Wednesday, February 25, 2015

French or English ~ Morocco's Language Debate Continues

The move to drop French as the second language in Morocco is gaining momentum. In recent times The View from Fez has been charting the groundswell of support to change to English. Back in January we reported that experts agreed that French as a second language has long been acknowledged as a major problem for Moroccan education, and the Education Minister's statement, "French is no longer valid, English is the solution" was greeted warmly by educators and the tourist industry.

Mohammed Belkhayat, the President of HMEMSA (Home of Moroccan Educators & Moroccan Students in America),  added his voice, saying, in an open letter to Morocco's Ministers of Education, "French is obsolete"

Now the Prime Minister, Benkirane, has weighed into the debate, calling for the adoption of English as the first foreign language in Morocco

Larbi Arbaoui, writing for Morocco World News says the Moroccan government is moving inexorably towards elevating English over French within the Moroccan educational system.

During the monthly political conference dedicated to the reform of education and training, the Head of the Government highlighted the importance of adopting English and using in it in Moroccan schools.

In a video posted on YouTube, Abdelilah Benkirane said that “we all agree on teaching languages, and we have to teach our students to be excellent at both English and French,” but he added, “if we have to choose, we will choose English because it is the language of today’s science, technology and commerce.”

“To be clear, in all Arab nations, we need the English language,” ~ Moroccan PM Abdelilah Benkirane.

Benkirane confirmed that Morocco and France have very “strong bonds that can’t be broken, but it is not our destiny to keep using French. Personally, I regret having not learned English very well because I need it the most during my official visits, even when I go to Saudi Arabia,” he added.

The Justice and Development party (PJD) wants “the Arabic language to remain the language of instruction at all levels” in Moroccan schools, and hopes that the Amazigh language, another official language in Morocco, can be “developed so that it can be fully integrated in education.”

The Strategic Report of the Supreme Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research, which will be submitted to King Mohammed VI soon, is recommending replacing French with English in Moroccan education.

French speaking residents in Fez were quick to point out that such a change would be a "generational" change, rather than something with immediate impact.  Bien sur!

Another language battle is underway; that between Arabic and Darija (the Moroccan dialect). A few days before the presentation of a report on education to King Mohammed VI, Benkirane warned of the dangers of introducing "Darija" in Moroccan schools saying it was a threat to the "throne" and "stability" of the country. The PJDiste claim that calls to integrate "Darija" in the pre-school curriculum are the work of people who speak French. "People," he said, "who have no connection with the case." He also added that "in the past, they tried to mount a conflict between the monarchy and the Amazigh, the second language Moroccans, but without real success."

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