Jan 5, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Svenn Richard Mathisen

The Moroccan government recently announced plans to move toward French as the language of instruction for high school science and math. Here’s a closer look at what to expect, along with how the change fits into the country’s modernization and internalization goals, as reported by the Pulitzer Center.

“Accessing the Knowledge Society”

Morocco’s Ministry of Education is now encouraging students to take part in the “International Baccalaureate,” an optional program which allows high schoolers to study for portions of the Moroccan national high school exam in French or English. (Typically, the exam is given exclusively in Arabic.”) Last year, just 48 of 8,000 exiting seniors took the exam in English. 

According to the Pulitzer Center based on a Ministry memo, “The program aims to improve students’ mastery of foreign languages, a requirement….to meet labor market demands, open students to other cultures, and ‘access the knowledge society and modern technology.’”

“The North African country’s expansion of the pilot program is a remarkable reversal of a long-standing policy that emphasized Arabic-medium education in primary and secondary school,” continues the Pulitzer Center. 

Toward Modernization

Arabic and Tamazight are considered the official languages of Morocco, but French and English are prevalent in commerce. And while eliminating Arabic completely from science is not necessarily the endgame, a ministry official did note that “within three years it is plausible that all science education will be in French.”

Proposes the Pulitzer Center, “In theory, the program would introduce multiple foreign languages, but in practice, the expansion implies French.” The change is also expected to address the fact that while secondary math and science education has been in Arabic, French is the primary language at universities. “The setup has even become economically regressive: students who cannot afford private schools or French tutoring often repeat grades or just drop out due to language difficulty,” according to the Pulitzer Center. 

For teachers, meanwhile, the shift to French is a natural fit: French is the medium of university study for Moroccan science and math teachers. Said one, “It’s like you are conveying the material in the same way that you studied, in French.”

 

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