The Kingdom of Morocco (المملكة المغربية) is a country in North Africa with a population of 33,241,259. It has a long coast on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco has international borders with Algeria to the east, Spain to the north (a water border through the Strait and land borders with two small Spanish enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla), and Mauritania or Western Sahara to the south (depending on the disputed Moroccan claim to Western Sahara as its Southern Provinces; it has administered most of the territory since 1975).
Morocco, a constitutional monarchy, is the only African country that is not currently a member of the African Union. However, it is a member of the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mediterranean Dialogue group, and Group of 77, and is a major non-NATO ally of the United States.
Morocco gained independence in 1956 and a year later the Royal Commission for Education Reform laid down the basic principles of post-independence Moroccan education. Chief among the goals of education reformers was the Arabization of curriculum and faculty, the widening of access at all levels, and the unification of disparate educational systems. These education systems included the pre-colonial model of instruction at Koranic schools concentrating on Islamic studies and Arabic literature, and a French colonial model that had primarily served the educational needs of the European minority.
Developed during fifty years of colonial rule, the French educational model was adopted by the newly independent Moroccan state and reorganized to introduce a technical track in addition to a “modern” track and the “original” track. The modern track was essentially a continuation of the French system, maintaining French as the language of instruction. The original track incorporated the traditions of Koranic-based education, emphasizing Islamic culture and civilization and using Arabic as the language of instruction.
The technical track was introduced to develop a cadre of skilled workers capable of serving the needs of the rapidly developing state. At the secondary level, all three tracks were modeled on the French system. The Ministry of National Education was established in 1959 to begin the task of training a native teaching corps to replace foreign teachers, build new schools and implement governmental education reforms. Compulsory basic education was introduced in the early 1960s and, by 1985, enrollments of school-age children had reached 85%, as compared to 17% at independence.
Although schooling is compulsory and free (at state schools) many children — particularly in rural areas — still do not attend school. Overall literacy rates have remained at around 50 percent for some years, and numbers are heavily skewed in favor of the male population and urban areas. Among school-age children the literacy rate has been increasing, but at 70 percent (2002) it is still low when compared to 86 percent for the North African region.
Arabic is the main language of instruction, but French is still used in technical disciplines at some secondary schools and university faculties. French is introduced into the curriculum in the third grade. Spanish is spoken by many Moroccans in the north of the country, while English is increasingly becoming the foreign language of choice for youth attending private schools. A second foreign language is introduced into the state curriculum in grade ten (the first year of secondary school).
The Reform Act of 2004
Several changes were implemented as a result of this important act, e.g., the credit system was introduced in Moroccan universities, the duration of Licence study was changed to three years for the Licence, two years for the Master, and three years for the Doctorat.
Beginning in 2004, a pilot group of faculties at Morocco’s universities began reforms aimed at bringing them closer into line with universities from around the world, especially Europe, while offering students increased flexibility in their studies and universities more autonomy in their program offerings.
Under the new structure, three-year post- baccalauréat programs (introduced in 2003-2004) culminate in the award of either a Licence d’Etudes Fondamentales (which grants access to either a two-year Master or Master Spécialisé program) or a Licence Professionnelle (which grants access to the workforce). Students who have graduated from a licence professionnelle program may enter a master’s program if they have relevant work experience and pass an entrance examination. Although the general aim of specialized master’s programs is to train students for a profession, graduates from master’s programs are also eligible for admission to doctoral programs.
Four modules per semester constitute a full-time workload (16 modules = a master’s degree), and it is recommended that one module require a minimum of 75 hours of student work. Students must pass three modules to pass (valider) the semester. The student can then transfer a “validated” module between institutions or programs.
The modularization of degree programs is divided into three broad blocks: The major, which represents 70 percent (70%) of the overall workload; transferable skills such as languages, communication skills, management and information technology (15%); and ancillary and optional modules (15%).
At the master’s level, students must complete a practical component. In the specialized stream this would generally be an internship; in the academic stream it might constitute a period at a research laboratory or at a public or private research institution.
Universities wishing to establish new master’s programs must submit the proposed program to an accreditation process overseen by La Commission Nationale de Coordination de l'Enseignement Supérieur under the aegis of the Ministry of Higher Education.
Primary and Secondary Education (Pre-Reform Act of 2004)
The basic education cycle lasts nine years, is followed by three years of secondary education and leads to one of three secondary school credentials: the < lang="fr"i>Baccalauréat, the Baccalauréat Technique or the Baccalauréat Lettres Originale for academic, technical, and religious studies, respectively. All three secondary graduation credentials provide access to post-secondary education.
Post-Secondary Education (Pre-Reform Act of 2004)
All students who complete the Baccalauréat are eligible to enter an institution of higher education. However, many schools and faculties require that students also pass an entrance examination; and most institutions and faculties also require that students have minimum grades in their proposed major. Furthermore, some institutions will only accept students who have obtained their Baccalauréat in the year of application for registration. These extra requirements have been introduced over the last 10 to 15 years as schools have become unable to meet the burgeoning demand created by the official Moroccan policy of open access for Baccalauréat holders.
Morocco has one private university, Al-Akhawayn, which was founded in 1993 as an English-language, American-style university. The private sector is also represented at the tertiary level by an increasing number of for-profit higher institutes and schools, the first of which date back to the early 1980s. Higher education is also offered at public professional training institutions (établissements de la formation des cadres) and vocational training institutions (centres de formation professionnelle).