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Morocco Tries Out 4-Year Bachelor’s Degrees, but Criticism Grows

Morocco’s proposed new undergraduate education system, with four-year bachelor’s degrees, has been in place at 10 universities on an experimental basis since October. But some academics and higher education officials want the Ministry of Higher Education to cut the experiment short.

They say the ministry should retract the plan pending further study, with input from professors, and until better support is put in place.

The latest criticism came from the Supreme Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research, an advisory body. It issued a statement last month, saying the new system should not be approved in universities in its current form.

The council criticized the extra cost of the system for students, who would spend four years instead of three to earn an undergraduate degree. It also said the system created problems in scientific training programmes. It recommended a review of the entire new degree system.

Morocco and some other countries of the Maghreb have been following a European educational model known as LMD (Licence, Master, Doctorat). The Licence, similar to a bachelor’s degree, normally takes three years to complete. (See a related article, “Two Parallel Universes In Algerian Education”.)

Under the proposed reform, Moroccan universities would begin offering four-year bachelor’s degrees instead. That model is followed in several other Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and some Gulf states.

A better way to reform undergraduate education would start with organizing workshops to review deficiencies of the old system, one educator said. Professors should be involved in those discussions, he added.

The plan would also require students to master English. It would include a preparatory year to allow students to gain language proficiency and learn the skills needed to succeed in the last three years of their undergraduate education. (See a related article, “Morocco’s Planned Reforms for Undergraduate Education Stir Broad Opposition”.)

‘Incomprehensible Haste’

Muhammad Darwish, head of the National Observatory for the Education and Training System, told Al-Fanar Media that governmental and independent institutions were pushing the government to retract the new system, after the “incomprehensible haste” of starting to implement it without the necessary financial and human resources. He called for holding extensive seminars with relevant experts.

The National Observatory is an independent research institution, founded by Darwish, with a number of faculty members in Moroccan universities. It monitors higher education and research in the kingdom.

Darwish is also a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences at Mohammed V University in Rabat and the former head of the National Union of Higher Education for Moroccan University Professors. He believes the implementation of the new system should be stopped before students move to the next stage.

A better way to reform undergraduate education, he said, would start with organizing workshops to review deficiencies of the old system. Professors should be involved in those discussions, he added.

2 Universities Rejected the New System

Two institutions—Ibn Tofail University and Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University—refused to participate in the experimental trial of the new system because faculty members had not been involved in discussions about it. Some of the universities’ professors also claimed that neither the human nor the logistical means were in place to administer the new system.

A professor at Ibn Tofail University, who asked not to be named, said faculty members rejected the new system because they had not been involved in its development. He added that their demands for logistical support prior to the plan’s implementation had not been answered, and that the exact number of students in the trial period had not been determined.

“The experience is very good because the number of students in the classroom is limited to about 85, and there is more communication with professors who can address students’ language weaknesses during the qualifying year.”

Musab Shari’i
A first-year student in the Faculty of Law at Mohammed V University

Another negative aspect of the new system is that it adds a foundation year allocated to solving problems of language and general university culture. Those issues should be addressed in pre-university education, the professor said.

Another member of the faculty at Ibn Tofail University said the current period of experimentation was not a good measure for judging the system because of the limited numbers involved. If the system were applied to all of Morocco’s approximately 1.3 million higher-education students, the professor said, government bodies would have to take parallel measures, such as providing infrastructure and appropriate logistical means and improving conditions and resources for professors, researchers, and administrators.

During a parliamentary session this month, Morocco’s minister of higher education, Abdellatif Miraoui, agreed with some of the criticisms of the new system raised by the Supreme Council for Education and Training. The ministry did not respond, however, to a request by Al-Fanar Media for comment.

A Student’s Experience

Despite the higher-level debates, some students who have started studying under the new system say it is “much better” than the old system.

Musab Shari’i is one of those students. He is in his first year at the Faculty of Law at Mohammed V University, after passing an online test in general information, which all applicants took during the trial period. Shari’i obtained an educational certificate in media under the old system at Ibn Tofail University, before beginning his law course this year under the new system.

Shari’i said he decided to enroll in the study after forming good impressions of the system while researching how it worked in other countries, including the United States.

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He said: “The experience is very good because the number of students in the classroom is limited to about 85, and there is more communication with professors who can address students’ language weaknesses during the qualifying year.”

Shari’i said the new bachelor’s degree system should be continued only if student numbers remain limited.

He added that students were very worried about what would happen if the ministry retracted the new bachelor’s degree system now.

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