Education’s First Aid Kit

Education’s First Aid Kit


Education is a right! Officially, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, it states:  “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free…”

More than half a century later, education is still a right (one of many) that not all Moroccan citizens have, and if they are fortunate, do they receive a proper education?

More than half a million children are out of primary school, and 20% of the “lucky” others dropout before its completion. Barely 30% enroll in secondary level, and only 10.3% in higher education. Where do the others go? Do they fail? It is our education system that fails them.

Our Education Index, according to the last Human Development reports by the United Nations is 0.243, making it below the human development average (0.246), and worse than Bangladesh, Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Congo, and the list is long since we are ranked 119th out of 145. Shameful, isn’t it? Not very surprising from a country, whose king (Hassan II) stated in the 80’s, after the protests: “It’s better for them (the protesters) to stay illiterate, than to know “stuff” that will lead them to demand rights, justice, and a worthy life”. What’s surprising is that our country spends 5.5% of its GDP in education, which is the average rate of very high human development countries.

Improving education can’t be a bad investment, Adam Smith (considered the “father of modern economics“) stated: “The most valuable of all capital is that invested in human capital”, and modern history doesn’t lack examples confirming the statement. South Korea had the same educational performance as Pakistan in the 60’s. The country gave greater attention to secondary education starting 1965. Results? Doubling per capita income from 1965 to 1985.

Even though we invest enough on our education, it does not seem to get better (if not worse), since most proposed reforms are of a “secondary” nature. This urged King Mohammed VI to address more importance to education, through his speech on the occasion of “The Revolution of the King and the people” where he prompted the stakeholders to “advance” the education sector. He did not propose how… maybe we should.  Maybe education should be “The Revolution of the people…and the King”.

I propose what I call “Education’s First Aid Kit”, a list of few needs, that I don’t see our education system getting anywhere without:

1. Education should be mandatory. Well, it is since 1963. However, numbers show that more than half a million are out of primary school. In addition, Morocco has one of the worst child domestic labor problems in North Africa. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has estimated that between 66,000 and 88,000 children are working as domestic servants in Morocco. Any parent who decides that his child should not go to school, because he is “his”, should be subject to a fine. That goes without saying that, first, proper means of education should be available for all.

2. Enhance academic research and development (R&D). Morocco spends only 0.6% of its GDP in R&D. Investing (efficiently) more in R&D not only improves a system’s education performance, but also advances the country’s economy.  There is a high correlation between a country’s R&D investments and GDP growth. For example, a US senator stated: “Federal investments in R&D have fueled half of the nation’s economic growth since World War II”. In numbers, a cumulative $153 trillion growth in US GDP, from 1953 to 2007, is a result of R&D investments. Thank you Science! A start would be to “Import” high caliber doctors at the beginning, centralize them in few well equipped universities, then spread the knowledge and experience by professors who graduated from these universities to others.

3. Studying scientific subjects in Arabic in secondary, then switch to French (or English in some cases) in higher education is just illogic. Arabic is clearly not a language very much used in scientific research, but it adds a huge burden on the student, where he has to learn scientific terms in another language, and just forget about the Arabic terms. I suggest that French should be thought from the age of 6, and all scientific subjects should be thought using the simplest Arabic for the children in primary. Starting secondary (Collège), all scientific subjects should be thought in French. A translation course (French-English) can be useful in high school, not only because more than 60% of scientific research papers are in English, but also because some students choose to continue their higher education in English (in Morocco).  Arabic will be preserved by teaching it as an independent course (as it has always been) and, of course, through other subjects (History, Religious education among others).

4. Accountancy for all professors, especially in high education. A research professor should do some research! Also, the lack of accountancy for high education professors lead some to abuse of their “power”, which can even lead to sexual harassment. Even if those cases can be few, and some might argue that they are “unproven”. Most students will agree that they encountered at least one professor who “abused of his power” (a power he should not be given, nor he deserves) during his academic career. Such conduct can only harm the professional Student-Teacher relationship, and thus impact the quality of education.

Maybe this first aid kit will not “heal” our educational system as fast as one would hope.  And it probably needs more constructive works in order to provide more efficiency. However, the improvement of education was never a short-term goal; it needs long discussions, efficient reforms, and the will of the people. Since it is, I believe, the only way out of ignorance, and it is through social and (real) economic growth that we can recover on a long-term scale.  Moroccans do deserve a worthy life, and no life is worthy without education.

Ayoub Slaoui