Building skills: Efforts are under way to reposition the education system at all levels

Continuing its efforts to improve literacy rates and match curricula with the country’s needs, Morocco has been increasing investment in education. New schools are being built to facilitate access to primary education in all regions of the country and continue to improve the country’s schooling levels in all regions.

Economic growth is bringing opportunities for increased participation of the private education sector. It is also putting added pressure on the government to raise employability of Moroccan human resources as well as provide the country’s economic actors and public institutions with adequately trained people. International cooperation with new universities and research institutes is opening the door to a more globalised higher education system, and positioning the country as a regional centre for tertiary provision. Also within the higher education sector, government-sponsored scholarships are also helping to direct students to programmes that match the needs of emerging industrial sectors.

CHALLENGES: Successive governments have been able to raise education levels, constantly challenged by a growing population and a gap between rural and urban social conditions. Indeed, access to education has risen steadily over the last three years. The number of students in primary and secondary school grew to 6.3m in 2012, up from 6m in 2008.

ENROLMENT: The rate of enrolment for pupils aged between six and 11 years old stood at 97.5% in 2010/11, up from 91.4% in 2007/08. Rates for students aged between 12 and 14 years of age also rose from 71.3% to 79.1% and from 48.1% to 52.8% for students between 15 and 17 years old. In addition, the number of students opting for scientific and technical educations grew from 55.1% in 2008 to 60.6% in 2011. “The Moroccan student population will continue to grow significantly. Another 300,000 students will be added to the existing body of 500,000 in the coming decade,” Mohamed Abdellaoui, the vice-president of Université Internationale de Rabat, told OBG.

However, progress has been slow and challenges remain. Attendance levels continue to be confronted by abandonment of the education system, which is especially prevalent in the country’s rural areas.

The number of children dropping out of school remains considerable, at 3.1% of students in primary school, and 10.85% of secondary school pupils. Across the system, an estimated 300,000 children leave school each year. Completion rates are also low, with only about 12 out of every 100 students obtaining their Baccalaureate and just three a Bachelor’s degree. “Out of 100 students that go into kindergarten, only about five make it past the baccalaureate,” said Yasmine Ben-amour, the director of the board at the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Management (HEM).

SOCIAL STRUCTURES: Much of the national schooling system’s low completion rates is related to the composition of social structures and the need for children to start working at an early age to help support family finances. This is especially prevalent in rural regions, where nine out of 10 of Morocco’s working children live. According to a report published by the High Planning Commission (Haut Commissariat au Plan, HCP) in mid-2012, about 113,000 children under the age of 15 work in Morocco. A quarter of these children attend school simultaneously, but 53.9% have dropped out, and 21.2% have never been to school.

Despite improvements, the figures show that most children getting into the country’s education system will only rarely be able to finish high school and follow through all the way to university. This presents obvious challenges to society, but it is especially relevant given Morocco’s economic development, where new industries and sectors require qualified staff to progress. “What is key to transitioning to professional life is to have innovative and critical thinking skills, as well as collaborative skills. This is what is lacking in the Moroccan education system,” Deborah MacArthur, president of the George Washington Academy, an American private school in Casablanca, told OBG.

There are currently over 9000 public schools in Morocco, with 6.67m students enrolled in 2012. The state offer is increasingly being supported by a growing number of private institutions. Around 1800 private schools now teach up to 500,000 students around the kingdom. Private schools have been expanding their share in the sector, increasing the number of students in its ranks from 224,575 in 2000/01, to 547,882 in 2009/10, and a total of 726,483 in 2012. Although this is allowing for the private sector to assist governmental efforts to enhance education levels, it is has also led to more competition for teachers between public and private institutions.

This has prompted the government to temporarily cancel a 2008 bill authorising teachers from public institutions to supplement their wages by serving a few hours in private schools. The decision, taken in September 2012, was explained by the minister of education, Mohamed El Ouafa, as being necessary to assure that Morocco’s public school system was not deprived of much needed resources.

EVALUATING THE PLAN: Over the past three years the government has been implementing its Emergency Plan (Programme d’Urgence) 2009-12 for the sector. Partly financed by the African Development Bank, the plan was launched in 2008 by the previous government to boost schooling levels across the country, as well as enhance the quality of teaching and increase infrastructure in the rural areas. It also targeted measures towards improving the higher education system through increased scientific research components at universities as well as enlargement of student numbers in courses such as engineering, architecture and health sciences.

