Greater space for private educators and increasing enrolment in Morocco

With an increasing number of students going to university, and an expanding role for the private sector, the educational sector in Morocco is undergoing a period of transition. Alongside measures to reorganise the sector and better prepare students to meet the demands of the labour force, challenges remain, key among which is ensuring access to education in rural areas. Moreover, fragmentation in the sector continues to be an issue, although efforts are being made to improve coordination among government ministries and other stakeholders in the sector.

Performance

Improvements to infrastructure have contributed to a rise in educational access in recent years, with net primary school enrolment reaching 98% in 2013, up from 85% in 2003, according to World Bank figures. Similarly, enrolment at the secondary level reached 85% in 2013, up from 71% in 2008. Although challenges remain, particularly regarding access to education in rural areas, the sector is expanding. According to government figures, the total number of public primary and secondary schools rose from 9068 in 2006/07 to 10,364 in 2013/14. Of these, there were 5604 schools in rural areas in 2013/14, up from 4966 in 2006/07. Across the system as a whole, an estimated 350,000 students leave primary and secondary schools each year.

Completion rates overall have improved, with 88% of students finishing the final grade of primary school in 2010, up from 75% in 1999. The number of high school graduates has also increased at an average yearly rate of 12% between 2010 and 2014. Efforts have been made to reduce the out-of-school population, which fell by 68% between 2006 and 2011.

Quality

Although significant efforts over the last two decades have led to a higher rate of enrolment, the quality of education is struggling to keep pace. Morocco ranked among the 21 countries with the most poorly educated students according to the 2013/14 UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Less than 35% of students reach the fourth year of primary school, according to the report, and a similar proportion (34%) of children learn reading basics. Moroccan students received low learning achievement scores in the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study. In Grade 4 mathematics, for instance, only 26% of Moroccan participants reached the lowest of four benchmark levels and none achieved the highest level. Authorities are working to advance the quality of education, notably by upgrading teaching curricula – with particular attention devoted to harmonising languages of instruction – and establishing training centres for teachers.

Progress has been made in increasing literacy levels in Morocco on the back of the implementation of literacy programmes by successive governments. The number of beneficiaries of these initiatives rose from 180,000 in 1998/99 to almost 763,000 in 2012/13, leading to a gradual decline of the illiteracy rate for ages 10 and up from 43% in 2004 to 28% in 2013. Adult literacy increased from 42% in 1994 to 56% in 2011, while literacy rates among people aged 15-24 years rose from 58% to 79% over the same period. Authorities have worked to continue reducing the national illiteracy rate to 20% in 2015.

Reducing Gaps

Gender disparity in education also continues to be an issue, although considerable improvements have been achieved. The enrolment of girls in primary schools rose to 97% in 2012 from 47% in 1990, and the rate for secondary school increased to 78.3% from 16.5% over the same period. The female illiteracy rate fell from 54.7% in 2004 to 38% in 2012.

While gender disparities in Morocco may have decreased, economic inequality remains a significant issue for students. According to the 2013/14 UNESCO report, in 2011 some 65% of Morocco’s wealthiest students achieved the minimum learning standard in lower secondary mathematics compared to 24% of the poorest students. This disparity presents an ongoing challenge for authorities, with just 31% of the poorest students having learned basic reading skills compared to 84% of the wealthiest students in 2011, in contrast to 33% and 75%, respectively, in 2006.

In an effort to resolve such issues and improve the overall quality of the education system, the Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research (Conseil Supérieur de l’Education, de la Formation et de la Recherche Scientifique, CSEFRS) was created in 2014 to replace the former Higher Council of Education. The CSEFRS aims to provide strategic direction to the education sector. Composed of government representatives and members of relevant organisations and institutions in the education and training field, the CSEFRS plays a role in monitoring and evaluating public policies in the education sector. Most recently, the CSEFRS has been focusing on topics that include access to education; curricula and training programmes; scientific research, innovation and technology; and governance of the education system.

Improving Standards

The government has launched a range of initiatives to improve standards in the education sector. A comprehensive reform programme called the National Education and Training Charter was first launched in 1999, identifying education and training as major priorities for Morocco’s development. From 2009 to 2012, government efforts were focused on delivering the Emergency Plan. This aimed to boost schooling levels and to improve the quality of teaching across the country, leading to an increase in research output at universities.

Moreover, enhancing the quality of infrastructure was a key focus of the plan, which worked on both the rehabilitation of older institutions as well as the construction of new ones. This has helped to address challenges of overcrowding in educational facilities. Although improvements in both schooling rates and infrastructure development were made under the plan, several objectives, including of raising enrolment rates to 95% as well as the construction of some 500 new schools, were not fully achieved.

