Education in Morocco

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The education system in Morocco comprises pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. School education is supervised by the Ministry of National Education, with considerable devolution to the regional level. Higher education falls under the Ministry of Higher Education and Executive Training.

School attendance is compulsory up to the age of 13. About 56% of young people are enrolled in secondary education, and 11% are in higher education. The government has launched several policy reviews to improve quality and access to education, and in particular to tackle a continuing problem of illiteracy. Support has been obtained from a number of international donor bodies such as USAID, UNICEF and the World Bank.


It was in 1963 that education was made compulsory for all Moroccan children between the ages of 6 through 13[1] and during this time all subjects were Arabized in the first and second grades, while French was maintained as the language of instruction of maths and science in both primary and secondary levels. Later, to meet the rising demand for secondary education in the 1970s, Morocco imported French speaking teachers from countries such as France, Romania, and Bulgaria to teach maths and sciences, and Arab teachers to teach humanities and social studies. By 1989, Arabization of all subjects across all grades in both primary and secondary education was accomplished. However, French remained the medium of instruction for scientific subjects in technical and professional secondary schools, technical institutes and universities.[2]

The government has undertaken several reforms to improve the access of education and reduce regional differences in the provision of education. The King announced the period between 1999–2009 as the “Education Decade.” During this time the government’s reform initiative focused on five main themes to facilitate the role of knowledge in economic development; the key themes were education, governance, private sector development, e-commerce and access. The World Bank and other multilateral agencies have helped Morocco to improve the basic education system.

Structure of the education system[edit]

The education system in Morocco comprises pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Government efforts to increase the availability of education services have led to increased access at all levels of education. Morocco’s education system consists of 6 years of primary, 3 years of lower-middle / intermediate school, 3 years of upper secondary, and tertiary education.

The education system is under the purview of the Ministry of National Education (MNE) and Ministry of Higher Education and Executive Training. The Ministry of National Education decentralized its functions to regional levels created in 1999 when 72 provinces were subsumed into 16 regional administrative units. Then the responsibility of the provision of education services has been slowly devolving to the regional level. This decentralization process will ensure that education programs are responsive to regional needs and the budget is administered locally. Each region has a Regional Academy for Education and Training and a regional director who is senior to provincial delegates within the region. The regional academies will also be responsible for developing 30 percent of the curriculum so that it is locally relevant. The central level of the MNE continues to manage the other 70 percent.[3] Also the delegations are charged with providing services for education in their regions.[4]


According to the National Charter, preprimary education is compulsory and available to all children under the age of 6. This level is open to children of ages 4–6 years old. There are two types of pre-primary schools in Morocco: kindergarten and Quranic schools. The kindergarten is a private school that provides education mainly in cities and towns; the Quranic schools prepare children for primary education by helping them develop basic literacy and numeracy skills. Quranic schools have the potential to become a major force in the fight against illiteracy. (timss)with approximately 80 percent of all children attending some form of Quranic school for some portion of their school years.[3] In 2007 the gross enrollment rate of pre-primary students in Morocco was about 60 percent, with the GER of males being 69.4 percent and that for females 49.6 percent. The GER for females have been increasing since the past few years and for the males it has been about 69 percent since 2003.[5]


The primary education consists of 6 years for children of ages 6–12 years old. Students are required to pass Certificat d'etudes primaires to be eligible for admission in lower secondary schools.[4]

The gross enrollment rates (GER) at the primary level have been consistently rising in the 2000s. In 2007 the total GER at the primary level was 107.4 percent, with 112 percent for males and 101 percent for females. But the Gender Parity Index for GER was 0.89, which shows that the issue of gender inequality persists at the primary level. The repetition rate at the primary level is 11.8 percent; the repetition rate for males at the primary level is 13.7 percent and for females it is 9.7 percent and the rates are declining for the past few years for both genders. The dropout rate at the primary level in 2006 was 22 percent, and is slightly higher for girls than boys, at 22 and 21 percent respectively.[5] The dropout rates have been falling since 2003, but is still very high compared to other Arab countries, such as Algeria, Oman, Egypt and Tunisia.[6]


There are three years of lower-middle school. This type of education is provided through what is referred to as the Collège. After 9 years of basic education, students begin upper secondary school and take a one-year common core curriculum, which is either in arts or science. First year students take arts and or science, mathematics or original education. Second year students take earth and life sciences, physics, agricultural science, technical studies or are in A or B mathematics track.

