Building credentials: Reform can nurture talent and enhance technical skills

The Emergency Plan 2009-12 was launched five years ago to boost schooling levels in the kingdom, enhance the quality of teaching and infrastructure, and improve higher education and scientific research.

Budgeted at Dh35bn (€3.1bn), the initiative has channelled substantial funds into the education sector, allowing better infrastructure to facilitate an increase in school enrolment rates. Nevertheless, a number of challenges still need to be addressed to improve access to education in rural areas and ensure greater gender equality.

PERFORMANCE: According to recent figures released by the World Bank, Moroccan education has made considerable progress in enhancing access to schooling over the past decade. This achievement can mainly be attributed to increased investment in infrastructure and aid granted to young Moroccans under various recent reforms.

At the primary school level, between 2010/11 and 2012/13, net enrolment rose from 93.2% to 97% for girls and from 95.8% to 96.4% for boys. At the lower secondary school level, meanwhile, the equivalent figures were 21.3% to 25.9% for girls and 28.6% to 34% for boys.

According to statistics from the government, the total number of public schools at the primary, middle and secondary education levels went up from 8897 in 2005/06 to 10,208 in 2012/13. As a result, enrolment rates in primary education rose from 52.4% to 98.2%, while those in middle school jumped from 17.5% to 56.7%, and finally those in secondary school moved up from 6.1% to 32.4%.

Despite higher schooling rates in recent years, further efforts are needed to improve the overall quality of education, particularly in science-related subjects. The 2011 edition of Trends in 74% of Moroccan students in grade four mathematics were not able to reach the lowest of four benchmark levels and none could reach the highest level.

CLOSING THE GAP: Another key issue is the disparities that remain between rural and urban areas as well as between genders. Out of the 300,000 school drop-outs registered annually, 58% are female. In addition, some 16% of girls living in rural areas never attend school and only 57.8% reach middle school.

In a speech delivered in August 2013, King Mohammed VI presented an assessment of the sector’s performance and outlined the achievements, but also the multiple challenges and goals that still need to be reached. Moreover, he announced the reactivation of the Higher Council for Education (Conseil Supérieur de l’Education, CSE), first established in 2006, as part of monitoring and evaluating public policies in education. Perhaps the most important component of the CSE is its structure, which brings together 100 members from across the sector, including public officials, universities, student organisations, parent associations, teacher unions and non-governmental organisations.

REFORM: A comprehensive reform programme, the National Education and Training Charter, was first initiated in 1999, establishing education and training as a major priority for the next decade. The Emergency Plan, launched to revitalise and accelerate the reform process, continues today under the government’s Action Plan 2013-16, known in French as “Plan d’Action”, and is estimated to cost Dh9.86bn (€875.6m). The new programme will focus on six different pillars, including promoting scientific research, improving sector governance, enhancing curricula, boosting social aid granted to students, reviewing the sector’s current legal framework and developing a strategy for international cooperation.

To date, Morocco has received considerable support from a number of key development partners in implementing its reforms. The World Bank has been active in mobilising technical and financial aid for several years. In 2010, the organisation allocated $100m to support measures put in place under the Emergency Plan, and in May 2013 it approved an additional $100m. In 2012, a four-year programme known as Pagesm 2011-15, was launched for more than $18.5m by the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training (Ministère de l'Education Nationale et de la Formation Professionnelle, MEN) in partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency to accelerate reforms and enhance public school management across the country.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING: The Bureau of Professional Training and Employment Promotion (Office de la Formation Professionnelle et de la Promotion du Travail, OFPPT) is the main public provider of vocational training in the kingdom. The OFPPT was created in 1974 to enhance human resource training and is the main training institution working in concert with the country’s economic development goals. With more than 320 centres nation-wide, it has come to play an important role in aligning training with the needs of the market, as well as supplying the economy with skilled and qualified labour. This is particularly the case for emerging industries such as autos, aeronautics and offshoring, and is in accordance with the needs generated by the Industrial Emergence Plan first launched in 2005. According to sector analysts, the government’s goal is to increase the number of people trained by the OFPPT to 1m by 2020.

