[lg policy] At What Costs the New Language Policy Will Be Delivered in Morocco?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Mar 18 15:05:16 UTC 2016

At What Costs the New Language Policy Will Be Delivered in Morocco?
Thursday 17 March 2016 - 09:21

Abdellatif Zaki is a professor of Languages and Communication at Institut
Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II, Rabat, Morocco. He has taught
introductory courses to the study of the Koran and Islam as well as courses
on various intercultural issues. He has ...
At What Costs the New Language Policy Will Be Delivered in Morocco?

Rabat – Rumors had it that French would be reintegrated in primary
education as well as a language of instruction both for the hard sciences
and the humanities.

Rumors had it also that the place of English was to be scaled up and
promoted to a language of instruction. In the press conference, Rachid
Belmokhtar, the Minister of National Education held on Tuesday, he
dissipated doubts and confirmed the decision to rehabilitate the status of
French and to upgrade that of English. The introduction of the latter in
the lower classes, he announced, will be gradual depending on the
availability of teachers until it covers all grades starting the fourth and
it becomes a language of instruction. For many, this was also the
confirmation of the downward indicators of the status of Arabic in Moroccan
education, the argument being that the language had its shot, a precious
one, and managed to miss it lamentably driving the whole system into a
wall. A challenge for the minister will certainly be how to still tongues
and tame ideologies that have for over half a century been mesmerizing the
population with discourse hoisting the Arabic language on top of all
pedestals and making of it the only possible way out of a fatal course
education had been taking ever since independence.

In his presentation of the strategy, it was, in fact, clear that the
concern of His Excellency, was, on the one hand, how to maintain a balance
between the two major competing foreign languages both of which one could
tell must have been applying a lot of heat on him and, on the other hand,
how to convince of the compromise that can but result in affecting the
current dominating status of the Arabic language and jeopardize the place
which the Amazigh language has been aspiring to since the constitution has
granted it official status.

The plight of the man and of his team must not have been pleasant. Whatever
the case, with the political decision now made and announced, the load is
off the Minister’s back and he must be feeling relieved and safe on the
other side of the tight rope. Discussing the relevance of the decision
would serve much less purpose for the time being than discussing how it
will be implemented. We will leave that exercise to the Head of the
Government who a few weeks ago made a scene in the parliament because the
Minister of Education had announced very timidly that that the French
language could be used in the future to reach some scientific subjects in
dine technical schools. The Head of the Government had disowned his
Minister in public and in a manner many had judged as humiliating. The
Minister of education had remained placid and did not react. Now we
understand why, he was working out his K,O. blow. Now, it is he who disowns
the boss who seems to have swallowed his tongue.

One fear I have expressed several times is to see foreign agencies and
organizations taking over the process and pushing solutions they would not
envisage in their own countries. In fact, I have been part of discussions
in which it was suggested to entrust baccalaureate level students with
teaching English after having provided them with a few weeks training. The
suggestion was rejected at the time but I am neither sure the current
propositions are much brighter nor that those at the helm are apt to resist
the pressures of such temptations.

To make sure the political decision achieves its objectives, and that is
all one can talk about now, is to make sure the professional profiles of
those who will implement the project are appropriate and that the overall
setup for its unfolding is adequate. One simple but sure way to define
profiles would be to borrow those of the home countries of the consultants
and experts of the foreign agencies advising the Minister. If they hire
teachers with high school diplomas and deliver them their own kids after
two or three week training programs, that would be a decent benchmark. If,
however, an agency whose country requires academic, training and
certification conditions which they do not recommend for Morocco, we would
know they are neither earnest nor honest and are operating with agendas
whose objectives would be hard for them to admit.

It would seem that the minimum conditions for one to be candidate to a
teaching position in any pre-college level is a Bachelors degree and a one
year training in a teachers’ college and to complete a certification
process successfully. These conditions would ensure that the teachers will
have an appropriate mastery of the language both at the fluency and
accuracy levels, a good knowledge of the culture, history and civilization
of the foreign language and the professional qualifications to teach it.
This would be the first initiation steps to the profession. For a
functional integration into the system, the novice fully qualified teacher
would need to be in a supporting environment that would ensure them
personal growth and professional development.

The actual support is provided by senior teachers in every school, teacher
supervisors and a systematic in-service teacher development program. Other
than this minimum, the reform will precipitate the educational system in a
darker abyss and at an uncontrollable increasing speed. Other than this,
Morocco will end up with a generation of speakers of foreign languages who
can hardly be understood before it will have to make new decisions and
reforms, Furthermore, the efforts that would have been made to shift to
teaching subject areas in these newly introduced foreign languages would
end driving the nail of functional illiteracy deeper and draw the country
faster into incompetence and disqualify it from the economic competition it
was initially planning to reach with this reform.

The issue of teaching materials in the newly adopted foreign languages is
also a matter of critical importance. I remember from personal experience
that every proposition to introduce a change in the foreign languages
taught and in their functions and objectives, the propositions have been
twinned with offers of packages of course books, textbooks, pedagogical
materials, training expertise. There were times in which the packages were
part of more general offers including loans and political conditions. The
Minister did not talk about who is to design, write, edit, publish and
print the teaching materials, We are not talking peanuts but billions of
dirhams over decades. He did not talk either about the political, economic
and ideological cost of the operation.

While the idea may be beautiful, the force of its attraction may be
blinding to the risks it entails. The flower may look beautiful, but how
sure are we there is no
 serpent underneath ….. would have warned good old William.


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