Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moroccan Students Protest Lack of University Places

Siham Ali, writing for the online journal Magharebia, reports from Rabat that Moroccan students who succeeded in their baccalaureate exams are feeling increasingly frustrated. Many struggle to understand why they cannot pursue their dreams.

Their high marks have not guaranteed them entry to Morocco's best universities, so they created the Union of Students for Education System Reform. They also began staging demonstrations.

[Photo: Siham Ali] Moroccan graduates protest

Wiame Tahri always dreamed of becoming an architect. She scored an average mark of 17.26 in this year's bac, but the National School of Architecture requires an average of 17.27. All of her hopes and dreams were dashed, and she feels "humiliated".

Many others have to face the same bitter reality.

Fatima Bakkali's daughter, Meriem, earned a mark of "very good" but will not study at one of the country's prestigious grandes écoles.

"My daughter has always been a high achiever," she said. "I had no doubt that she could get into a grande école. Her average of 16 wasn't enough to realise our hopes for her. Now she'll have to continue her studies at a college alongside other students who scored averages of barely 10."

Minister of Higher Education, Training and Scientific Research Lahcen Daoudi blamed the situation on the low intake capacity of Morocco's grandes écoles, which have to follow a pre-selection procedure before the competitive entrance process begins.

The low quotas for some institutions are due to high demand from students which far exceeds the number of places available. "The rapid rise in the number of students who pass the baccalaureate has not gone hand in hand with development of the existing infrastructure," he pointed out.

At medical schools, for instance, the number of available places is 2,000, whereas the number of applicants has reached 25,000. Even universities, which are shunned by top baccalaureate achievers because of the poor employment prospects they offer, are oversubscribed.

In Agadir, for example, the teacher-student ratio is one to more than 250, whereas the international standard is one teacher to no more than 30 students, the minister said.

"I have been in charge of this ministry for only a few months," he said. "Reforms will take time. Those who have the means are able to send their children abroad to study. Other families bring financial ruin upon themselves so that their children can continue their studies abroad. The children of poor parents are in a tough situation."

Daoudi mentioned that his department has a clear strategy designed to change this situation, which will include the creation of international universities in Morocco among other things. A number of agreements have already been signed. These universities will be private, but a certain number of places will be reserved for outstanding students from poor families.


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