The Emergency Plan has been rolled into the government’s Action Plan 2013-16, and continues to be implemented today at a cost of Dh9.86bn (€1.07bn). Like its predecessor, the new plan aims to enhance scientific research output. The initiative also focuses on increasing aid for students and enhancing international cooperation as well as improving governance and reviewing the sector’s legal framework. Additionally, priority measures set for 2015-18 include improving governance, increasing knowledge of basic skills and boosting foreign language proficiency.

Implementing Reforms

Several development partners have supported Morocco in implementing its reforms in the education sector, notably the World Bank, which has provided technical and financial support for several years. For example, The World Bank approved a loan of $100m in 2013 to support government plans that will increase access to education, enhance the quality of teaching, improve sector governance and build human resources capacity. Financial aid in the sector has increased steadily, reaching $312m in 2011 up from $296m in 2002. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training to create and deliver teacher training to nearly 2000 teachers across the country.

USAID has also provided some 2400 students with training specifically designed with the intention of preparing them to enter the workforce. It is in the process of implementing school development projects in nearly 200 schools to improve learning outcomes. A partnership between the ministry and the Canadian International Development Agency has seen the delivery of the Project to Support School Management in Morocco, or Pagesm, which was launched in 2012. The $18.5m initiative aims to accelerate education reforms in Morocco and improve the management of the country’s public schools.

Higher Education

Higher education has continued to expand in Morocco, thanks in part to the expanding number of high school graduates, which grew at an average yearly rate of 12% from 2010 to 2014. Enrolment in tertiary provision is on the rise among people aged 19-23, increasing from 19% in 2012 to 22% in 2013. According to figures from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, the total number of students in higher education institutions reached 665,991 in 2013/14, of which 602,885 were enrolled in public universities. This latter figure is up from 447,801 students in 2011/12, putting pressure on universities as demand grows.

“The number of high school graduates is increasing each year and there are currently not enough spaces in universities and other institutions of higher learning to accommodate them,” Nezha Alami, the rector of Université Internationale de Casablanca, told OBG. “There is growing demand for more places in universities to meet the needs of the country and this is a great opportunity.” The tertiary sector comprises some 120 public institutions and over 200 private establishments. The ministry established the National Agency for Evaluation and Quality Assurance of Higher Education and Scientific Research in 2014 to evaluate training programmes, scientific research, and public and private higher education institutions.

Finances 

Financial support for university students has risen considerably in recent years. The state budget for university scholarships increased to Dh1.25bn (€136m) in 2013, up from Dh718m (€78.1m) the previous year. At the same time, efforts are being made to reduce costs within the higher education sector by increasing critical mass. The government has undertaken mergers of four public universities to create two larger institutions. These mergers aim to establish centres of excellence in the field of education and research by combining resources (see analysis).

While moves such as these reduce costs in the tertiary sector, operational expenses in the primary and secondary segments continue to be inefficient, with remunerations absorbing a considerable amount of the budget. Regionally speaking, teacher salaries in Morocco are relatively high, including compared to neighbouring Tunisia, where teachers are paid less than half of their Moroccan counterparts’ salaries. Although salaries continued to dominate expenses at 82.2% in 2010, this has declined from 91% in 2004.

Private Sector

Education is increasingly provided by private institutions in Morocco, with 3941 private schools in 2013/14, up from 2037 in 2006/07. Since the adoption of the National Education and Training Charter in 1999, the percentage of students enrolled in private primary schools has more than tripled between 2000 and 2013, with an average annual rise of 8%. In 2013 private schools registered 14% of enrolled primary students, up from 4% in 1999. The number of students enrolled in private primary and secondary schools reached over 785,000 in 2013/14, up from 428,564 in 2006/07. In the tertiary sector, private universities account for 5.4% of the student body, or 35,509 students. Private providers offer 320 accredited higher education courses, compared with 2340 by public bodies.

After a decade of steady growth in the 2000s, enrolment in private higher education has seen a decrease in recent years due to the limited ability of many Moroccans to pay fees and a lack of outreach to market private providers. That said, the government is still aiming to increase enrolment levels to 20% of the higher education market over the coming years.

There are currently five private universities in Morocco: Université Internationale de Casablanca, Universiapolis Université Internationale d’Agadir, Université Privée de Marrakech, Université Mundiapolis in Casablanca and Université Privée de Fes. Université Al Akhawayn is a privately managed university supported by government funds. The segment also includes an additional five universities that have been established under public-private partnerships.