“Mindsets have considerably evolved and vocational training has acquired significant importance and become widely recognised,” Mohamed Tazi, former director-general at the École Supérieure de Commerce et Management, told OBG. “At present, students enrol in vocational training by choice, and not because of the absence of other alternatives, as was the case a few years ago,” he added.

EARLY DAYS: The current size of vocational training in the private sector, however, remains small in comparison to the OFPPT, simply because the private sector cannot invest to the same extent as the OFPPT. The latter is backed not only by the government, but also by international cooperation agreements in devising training programmes. As a result, the private sector has seen the number of student enrolments decline in recent years, as well as a number of schools disappear from the map.

“The decline in student numbers entering private vocational training is likely to continue if schools do not adapt curricula to meet the demands of enterprises and invest more funds to enhance the quality of training,” Tazi told OBG. A significant number of private vocational schools have fewer than 50 students. These have mostly been created to meet a specific need or objective. Professions in which private sector training has considerably contributed in recent years include paramedics and hairdressing. A number of professions however, particularly in services, banking and insurance, continue to suffer from a lack of qualified staff.

PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION: Around 120 institutions with more than 530,000 students form the backbone of the public higher education system.

Enhanced infrastructure is by far the biggest impact the Emergency Plan has had on the segment, thanks mostly to the rehabilitation of existing universities and the construction of new institutions. This has ultimately reduced overcrowding, which has resulted from higher numbers of students moving up from secondary education.

According to statistics from the ministry, the number of students enrolled in public secondary education increased from 618,871 in 2005/06 to 905,051 in 2012/13. The baccalaureate rate doubled between 1990 and 2009 to reach a total of 104,112 students. In 2012 alone, the number of entrants to public universities increased by 20%.

Several new institutions are also in the pipeline for the coming years as part of the strategy to increase the availability of human resources in specific professions, especially for engineering. The École Centrale de Casablanca, expected to open by September 2014, will be modelled after one of France's leading engineering universities, École Centrale de Paris; while the Euro-Mediterranean Engineering School, also set to open in 2014, in Fez, is part of a French-Moroccan partnership effort and will offer courses in engineering and architecture.

INTERNATIONAL IMAGE: The increased development of foreign partnerships is testament to the country’s commitment to draw on foreign expertise to develop its education system, as well as to attract more foreign students to the kingdom.

However, a number of challenges need to be addressed to realise the full objective. With the uptick in foreign partnerships, student language proficiency will be key for determining the success of these agreements. The transition from Arabic at the primary and secondary levels to French (in most cases) at the tertiary level still poses a challenge to many students entering higher education. To solve the issue, an agency evaluating language proficiency among university entrants was set up under the Emergency Plan, and those encountering problems are gradually being introduced to cross-disciplinary subjects to improve their languages skills.

TAILORING CURRICULA: The Emergency Plan, which has sought to enhance the overall quality of courses, saw the number of accredited subjects in public higher education more than double between 2008 and 2012. Career-oriented programmes account for around 50% of subjects and attract between 6000 and 10,000 students. Some of these courses were devised as part of a series of contract programmes targeting higher education and developed with the support of the government. These programmes are aimed at attracting more students into technical specialties in line with the economy’s needs in terms of qualified labour.

One educational initiative, for example, launched in 2006, was to train 10,000 engineers by 2010, a goal which was achieved on time, ensuring that 11,420 engineering students had received diplomas under the initiative as of 2010/11.

Another effort, launched in 2006, is Maroc Off-shoring 2010, which provides services training, notably finance and insurance, for 6000 students. As of 2010, some 6249 students had graduated under the programme. Tutoring has also been reinforced at universities, allowing students greater assistance with their academic and university life. Tutors include university professors, alumni and paid students completing their master’s and doctorate degrees. Université Mohammed V in Rabat was one of the first to launch the experiment in 2011/12, and according to Afifa Hakam, director of strategies and information system at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, positive results have been achieved, particularly in scientific subjects.

