El Habib El Hadari, a high school English teacher in Morocco, was kind enough to come to Washington last week to speak just to us about culture and education in Morocco.
I later asked him through email to give me his feedback on an article I read about the use of English in education in his country. Titled, "Open Letter to Morocco's Ministers of Education: French is Obsolete," it suggests that the education system is doing students a disservice. Here's his response...
"In fact, the use of French as a language of instruction especially in higher education is a big issue in Morocco these days. The problem is that students spend twelve years learning maths, physics and biology in Arabic, but when they get their baccalaureate degree and go to the university, they find themselves obliged to study the same subjects using French. Many of these students mostly feel frustrated, fail and leave the university in the first or second year. Science students love to learn English, and always show a big interest in it, but they keep saying that after they get their baccalaureate degree, they will need French more than English. The National Charter for Education has stressed the importance of learning foreign languages especially English. There are some efforts to make children learn it at an early age, but the success of these efforts does not depend only on the government's intentions and willingness but also on the budget. Integrating English in public primary schools means recruiting more teachers and creating more classrooms. One more thing, as teachers of English, we wish our students to learn as many languages as they can, giving priority to their native language (Arabic) and too much importance to English. Yet, as long as we are not in policy-making positions, we cannot do anything about it."
Fascinating (RIP Nimoy). I spoke of this during dinner to our Moroccan colleague, Meriem. Good discussion. If Morocco wished to have one uniting language, which would it be? Standard Arabic, Darija (Moroccan Arabic, the native vernacular), Berber (from the indigenous people of north Africa), French (who were the "protectorate" of Morocco for the first ½ of the 20th century)? Such dynamics certainly enrich yet fraction a society. This issue is taxing on the society as a whole, not just in the education system.
And... Don't call them "Berber." That's what some earlier colonizers called them (from the Latin barbarus, branding them as like Barbarians. Ouch. Yes, it seems to be somewhat derogatory to use anymore. The preferred reference is Amazighs. Does this situation sound familiar? Names do mean something, even outside the U.S.