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Morocco to Reinforce English Learning Amid Tensions with France

December 08, 2022

Original Article:

Morocco’s Minister of National Education, Pre-School, and Sports Chakib Benmoussa announced on Tuesday that his ministry plans to increase the number of English teachers this academic year in an advance toward the roll out of English teaching within middle schools. 

“Starting from this school year, our goal is to first, at the middle school level, reinforce students’ learning of the English language,” the minister said at a press conference. “We will increase the number of English teachers.”

Benmoussa added that his ministry considers creating platforms that can help students master the English language.

Morocco's efforts to advance English teaching coincide with the country's growing diplomatic tensions with France over visa rejection issues and lack of French support over the Moroccanness of  Western Sahara. 

The North African country now has less than 9,000 English teachers employed across 2,200 schools in the country, but the minister insisted the number will considerably go up in the coming semesters and years. 

Benmoussa’s announcement comes as many Moroccans call for ditching French and replacing it with English as the main foreign language in Moroccan schools to prepare young Moroccans for one of the requirements of the ever-competitive global economy. 

While the Moroccan Education Minister did not particularly nod to the “Shift to English” movement, he also made the case that English teaching will broaden Moroccan students' opportunities by giving them access to more countries and to quality education across public and private institutions. 

Eight million Moroccan students returned to school on September 5, with 6.9 million students enrolled in public schools and 1.1 million in private schools, Benmoussa detailed.

In April, months before the back-to-school period, Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education Abdellatif Miraoui presented the “National Plan to Accelerate the Transformation of the Ecosystem.” The education plan called for improving language learning, promoting digital technology, and enhancing skills required in the job market. 

English learning was at the center of the scheme, with Moroccan universities having announced plans to require students to receive a minimum B1 level --lower intermediate level-- in the IELTS or TOEFL qualifications to receive their undergraduate diploma.

Morocco’s decision to advance nationwide English teaching at different grades has been interpreted by some observers as indicating the country’s gradual shift towards cutting ties with French, the language of its former colonizer. But others have simply welcomed the reform as needed and long-overdue, arguing matter-of-factly that it meets the competitive demand of the global market. 

However, recent studies have confirmed Morocco’s low aptitude in the English language, showing Moroccan schools’ unreadiness to entirely shift to English teaching. 

Despite the increasing popularity of English among young Moroccans, Morocco received in 2021 a “low” ranking in the English proficiency index, ranking 71st out of 112 countries evaluated. 

To reverse this trend, the recent partnership between Morocco and the British Embassy in Rabat has worked on both promoting English among young Moroccans and furthering their mastery of the language.

The partnership appears to have borne fruit, with the British Council in Morocco concluding in a study last year that “English is expected to become Morocco’s primary foreign language in the next five years, as well as the foreign language most widely spoken among youth.”


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