PRIVATE SECTOR: The first private schools appeared in the 1980s and their numbers slowly increased to meet rising demand for better training from both students and companies. A fund to promote higher education and private training, known as fonds de promotion de l’enseignement privée, or FOPEP, was established in 2007 to jointly finance the extension and construction plans of private higher educational providers. Supported by the banking sector, the fund is managed by the state-owned Central Guarantee Fund and allows private investors to access financing at attractive rates. According to local media, as of September 2013, FOPEP had approved 193 projects since its establishment, for a total investment of Dh2.2bn (€195.4m), and allowing for the creation of 4760 classrooms for 121,500 students.

Although their share of enrolment is modest, Morocco has a number of private primary and secondary schools, many of which, such as the Collège Lycée Leon l'Africain and the George Washington Academy, have French or American curriculum. The private sector includes more than 200 private schools and 38,000 students, accounting for 10% of enrolment in higher education. While enrolment in this segment increased annually in the 2000s, the numbers dropped in 2011-13 despite the government’s goal to bring the enrolment rate up to 20% by 2015.

Several factors explain this decline, such as the economic crisis limiting households’ ability to pay tuition fees, limited outreach about the private sector’s strategy in Morocco and the rise of new institutions. “There is a lack of visibility which needs clarifying in a number of areas, notably subject-accreditation to help students as well as parents in their decision to opt for private education,” Hassan Sayarh, the managing director of the Institut des Hautes Études de Management, a local business school, told OBG.

A bill was adopted in July 2013 to establish the National Agency for the Evaluation of Higher Education, which is tasked with assessing educational providers in both the public and private sector, and to establish a mechanism to ensure regular annual evaluation of institutions. “This agency will aid regulation of the sector and allow it to develop and restructure itself,” Sayarh told OBG. No specific date has yet been set for the launch of the agency, but once it does happen it is expected to have a lasting positive impact in encouraging non-accredited institutions to eventually seek state accreditation.

PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES: More education providers are working to acquire the status of private universities from the government. However, a number of requirements need to be met for the state to grant its approval. To this end, providers must have at least three schools, with at least one private school, and a minimum of 30% of the staff must be permanently employed. Moreover, to maintain private university status, an institution must have attracted at least 2000 students within the first three years of opening, as well as received state accreditation for a minimum of half of taught specialities.

In December 2013, École Polytechnique de Technologia became the latest private institution to obtain state approval to operate as a private university and has been rebranded as the Université Privée de Fès (UPF). In fact, the UPF is Morocco’s fifth private university. Others include Université Mundiapolis in Casablanca, Université Internationale de Casablanca, Université Privée de Marrakech and Universiapolis Université Internationale d'Agadir. Private universities backed by government funds include Al Akhawayn University created in 1995 and Université Internationale de Rabat, a public-private partnership (PPP) between a group of Moroccan professors and the state-owned Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion.

Work has also been under way since 2012 to establish another private university in Ben Guerir, Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique. The project is being carried out by state-run Office Chérifien des Phosphates, more commonly known as the OCP Group, and is expected to be complete by 2015.

Welcoming up to 12,000 students, the university will feature a number of private faculties in a variety of subjects, notably industrial management, engineering, agriculture, architecture, management and public administration, among others, and will be developed in partnership with international institutions such as Mines ParisTech, HEC Paris and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS: A new PPP law is also expected to impact the future development of higher education. “The new law has yet to be made public, but it could forge closer collaboration between public and private operators,” Sayarh told OBG. “It should be seen from a broad perspective to enhance partnerships not only between education providers, but rather include all economic players.”

Indeed, the new law could potentially constitute a way to enhance harmony between public schools and private schools, which today remain fragmented with the presence of a significant number of small operators on the market. To this end, more consolidation is needed to strengthen the Moroccan education sector in order to enable the private sector to draw on the experiences of the public sector, while the public sector, in pursuing its reform and development strategies, could benefit from modern management practices and tools currently utilised in the private sector.

