15. On achieving independence in 1956, Morocco embarked on an ambitious project to develop its education system, the objectives being the universalization of education and the unification, arabization and moroccanization of the country. To that end it invested considerable amounts and initiated policies and programmes that yielded impressive results in terms of universalization of primary education, where the enrolment rate increased from 18 per cent to 53 per cent between independence and 1965. It also ran effective literacy campaigns to reduce the illiteracy rate, which stood at 87 per cent in the 1960 electoral census. In the mid-1960s Morocco started to prioritize access to secondary education. Structural adjustment policies applied during the 1980s led to a decline in social expenditure, worsening poverty and a crisis in the education system. Though enrolment rates in secondary education continued to rise, they fell in primary education, with rural children the hardest hit, only to recover starting in 1992, boosted by a better, more stable economic situation and renewed interest in policies favouring universal education.
16. Since the coronation of His Majesty King Mohammed VI in 1999, education has once more become a key component of State policy and a reform of the education system has begun, though this is not yet complete. In November 1999 the King adopted the National Education and Training Charter, a basic text establishing the framework for reform of the Moroccan education system in the medium and long term, setting forth a raft of measures for modernization, laying down the basic principles of education in Morocco and proclaiming 2000 to 2010 the Decade of Education and Training. The Charter was drafted by a committee of 32 people, including trade unionists, parents, school pupils, experts, politicians and representatives of civil society. It aims to bring the Moroccan education system in line with international standards.
B. National Education and Training Charter
17. As indicated in the first part of the Charter, which deals with basic principles, the Moroccan education system is based on (a) the principles and values of the Islamic faith;11 (b) the traditional notion of the nation (faith in God, love of country and commitment to the constitutional monarchy), civic values12 and mastery of Arabic, together with openness to the use of the other languages most commonly spoken worldwide; (c) immersion in Morocco’s cultural heritage and respect for regional cultures; (d) interaction between Morocco’s cultural heritage and the major universal principles of human rights; and (e) achievements in science and mastery of advanced technology.
18. The Charter makes children the focus of the education reform and attempts to provide the conditions children need to learn in a new kind of school, one that is open to society and takes an approach based on active learning.13 The Charter also takes a broad view of education, as an activity that continues throughout our lives. It sets the following main goals for the education reform: universalization of compulsory education (primary and secondary from age 6 to age 15); improving the quality of education; narrowing the gap in access to education between rural and urban areas and between the sexes; developing post-compulsory secondary education; establishing and promoting private education; and combating illiteracy among adults and young people aged 8 to 16 who are not in school or have dropped out of school.14 19. One priority of the education reform is decentralization to the regional and local levels of education management and the structures and functions of the Ministry of Education, Higher Education, Executive Training and Scientific Research.15 As a result, the Ministry of Education headquarters have been reorganized and, more recently (2003), 16 regional education and training authorities were created, with financial autonomy and the task of implementing education policies in their jurisdiction. The education authorities are responsible for drafting the regional school and education charters and interim multi-year investment programmes, and are required to set aside 30 per cent of the curriculum to reflect local and regional conditions.16 Another important function of these education authorities is to help assess young people’s vocational training needs and determine what construction, expansion or renovation work is required, as well as issuing authorizations for nursery schools and private schools in accordance with the law.
C. Characteristics of the education system
20. State and private education exist side by side in Morocco and the Charter applies to private education too. Private schools currently cater for 6.2 per cent of children but the Government aims to increase this figure to 20 per cent. The Charter brought the school starting age down to 6 and raised the school leaving age to 15. The Moroccan education system is structured as follows:
(a) Two years of non-compulsory preschool for children aged 2 to 6, who may follow either a traditional education (86.6 per cent of children) under the Ministry of Religious Endowment (Habous),17 or a modern education under the Ministry of Education and Youth;
(b) Nine years of compulsory basic education for children aged 6 to 15, including six years of compulsory primary education for children aged 6 to 12 years, leading to the Certificate of Primary Education, and three years of compulsory secondary education for children aged 12 to 15 (junior high school);
(c) Three years of non-compulsory education (high school) for children aged 15 to 18 (diploma course) leading to the baccalaureate, which gives access to higher education.
21. Books and materials are published exclusively by the Ministry of Education and must be purchased by parents, who may apply for a grant from the State in accordance with the law. The number of students per class varies greatly depending on neighbourhood and area, but ranges between 20 and 40 or 42.
22. As provided in the National Education and Training Charter, classical Arabic is the language of instruction in primary and secondary school and in post-compulsory high school. French as a foreign language is taught from the third year of primary school and there are plans to introduce English as a compulsory subject in primary schools from 2005. French continues to be used in higher education and science faculties. The Charter provides for Amazigh to be gradually phased in to the education system and the aim is for Amazigh to be taught in all schools by 2010. Amazigh teaching was launched in 319 schools in 2003, using the Tifinagh alphabet and, according to official figures, was being taught in 350 out of Morocco’s 6,587 primary schools in 2006.
23. The use of corporal punishment is banned in schools and anyone using it is liable to the penalties provided by law.