Saturday, March 07, 2015

Morocco's Language War Intensifies

The language of Shakespeare language of Molière - Will Morocco ever escape from the francophone influence? If so, it may be some time, as the brakes have been applied to the push for English

A recent decision by the Supreme Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research to replace French with English was generally welcomed as a major step in the fright direction for Morocco. It was praised by educators and tourist operators. Now, reactionary forces have moved in and put pressure on the Council to reconsidering their earlier recommendation.

According to Arabic news website Hespress, the Supreme Council, headed by Omar Azziman, an advisor to King Mohammed VI, is said to have ordered the formation of a sub-committee to review the proposal of replacing French with English, a proposal already hailed as a progressive move by many members of the Council’s Permanent Committee on Curriculum, Programs, Training and Teaching.

It is unclear as to Omar Azziman's personal position on the matter, but it appears he is having to balance opposing voices.

Supreme Council head Omar Azziman  

Certainly some subtle pressure is being applied but at this stage it is unclear where from. One can imagine that the recent rapprochement between France and Morocco may well have played a part. It is also conceivable that French diplomats expressed a collective "Quelle horreur - Pas de français? Inconcevable". Some reports confirm that the voices within the Council pushed for French to be kept as the first foreign language of the country mainly because of the French-Moroccan relations recently restored after a year-long diplomatic scrap.

Hespress added that Council members who are against the replacement of the French language with English are playing the card of Morocco’s strategic interests to further their claims. They are justifying their choice by saying that French holds a leading position in the Moroccan educational system and that French is the language of many African countries with whom Morocco tries to maintain strategic ties. It seems short sighted as French is already being replaced in some African countries.

According to Mohamed Belkhayat, writing for Morocco World News, African Francophonie is on its way out. Rwanda made the shift to English official in 2009, Gabon made a similar announcement in 2012 and Senegal made its intention known in 2013. While Morocco is dithering and debating the different languages to teach, countries around the world are taking bold positions to ensure the competitive future of their institutions and in particular their education systems. Italy has announced English as their language of higher learning in respected universities. The Gulf States are embracing English more and more throughout their educational cycle. After all, education is about preparing our youth for a competitive future in a world that is increasingly global. To such an end, English should be taught as a critical skill for today and tomorrow.

Indeed the Rwandan switch to English came about as the country was determined to attract foreign investment, switched to English. A member of the East African Community since 2007, Rwanda relies on increasing trade and movement of labor with Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania — its larger, more developed anglophone neighbours.

Eric Niyongabo, Rwanda’s acting director general of education explains that English is the language of the global business world — one in which Rwanda strives to be competitive. “When we look worldwide, English is spoken more than French,” he said. “Our children are going to travel the world, import and export. This is an economic issue. We don’t want them being isolated.”

"There is no alternative to English in Moroccan Universities.”-
Moroccan Minister of Higher Education, Lahcen Daoudi,

Moroccan Minister of Higher Education, Lahcen Daoudi, has been one of the strongest supporters of the call for English to be accorded more significance in the country’s educational system. Daoudi  has called for establishing new English courses in various disciplines in Moroccan universities,and, saying that the Ministry will provide the necessary support for such undertakings.

Daodui has stressed that English is the language of learning and teaching as well as the language of emerging and developing countries.

This not the first time the Moroccan Minister has made such a pronouncement in favour of promoting the presence of English in Morocco’s education system. In a conference held in Rabat last October, Daoudi said that “there is no alternative to English in Moroccan Universities.”

In Morocco the pro-English lobby has had strong support, including from many other Moroccan ministers who have issued statements on numerous occasions favouring the adoption of English over French within the Moroccan educational system.

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

As recently as last month even the Prime Minister, Abdelilah Benkirane, highlighted the importance of adopting English and using it in Moroccan schools.

“We all agree on teaching languages, and we have to teach our students to be excellent in both English and French,” he said. “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.”

Social Media

Reaction on social media has been strongly in favour of a switch to English and critical of reactionary voices.

"Arabic first. English second. That is, if you want to be successful in the business world. Nobody honestly cares about France. Not at all"- Laabab

"English will always remain first on this planet..."- Nacer

"The French temple guards in Morocco will do their best to obey their Mom" - Abdellah

"How many of those council members speak English?"- Affaf

If this is to come out of the will be very sad. There are obviously some people involved, who may need some binoculars to get a view beyond their village borders. This world is a dynamic element, to allow participating in this constant battle of being a part of the dynamic it is mandatory to adapt to changes, offer solutions and open doors for the future. Closing and locking the gates is not the solution - Agadir.

Dreams don't get achieved by wishful thinking. Nobody denies the monumental challenge that this switch represents, but the true character of a nation can only be determined by the nature of problems and challenges they choose to undertake. Sadly, our officials, yet again, have chosen the easy way out by shying away from this historic moment and opted for the comfort of the already existing useless French. This is one of those instances where the king should have set the goal and have them figure out how to achieve it because that's what needs to be done, instead he consulted with them about if it can be done - Xemocraxy

I can't wait for the switch. I gave up my dreams because of French. When I graduated from high school, I was so eager to continue my studies in Faculty of Sciences, but unfortunately, I found out that the studies are going to be in French, and I hated French. So, I went to study English in another university, and now if they switch the whole academic education in English, I'll be very pleased to study science in English -Arjdal

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