“Resources and expertise should be mobilised to develop new offerings that the public or the private sector alone cannot do,” Sayarh told OBG.

EASING TRANSITION: In order to better promote youth employment, the government created three programmes in 2006, known as Moukawalati (“my business”), Idmaj (“integration”) and Taehil (“orientation”), aimed at easing the transition of young graduates from the academic to the professional world. The three initiatives combined are estimated to have generated 377,000 jobs since their set up.

Managing these different programmes falls under the responsibility of the National Agency for the Promotion of Employment and Skills (Agence Nationale de Promotion de l’Emploi et des Compé- tences, ANAPEC). In 2012, ANEPEC secured jobs for 55,399 people, with the lion’s share in services (43%), followed by industry (35%), national education (8%), hotels (7%), agriculture and fisheries (both 5%), and construction and public works (2%). Casablanca accounted for 23% of placements, followed by Tangiers and Rabat, with 15% and 13%, respectively.

BROAD PRIORITIES: While Moukawalati is mostly aimed at promoting entrepreneurship (see analysis), Idmaj and Taehil focus more on direct solutions to absorb the unemployed qualified youth.

Idmaj is centred on boosting the employability of young Moroccans through the financial and fiscal incentives granted to companies during the first two years of employment. This will allow students the opportunity to secure vital experience in the professional world and ensure a regular flow of skilled labour for businesses. A survey conducted by MEN in 2011 noted that around 75% of Idmaj beneficiaries secured permanent jobs within the 12 months following the end of their Idmaj contracts.

Idmaj was responsible for 30% of the 127,000 jobs created in 2012, and the programme was restarted under the 2014 financial law set to run until the end of 2016. Half of the beneficiaries came from vocational training, 22% from higher education and 18% held bachelor’s degrees. The positive contribution of this programme, however, is that the waiting time for graduates to secure a job has been reduced from 12 months to 3.7 months.

Taehil, meanwhile, aims to align students’ skills with the needs of the markets, specifically through training offered by public and private vocational and higher education institutions, as well as consultancy firms. Under the programme, students are given training in emerging industries such as automotives, aeronautics, electronics and offshoring. In 2012, some 42% of candidates were eligible for funding of between Dh12,000 and Dh66,000 (€1066 to €5861) depending on the speciality. In 2012, a total of 18,313 people accessed Taehil contracts, 68% of whom were women. Idmaj and Taehil contracts in 2014 are projected to cover 55,000 and 18,000 people, respectively. Notwithstanding, both programmes have attracted criticism, specifically the extent to which they guarantee long-term employment and the fact they exclude unqualified young Moroccans.

The creation of the National Agency for Employment later in 2014 will ultimately allow for an improved understanding of the impact of these programmes, as well as help identify developing trends and evolutions in the job market. In the meantime, new programmes first announced in 2012 to promote employment opportunities are expected to be launched as part of the goal to bring the unemployment rate down to 8% by 2016.

OUTLOOK: The growth of private universities and the proliferation of PPPs in higher education should help Morocco absorb a rising number of prospective students, as well as allow the country to create offerings in line with the needs of the job market. In terms of vocational training, the OFPPT is likely to remain the main provider in the coming years.

While significant improvements have been achieved in terms of infrastructure and enrolment levels, the full impact of reforms enacted over the past decade will become clearer as the country proceeds with its plan to set up a reliable information and statistics system.

Reactivation of the CSE should allow for a better evaluation of primary and secondary education, while higher education should benefit from tools such as APOGEE, known as “application pour l’ organisation et la gestion des enseignements et des études”, which was launched in 2004 following the onset of the Emergency Plan. The initiative is set to help assess and manage rising student numbers entering tertiary education in the kingdom, and has so far been adopted by 13 out of 15 universities.

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The Report: Morocco 2014

Health & Education chapter from The Report: Morocco 2014

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