The gross enrollment rate (GER) at the secondary level in 2007 was 55.8 percent. But in secondary education the grade repetition and drop-out rates especially remain high.[7] The gender parity index for GER at secondary level was 0.86 in 2007; it is not better than other Arab countries and reflects considerable disparity between genders in enrollment at the secondary level.


The higher education system consists of both private and public institutes. The country has fourteen major public universities,[4] including Mohammed V University in Rabat and Al-Karaouine University, Fes,[8] along with specialist schools, such as the music conservatories of Morocco supported by the Ministry of Culture. The Karaouine University at Fes has been teaching since 859, making it the world's oldest continuously operating university.[9] However, there are dozens of national and international universities like SIST British University that work along with the public universities to improve the higher education in Morocco. In addition, there are a large number of private universities. The total number of graduates at the tertiary level in 2007 was 88,137: the gross enrollment rate at the tertiary level is 11 percent and it has not fluctuated significantly in the past few years.[6] Admission to public universities requires only a baccalauréat, whereas admission to other higher public education, such as engineering school, require competitive special tests and special training before the exams.

Another growing field apart from engineering and medicine is business management. According to the Ministry of Education the enrollment in Business Management increased by 3.1 percent in the year 2003-04 when compared to preceding year 2002-2003. Generally, an undergraduate business degree requires four years and an average of two years for Master’s degree.[10]

Universities in Morocco have also started to incorporate the use of information and communication technology. A number of universities have started providing software and hardware engineering courses as well; annually the academic sector produces 2,000 graduates in the field of information and communication technologies.[11]

Moroccan institutions have established partnerships with institutes in Europe and Canada and offer joint degree programs in various fields from well-known universities.[10]

To increase public accountability, the Moroccan universities have been evaluated since 2000, with the intention of making the results public to all stakeholders, including parents and students.[2]

Challenges in the education sector[edit]

Private higher education institutes[edit]

Despite having a number of private institutes the enrollment in private higher education institutes is still low, less than 3.5 percent of total university population. Private institutes also suffer from less qualified or inadequate staff. This is primarily due to inhibiting tuition costs. Curriculum of especially the business schools is outdated and needs to be revised according to the changing demands of the labor market. Private sector companies also do not make sufficient contribution in providing working knowledge to professional institutes of the current business environment.[10]

Access to school education[edit]

Internal efficiency is also low with high dropout and repetition rates. There is also an unmet need of rising demand of middle schools after achieving high access rates in primary education.[12] The problem is more acute in the rural schools due to inadequate supply and quality of instructional materials. The poor quality of education becomes an even greater problem due to Arabic-Berber language issues: most of the children from Berber families hardly know any Arabic, which is the medium of instruction in schools, when they enter primary level.[3]


Low literacy in the Maghreb region is also a major problem. In Morocco, the adult illiteracy rate is still high at around 40 percent in 2007, despite concerted efforts being made since independence in 1956 to reduce the rate of illiteracy which at that time was 87 percent. In absolute terms the number of illiterate adults has grown from six to nine million. Morocco is one of the five Arab countries that contain 70 percent of the some 70 million illiterate adults in the Arab world. In rural areas and for females the problem is even worse; three quarters of women were considered to be illiterate in 2004.[13]


There has also been a high emigration rate of skilled workers, that is, the proportion of highly skilled emigrants among educated people is high. In this way Morocco is losing a substantial proportion of its skilled work force to foreign countries, forming the largest migrant population among North Africans in Europe.[2]

Reform efforts[edit]