Budgeted at Dh35bn (€3.1bn), the plan was viewed as a way to ease the strains on the sector and improve all levels of education under increasing pressure from population growth. However, despite advancements made in cementing the role of compulsory schooling for ages six to 15, the potential revamping of the sector intended by the plan has yet to be completed.

Evaluating the results of the programme in mid-2012, El Ouafa, called it a partial success. Despite aiming to raise schooling rates to 95%, the plan was only able to bring them to 63% overall, according to figures from the Ministry of Education. A key objective of the plan was to build more schools, however, the targets for infrastructure development in 2009-12 were not fully completed. Only 74 of the intended 225 primary schools were built. Similarly, of the projected 278 high schools, 84 were constructed.

Understanding the need to focus the available resources on measures that can have a measurable impact, and aware of the increasing pressure from students, parents and employers to resolve the educational system’s flaws, authorities are now conducting a deep evaluation of the Emergency Plan. This will most likely lead to a redirection of some of the existing measures to maximise results over the coming years.

Nonetheless, some schemes to improve education provision in Morocco are advancing independently of the changes applied to the Emergency Programme. In mid-2012, for example, the minister of education announced the launch of a $18.5m project in partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency to improve the management of the country's 9705 public schools. Known as Pagesm (2011-15), the four-year programme aims to boost local management of schools and help Morocco accelerate education reforms at the local level. The programme entails the training of 9000 school directors and 12,000 education managers in management, strategic planning and governance practices. Additionally, a total of 700 teachers are set to be educated in vocational training practices, a growing segment.

Another programme, named Itqane, was launched in 2011 out of a partnership involving the Ministry of National Education, USAID and Al Akhawayn University. The e-learning project aims to raise the quality of training for teachers and distance learning for students. The initiative is expected to eventually offer training to about 360 middle school teachers and 25 guidance counsellors and reach some 4000 students.

HIGHER EDUCATION: A big step for strengthening higher education was taken with the creation of the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Training. This underlines the weight that expansion of university capacity and quality carries within the government’s development goals. More importantly, it will give the higher education sector a boost as it tries to accommodate increasing demand and connect with international knowledge institutions to raise the quality of teaching at home.

Higher education is under expansion in the kingdom, driven mainly by an increasing number of students flowing in from high school level education. There are currently 325 higher education institutions in Morocco, 180 of which are private. In 2012 the number of students that moved on to university increased 20 %, putting the current national total at 520,000 students. However, the number is even higher when including all private higher institutions and post-baccalaureate students and professional training institutions, reaching 576,000 in 2013, compared to 470,000 for all post-baccalaureate students in 2012. The rise in enrolment signals a continued wave of university students that will eventually go on to contribute to the country’s qualified workforce. It is nonetheless bringing with it a host of challenges. “The continuous growth is creating pressures in terms of public university infrastructure,” said Abdelhafid Debbarh, the secretary-general of the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Training.

In a response to rising demand, the ministry is increasing the capacity within existing universities, as well as boosting the number of new institutions over the coming years. Under a governmental programme, a total of 25 new amphitheatres will be built, each with a capacity of between 500 and 800 students in several public institutions. The Dh220m (€19.5m) plan for the new facilities will be managed by the Compag-nie Generale Immobiliere, part of CDG Dé veloppe-ment. The amphitheatres are just one aspect of wider expansion projects that are already under way at the country’s private and public universities.

BUILDING FACILITIES: A set of new public universities is set to be built in the coming years. The cities of Tangier and Agadir are both due to get new medical universities soon. In Agadir, the new faculty will be part of the university hospital centre complex, currently under construction in a 39-ha plot. Tangier’s Abdelmalek Essaadi University will host the city’s new medicine faculty. The Dh140m (€12.4m) project is currently under construction, and authorities expect it to open for classes in 2014. In Dakhla, a new Commerce and Management School is set to open during 2013, and Beni Mellal will increase its offer of higher education degrees by targeting the country’s move to high-tech segments, with the opening of its Technology School in 2013. Another Technology school is also being established in Kénitra, while a Faculty of Theological Sciences will open in Smara.

