs have little or no prior information towards the students, allowing them a better direction, giving more background information related to the course, and especially gateways to employment opportunities, and the actual or projected rate of employability. Often the choices are made by default, resignation and, in the background, a belief ingrained in the student community, which consists of working at offices in the public service.

 

The student is changing now, in a binary perspective: he will, at best, become a versatile office worker, at worst; he will be unemployed bogged down in social status. The educational offer remains fairly marked by an academic vision, favoring less lectures and interactive form of epistemological formatting. Students feast on reference lists to study and handouts to memorize without having to measure or assess the empirical “background”. The use of modern communication technologies, such as interactive, digital techniques, working groups are random.   Many intermediate courses (Master) focus on research tracks, without recourse to external professional counselors. Successful universities are those who mix the teaching staff and knot or develop public-private partnerships. Thus the possibilities of gateways co-developed for the benefit of students, are almost nonexistent. The transposition of the LMD reform to the university was made more ​​ "for the upgrading of qualifications", rather than be focused on a logical structure of educational training. In short, a “bad copy paste, both of the system’s architecture and the educational offer.

Over twenty years, the number of doctorates supported or co-authorized with foreign universities (France - Canada - United States) fell over 70%. Research professors, which serve as an interface to the Moroccan elite and international research have only limited means or bilateral agreements to forge research partnerships based on mobility and exchange of expertise leading to , in this case, an excessive retreat from globalization of the knowledge society.

Finally, and without partisan or polemical spirit, the “Arabization” of the university’s educational system faces three paradoxes. First, much of the government and senior ruling elite speak and practice in everyday French. The second paradox is felt in areas of excellence and thus employability (School of Engineering, Medicine, and Business) where courses are taught in French, and thus mechanically "closed" to non-Francophone students. The third, less visible, but detrimental to the renewal of the elite of Morocco, is the stranglehold of foreign experts and consultants in the process of finalizing public and strategic policies while graduate students are not eligible or trained to meet this challenge, for lack of mastering the required knowledge and no solid foundation in languages, in this case, French and English.

Dr. Youssef Chiheb

University Paris XIII – Sorbonne

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