Since the late 1980s the Maghreb countries’ governments have been partnering with civil society organizations to fight illiteracy. The NGO Programme launched in 1988 delivers literacy to 54% of all learners enrolled in adult literacy programmes. Ministerial and General Programme also focus on various ministries and community to deliver literacy programmes. In-Company programmes cater to the needs of the working population focused on continuous in-company training.[13] Morocco and other Maghreb countries are now fully committed to eradicate illiteracy. Morocco officially adopted its National Literacy and Non-formal Education Strategy in 2004. An integrated vision of literacy, development and poverty reduction was promoted by National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), launched by the King Mohammed VI in May 2005.[13]

Government reviews[edit]

Improving the quality of outcomes in the education sector has become a key priority for Morocco’s government. A comprehensive renovation of the education and training system was developed in a participatory manner in 1998-99, which led to the vision for long-term expansion of this sector in response to the country’s social and economic development requirements.[14] The outcome was the promulgation of the 1999 National Education and Training Charter (CNEF). The CNEF, with strong national consensus, declared 2000-2009 the decade for education and training, and established education and training as a national priority, second only to territorial integrity. The reform program, as laid out by the CNEF, also received strong support from the donor community. Nevertheless, during the course of implementation, the reform program encountered delays.

In 2005 the Moroccan government adopted a strategy with the objective of making ICT accessible in all public schools to improve the quality of teaching; infrastructure, teacher training and the development of pedagogical content was also part of this national programme.[11]

External bodies[edit]

A number of donors including USAID and UNICEF are implementing programs to improve the quality of education at the basic level and to provide training to teachers. The World Bank also provides assistance in infrastructure upgrades for all levels of education and offer skill development trainings and integrated employment creation strategies to various stakeholders.[3] At the request of the Government’s highest authorities, a bold Education Emergency Plan (EEP) was drawn up to catch up on this reform process. The EEP, spanning the period 2009-12, draws on the lessons learned during the last decade. In this context, the Government requested five major donors (European Union (EU), European Investment Bank (EIB), Agence française de développement (AFD), African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank) to assist the implementation of the EEP reform agenda.[15]


  1. ^ Diyen, Hayat 2004,"reform of secondary education in Morocco: Challenges and Prospects." Prospects, vol,pp212 
  2. ^ a b c "MENA Flagship Report. "The Road Not Traveled: Education Reforms in MENA."". World Bank, Washington, DC. 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Strengthening Education in the Muslim World: Country Profile and Analysis (pp18)" (PDF). USAID. 2004. 
  4. ^ a b c TIMSS encyclopedia 2007 
  5. ^ a b UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 2008 
  6. ^ a b "World Bank 2009.Edstats". 
  7. ^ Morocco: challenges to tradition and modernity - Page 58 James N. Sater - 2009 "In addition to high drop-out rates at Morocco's public universities, this indicates that a growing proportion of Morocco's young population received religious education, but was unable to work in the religious sector. ..."
  8. ^ Morocco Country Study Guide - Page 23 IBP USA - 2006 "Morocco is home to 14 public universities. Mohammed V University in Rabat is one of the country's most famous schools, with faculties of law, sciences, liberal arts, and medicine. Karaouine University, in Fes, is a longstanding center ...
  9. ^ The Report: Morocco 2009 - Page 252 Oxford Business Group "... yet for many Morocco's cultural, artistic and spiritual capital remains Fez. The best-preserved ... School has been in session at Karaouine University since 859, making it the world's oldest continuously operating university. ..."
  10. ^ a b c Driouchi, Ahmed (2006), A Global Guide to Management Education 
  11. ^ a b Hamdy, Amr (June 2007). "Survey of ICT and Education in Africa: Egypt Country Report. ICT in Education in Morocco". 
  12. ^ "World Bank 2005. "Basic Education Reform Support Program." Project Appraisal Document. World Bank, Washington,DC" (PDF). 
  13. ^ a b c Literacy Policies and Strategies in the Maghreb: Comparative Perspectives from Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco. Research paper prepared for the UNESCO Regional Conferences in Support of Global Literacy, United Nations, 2007 
  14. ^ "Kingdom of Morocco Policy Notes, Conditions for Higher and Inclusive Growth (pp215), Ch 11." (PDF). World Bank, Washington, DC. 2008. 
  15. ^ "EEP". Ministry of National Education.