The new public-private partnership law, set to be finalised and approved in parliament in 2013, is expected to have a huge impact on the future development of higher education. It will allow for the government to engage and associate with foreign educational providers to open satellite educational centres in the country, bringing foreign teaching expertise within easy access of Moroccan students. Furthermore, it will also allow for existing public universities to look for additional methods of financing.

SCHOOL FUNDING: The rising importance of private higher education is reinforcing the debate about the current public educational system’s financing structure. As the population increases and more Moroccans opt to continue post-secondary education, more pressure is put not only on infrastructure, but also on the governmental budget’s capacity to accommodate continuously increasing numbers. Nonetheless, the question of whether or not to introduce an amount of contribution from students and families in the public sector remains politically and socially sensitive.

“Free education is not sustainable in the long run. The question is when fees will be introduced, although people are against it. The rise of private education is at least helping to familiarise people with the notion of paying for education,” Abdelaziz Sadok, president of Université Mohamed Premier in Oujda told OBG. This is especially relevant in areas where adequate education and training are costly. According to ministry figures, training a medical doctor costs the state about Dh1m (€88,900), whilst an architect or an engineer costs between Dh400,000 and Dh600,000 (€35, 560-53,340). This means that full government support for public university fees in some of the most demanded professions might become an issue. In an interview with the business newspaper L’Economiste, Lahcen Daoudi, the minister of higher education, scientific research and training, said: “People that can afford higher education should not benefit from gratuity”.

The government expected the private education sector to account for 20% of all graduates by 2012, but the figure is now around 10%. Morocco has seen, since 2008, a rising number of private universities in major cities such as Casablanca, Rabat or Marrakesh. On the other hand, some existing schools have expanded regionally and created new campuses in towns around the kingdom. “This is happening because there are students in those places, and few of them can pay private institution fees plus accommodation in another city. Some schools are therefore going to where the students are,” Yasmine Benamour of HEM Business School, told OBG. HEM has medium-sized campuses in a number of cities, including Casablanca, Rabat, Mar-rakech, Tangier, Fez and, most recently, Oujda.

Until any new changes in the fee system for public higher education are decided, support for low-income university students has been increased. The government will not only raise the number of beneficiaries, but also the value of scholarships, which will be increased by 50% on average. In 2012 a total of 216,500 students benefitted from scholarships, up on 2011 figures, when 180,000 people received state support to study. The state budget for university scholarship will be increased from Dh718m (€63.8m) in 2012 to about Dh1.2bn (€106.7m) in 2013. The new scholarships will include new Dh4000 (€355.60) a month support for doctorate students developing research in strategic sectors such as engineering, offshoring, aeronautics and the automotive industry.

The government is also considering a potential merger of some public universities to increase critical mass, following the current regionalisation move. Another priority will be to accelerate the accreditation of private university courses, which has long been a demand of private operators. The ministry has been working on the creation of a National Evaluation Agency to enhance the evaluation of private university courses and programmes.

ATTRACTING FOREIGN KNOWLEDGE: Mixed concept universities have proved a successful way to develop privately managed institutions that charge student fees but have government support through land allocations and other benefits. This has allowed for the creation of specialised institutions, like the Université Internationale de Rabat, which provide undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in some of the country’s strategic sectors, such as aeronautics or renewable energies. The government is now aiming to increase international cooperation as a pivotal element for higher education development.

“There have been a number of initiatives to attract renowned international universities to open in Morocco. Recently, official contacts have been announced with universities from China, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, among others.” Driss Ouaouicha, the president of Al Akhawayn University, told OBG.

The strategy to increase the availability of qualified human resources, especially in technical fields such engineering and architecture (see analysis), has prompted the government to enhance international cooperation to attract foreign university campuses into the kingdom. This will allow for graduates to have a double diploma, recognised in Morocco as well as in the foreign university’s home base. Each partnership will have specific conditions, but will generally involve the allocation of state lands, and government support in sourcing additional financing from private investors. Several public-private partnerships are being set up to help Morocco respond to the growing demand and to ensure that the government’s decision to focus on specific economic sectors under its Industrial Emergence Plan, is properly supported by capable human resources. The Université Internationale de Rabat is partnering with the French Université de Paris-Est to create an architecture faculty in the Moroccan capital. The ministry of higher education and the Canadian University of Montreal are considering how they can develop a health sciences and research centre, while the Polytechnic University of Barcelona is also establishing a campus in Morocco.

