Learning in Morocco: Language Politics and the Abandoned Educational Dream

Learning in Morocco: Language Politics and the Abandoned Educational Dream

Learning in Morocco: Language Politics and the Abandoned Educational Dream

Learning in Morocco: Language Politics and the Abandoned Educational Dream

Synopsis

Learning in Morocco offers a rare look inside public education in the Middle East. While policymakers see a crisis in education based on demographics and financing, Moroccan high school students point to the effects of a highly politicized Arabization policy that has never been implemented coherently. In recent years, national policies to promote the use of Arabic have come into conflict with the demands of a neoliberal job market in which competence in French is still a prerequisite for advancement. Based on long-term research inside and outside classrooms, Charis Boutieri describes how students and teachers work within, or try to circumvent, the system, whose contradictory demands ultimately lead to disengagement and, on occasion, to students taking to the streets in protest.

Excerpt

1
Schools in Crisis

As we walked toward a bookshop in Kenitra, a medium-sized city on the Atlantic coast, Lahiane, a high school student in his senior year, and I passed a gathering of several hundred unemployed demonstrators. This buzzing crowd made up of both sexes and a variety of ages, anger and boredom imprinted on their faces, had gathered outside the town’s city hall to organize yet another rally demanding more jobs that were both secure and more highly paid (see Figure 1.1). Lahiane, his somber gaze fixed on the crowd, smiled bitterly and asked me, “What do you say? Shall I join them?” He had not yet graduated high school.

The pessimism Lahiane voiced has informed the actions of large numbers of unemployed school and university graduates, known by the term diplomés chômeurs. Approximately 27 percent of all educated young Moroccans are unemployed, and more work on an irregular basis or have insecure jobs (African Development Bank 2013, 12). For the last two decades, many of these graduates have spent their days frequenting the offices of labor unions syndicates and demonstrating outside government buildings. Seeking access to white-collar jobs in the new service sector that has superseded Morocco’s mainly agricultural and small industrial economy, these lower-middle and middle class youth have seen their job prospects systematically dwindle. As a consequence, these youth move between advocating forcefully for a chance at social integration and economic prosperity based on the meritocratic evaluation of their educational skills and expressing deep cynicism about the material and ideological . . .

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