The government has been looking to solidify the regulatory framework for private higher education since the inauguration of the first private university in 2010. In 2014 a law was adopted enabling private universities to award diplomas equivalent to their public counterparts. “When there is a regulatory framework, there is a form of quality guarantee. The recently adopted equivalency decree has brought a sense of awareness to the public with regards to private universities,” Alami told OBG. The specific requirements that must be met in order for private universities to benefit from this are expected to be made public in 2015. The additional clarity provided by strengthening the regulatory framework is expected to bolster confidence in the private education sector.

Indeed, an increasing number of private higher education providers are working to meet the necessary requirements to acquire the status of private universities. Demonstrating this, a fund promoting higher education and private training, known as fonds de promotion de l’enseignement privée, or FOPEP, was established in 2007 to finance the extension and construction plans of private higher educational providers.

International Cooperation

The rise in international partnerships attests to Morocco’s interest in attracting foreign expertise. “’The primary mission of the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fes (Université Euro-Méditerranéenne de Fes, UEMF), for example, is to serve as a regional platform for intercultural dialogue in the Mediterranean. International initiatives are crucial in the university sector, as they contribute to regional integration. This cooperation also provides students with a network of regional institutions and programmes – in this case, in engineering and the humanities at the undergraduate and graduate levels,’’ Mostapha Bousmina president at UEMF, told OBG.

Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Canada and Algeria, the Canadian University of Moncton opened a bureau in Casablanca to provide information and assistance to potential Moroccan students, as well as acting more generally as a base for the university in the country. Indeed, Morocco is now the second-most-represented country in Canadian universities from the region. Morocco also signed an agreement with Tunisia in May 2014 for higher education and research, including a twinning programme for universities in both countries.

In September 2015, UEMF’s Bachelor Engineering School (INSA Euro-Méditeranée) will begin its first programmes in Mechanical & Electrical Engineering and Engineering in Information & Communication Technologies programme. It will also include participation from universities in other Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Students at INSA-Euro-Méditeranée will complete their first two years of study in Morocco, their third year at an INSA school in France and a six-month exchange at another participating university. Indeed, fostering regional mobility and understanding is a key objective of UEMF and students will be encouraged to develop two foreign languages other than mother tongues. Beyond these efforts to improve students’ soft skills, the university is also partnering with private firms, such as Safran and Total, to help match students’ capacity and expectations with the workplace needs and realities of the global business environment.

Another new university will also be opening in September 2015. The École Centrale de Casablanca, a joint partnership between French engineering university École Centrale Paris and the Moroccan Ministry of Industry, is expected to graduate some 200 engineers per year. “By improving its higher education system, Morocco can become a magnet for African students from the west and French-speaking parts of the continent,” Ghita Lahlou, director of École Centrale Casablanca, told OBG.

Developing the Labour Force

Despite a measure of economic improvement in the country (see Economy chapter), youth unemployment has persisted, reaching 20.1% in 2014, according to the African Economic Outlook’s 2015 report. Mohamed Slassi, president of the General Confederation of Enterprises of Morocco, told OBG, “the imbalance between market needs and the education system is one of the greatest challenges to the sector today.”

Efforts are being made to combat this issue in various sectors. For example, recent projects have enhanced professional standards of journalists. “Higher education for journalism and media has been strengthened by the creation of the Superior Institute for Audiovisual and Movies Professions in 2013 and the development of the Superior Institute for Information and Communication,” Mustapha El Khalfi, the minister of communications, told OBG.

Vocational Training

Ongoing efforts to enhance professional training programmes across the country are led by the Bureau of Professional Training and Employment Promotion (Office de la Formation Professionnelle et de la Promotion du Travail, OFPPT). The government’s goal is to increase the number of people trained by the OFPPT to 1m by 2020. The OFPPT is expanding its training centres and initiatives to meet this goal (see analysis).

International agencies have also supported vocational training in the kingdom. For example, the Training-Employment Matching Support Programme, which ran in 2013 and 2014 with financing from the African Development Bank (€116m), the World Bank ($200m) and the French Development Agency (€40m), aimed to boost the employment prospects of technical education and vocational training graduates by improving the quality of provision, enhancing the relevance of higher education guidance and strengthening the sector’s governance structures. The programme targeted a high proportion of female learners to address gender inequalities in the labour force.

Outlook

While considerable achievements have been made in terms of enhancing infrastructure and increasing enrolment levels, authorities are continuing to develop plans for educational reform in the country. The higher education segment is expected to benefit from foreign knowledge as cooperation with international institutions expands. A focus on vocational training initiatives in particular is set to contribute to the country’s economic development, tackling the persistent challenge aligning the skills of graduates with the demands of the labour market.

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The Report: Morocco 2015

Education & Research chapter from The Report: Morocco 2015

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