A partnership involving Tanger-Med, the Université de Valenciennes and the French transport group Alstom will establish a logistics university in Tangier, as a way to respond to the country’s need for about 60,000 qualified workers for the sector in the medium term, according to Daoudi. A similar partnership with the University of Granada in Spain will see the opening of a medicine campus in Tangier and a technology school in Sidi Ifni. A group of 14 Russian universities have come together to open a university in state land in Casablanca, and will teach in both English and Russian. “Under the current dynamic, the increase of university offers as well as international cooperation is essential. We want to transform Morocco into a regional education and research centre,” said Debbarh, from the ministry of higher education.

RURAL LITERACY: Efforts continue in terms of basic education. The low participation rates in the education system persist in rural parts of the country, although they are slowly gaining ground, rising from 49.7% over 2007/08 to 56% in 2010/11, according to figures by the Ministry of Education. For the past 30 years the state has continued efforts to reduce the educational gap between urban and rural areas. An essential part of this has been achieved through the implementation of literacy programmes across the country. According to Ministry of Education figures for 2012, around 30% of Moroccans are still illiterate. This is still a relevant amount of the country’s population, but, considering illiteracy rates were at 55% in 1994, it also underlines progress made by successive governments at implementing repeated literacy programmes. The total number of beneficiaries of literacy initiatives has increased from 286,000 in 2002-03 to over 730,000 people by 2011-12.

Literacy programmes are managed by the directorate to combat illiteracy (Direction de la Lutte Con-tre l’Analphabétisme, DLCA), a special bureau within the Ministry of Education that designs policy and coordinates the national budget for literacy programmes with additional contributions from international donors, including the European Union, which contributed €27m to literacy programmes over the past five years. In 2012 the DLCA had a budget of Dh200m (€17.8m), and the government expects literacy programmes to reach 1m people a year. The goal is to reduce illiteracy rates to 20% by 2016. So far, about 80% of beneficiaries have been women from rural areas of the country.

TRAINING: Efforts are also being made to enhance professional training programmes across the country. Leading this work is the Bureau of Professional Training and Employment Promotion (Office de la Formation Professionnelle et de la Promotion du Travail, OFPPT), created in 1974 to help enlarge the pool of professionally trained human resources in the kingdom. The OFPPT has 327 centres around the country, where it delivers training programmes for interns, workers transitioning to new sectors as well as experienced professionals required to upgrade their skills. The bureau has been refocused to follow the needs of the market, matching its training programmes with the requisites of Morocco’s Industrial Emergence Plan, as well as the sectors deemed a priority.

During 2012/13 the OFPPT will train 310,000 people, including almost 60,000 for the construction and building materials sector, 24,500 in tourism and hotel management and over 3000 interns for the logistics and transport sectors. Coordinating the OFPPT’s strategy with market needs arising from the country’s economic growth has allowed the country to reduce the gap in trained technical human resources needed by industry. Between 70% and 80% of paid staff in the offshoring, auto-industry and aeronautics sector have been trained in OFPPT’s training centres, which offer over 100 different diplomas and titles. The government expects the number of workers trained under OFPPT programmes to reach 1m by 2016.

OUTLOOK: Morocco’s economic development is putting added pressure on its educational system, not only on making sure that younger students attend and complete formative schooling years, but also that graduates coming out of universities are well equipped for the workplace. An evaluation of the sector’s Emergency Plan is likely to redirect reform efforts in the coming years. The expansion of public institutions through the opening of new campuses across different regions is increasing overall capacity, while at the same time creating new knowledge centres in most of the biggest cities in the country. The new public-private partnership law will allow not only to attract international universities to establish themselves in Morocco, but will also give more autonomy for public institutions to create new sources of financing.

The government’s focus on engineering courses as well as other technical curricula should help to enlarge the pool of qualified human resources. At the same time, an increased focus on research capabilities is expected to enhance Morocco’s education capabilities and help build a closer link between the education system and the companies working in emerging priority sectors such as aeronautics and renewable energies. These links will also be encouraged through the increase in available scholarships and the targeting of student support for those studying in sectors that are strategic to future economic development.

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The Report: Morocco 2013

Education chapter from The Report: Morocco 2013

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