MAC, by Nadia Elboubkri (Washington, DC, August 26, 2013) — Morocco’s path to reform and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses development in all aspects of political life, society, and the economy.The objective of the MDGs is to prepare developing countries, like Morocco, for a prosperous and sustainable future by encouraging them to identify and measure progress based on indicators of human development.
As per the MDGs’ objectives for universal education, Morocco has placed special attention upon improving access to education for young Moroccans—rural as well as urban.
As King Mohammed VI remarked in an address on August 20, in the past, education reform did not benefit a wide margin of the growing youth population in Morocco; now, however, “Morocco has seen increases in access to schooling at all levels of the system and enrollment in primary education is now near-universal,” according to World Bank Education Specialist Jeffrey Waite in a World Bank press release on Morocco’s education reform process.
“Although much has been achieved in expanding access to schooling, further reforms are needed to improve the outcomes of education, notably its quality and the overall performance of the sector.” Since 1999, the Moroccan Government has put in place programs to address problems in the education sector, starting with the National Education and Training Charter 1999-2008, continuing with the Education Emergency Program 2009-2012, and most recently launching the Education Action Plan (EAP) 2013-2016.As the deadline for the MDGs nears, Morocco’s literacy rate is making progress (up from 55% to 62% this decade), and primary school enrollment rates have also increased (net enrollment up from 93% to 97% for girls and 95% to 96% for boys). The question now is how to sustain growth and bolster future development.
In Morocco, much like elsewhere, three major factors affect educational development: 1) Rural economic development, particularly concerning women; 2) the relationship between poverty, schooling, and work opportunities; and 3) international assistance in educational development.
Rural Economic Development
Morocco’s education initiatives have been making major advances in providing a more comprehensive, inclusive educational system—particularly to boost enrollment and graduation rates for young girls in rural areas. Limited funding, as well as shortages in qualified teachers, adequate materials, and jobs outside agricultural and manual labor markets give rural families little economic incentive to send girls to school. Nevertheless, Morocco’s national efforts are working towards the institutionalization of gender equality in the education system, despite the limited available resources.
In crafting a more inclusive education plan that provides opportunities for young women, greater consideration must be made to linking rural economic development, government assistance efforts, and vocational education tied to the local economy, as these efforts should be mutually reinforcing.
For example, job opportunities in rural industries created via co-ops operated by women, such as the increasingly popular Argan oil industry and other artisanal trades, will show families the concrete benefits of educating their daughters. Also, there are opportunities for IT-based training in rural areas that would raise literacy rates, enable the acquisition of relevant technical skills, and create more sophisticated, knowledge-based business development opportunities in rural areas. Civil service opportunities for women in the local/regional governments would also be an incentive for young women to finish school.
The Relationship between Poverty, Schooling, and Work Opportunities
Over time, the effects of the Education Action Plan will shed light on how education, economic status, and access to skilled work opportunities are correlated. Since the EAP will increase funding and create a mutual relationship between teacher’s incentives to teach and student’s incentive to remain in school, the quality of education will improve and results should be achieved.
With the growth of educational opportunities, a larger skilled workforce in rural areas may incentivize communities to upgrade vocational training for jobs that require a certain level of education, which in turn would encourage students to complete schooling and move the better-trained rural workforce towards higher-paid employment opportunities.
This causal chain of improved quality of education paired with increased employment opportunities for a skilled labor force will eventually decrease the “brain drain” from rural to urban areas and encourage young people to finish school and work locally.
International Involvement in Educational Development
International support is a major factor in the path to education reform in Morocco. The World Bank’s first Education Development Policy Loan to Morocco supported measures that the Moroccan government put in place to encourage poor rural families to send their children to school, such as increasing boarding scholarships and improving incentives for quality teaching, and by publishing the results of the national learning assessment program, for example.
As a result, since 2010 enrollment rates in rural areas have seen landmark increases. Due to the promising outlook on improvements to education in Morocco, the United States has contributed a $100 million loan to continue support to reforms that aim to further improve access to quality education for all children. And the World Bank Board approved the Development Policy Loan, the second in a series, in May 2013.
The United Nations MDGs list education as second in importance only to eradicating poverty because of the positive and long-lasting effects that an educated population can have on the economy, human development, and social awareness. Morocco is on the right path, but there is room for growth and innovation, and the Education Action Plan provides the potential for that to be achieved. The generation of young people being educated right now is Morocco’s future generation of leaders. Fortunately, as indicated in the King’s August 20th speech, education is a national priority.
Nadia Elboubkri is a Research Associate at the Moroccan American Center