By Khadija Abdous
This blog summarises some of the main findings from the recently published research report: Privatisation of Education in Morocco – A Multi-speed Education System and A Polarized Society, which outlines the current trends and manifestations of education privatisation in Morocco. It is also an opportunity to provide potential courses of action Morocco could adopt to improve the education system in the country.
Education becomes increasingly privatised as public education is sidelined
The market-based approach to education has increasingly taken hold of education systems around the world and Morocco is no exception to this movement for education reform. As a matter of fact, Morocco has taken the lead in privatizing education when compared to neighboring countries like Algeria and Tunisia, particularly at the primary level. A growing number of private schools have emerged in the country since 2000, mainly in large urban areas.
However, privatisation trends in Morocco go back to 1983, when the government adopted a structural adjustment program. This opened the door to the growing involvement of international finance institutions like the World bank and the IMF in policy decisions and led to the decreased role of the state in offering vital social services like education. Privatisation aligned well with the neoliberal policies that prevailed during that period and remain prevalent today.
The government has implemented multiple education reforms since 1957 when there was an attempt to “Moroccanize” and unify the Moroccan education system post-independence. These reforms have culminated in the Strategic Vision 2015-2030, which explicitly states that private education is a partner of public education in the generalisation and realisation of equity. However, the latest monitoring report by the Higher Council of Education in the country, which measures the progress made from 2015 to 2018, demonstrates that progress is too slow and Morocco’s Strategic Vision is unlikely to achieve the goals envisaged by 2030.
Key stakeholders interviewed in the research, particularly teachers’ unions and political party representatives, have declared that education reforms have failed thus far because of an absence of a political will to reform. This has led to the present state of education where the quality of public schools is decreasing in favour of an increase in the private education offer, compelling families to invest in the private schooling of their children for a lack of a better choice.
Privatisation increases educational inequality
The state lacks a clear vision on the role of the private sector in the realisation of equity, as the private caters exclusively to those who can pay whilst more than 80% of the population are left with a dysfunctional public-school system. There is also inequality among private schools as upper class and middle-class students attend French schools, foreign institutions and private schools of relatively high quality. They therefore have different life experiences and are exposed to a different value system to working class and poor students who attend low-cost private schools and public institutions. This exacerbates education inequality and goes counter to the declared objective of the strategic vision on achieving a school of equity and equal opportunities.
Little regulation of the private sector
The government has little to no control over the private education sector, as tuition fees in private institutions are unregulated and the monitoring of these institutions is not systematic. To make matters worse, there is investment in the unregulated private education sector from individuals across all levels of leadership in the country, which could challenge their impartiality with regard to education reform in the country. The lack of a regulatory framework to monitor the private sector has also led to the increasing involvement of foreign investment funds and international players in the Moroccan education system, often for profitable purposes.
Privatisation and the teaching profession
The practice of the teaching profession lacks a legal and regulatory framework. Most public-school teachers work extra hours in the private sector for additional income. Therefore, the private sector, while developing using mainly public teachers, dispossesses the public sector of the full potential of its education staff. The precariousness of the public teaching profession has also increased with the hiring of contract teachers and the advent of Teach for All (an organisation placing unqualified volunteer teachers in public schools) which further exacerbates the depleted status of public-school teachers.
The social polarisation that Morocco experiences today is partly caused by the segregation of the Moroccan education system, a parallel and multi-speed education system where students experience different values and live in different “Moroccos” in which they might never cross path. As a result, social injustice is exacerbated, and education is no longer considered as a right and a public good which should be preserved but more of a commodity that is subject to offer and demand.
In order to depolarize the Moroccan society, the state should:
- reconsider its education policies and actively work on setting a clearer vision for education reform to re-unify the Moroccan education system and achieve a system that provides all Moroccan students with equitable educational opportunities;
- set a solid regulatory framework to monitor the private education sector;
- restore the status of the public-school teacher by providing quality teacher training programs and continuous professional development for teachers as well as improving their financial condition.
This, however, cannot happen whilst there is a conflict of interest between what is officially stated about the need to reform education and the practices of those in power, who may not consider the general interest of the whole society.