Morocco: Report highlights inequities caused by increased privatisation of education

published 31 January 2020 updated 6 February 2020

New research commissioned by Education International warns against the rampant privatisation of Moroccan schools, stressing that it has not improved learning outcomes, but has created a ‘multi-speed’ society.

Entitled Privatisation of Education in Morocco – A Multi-Speed Education System and a Polarised Society, the study by Khadija Abdous shows how government education reforms have sought to privatise education but have failed to improve quality. Launched today in Casablanca, the study shows that favouring private over public education provision has deepened inequality and segregation.

Increased privatisation, poor learning outcomes, growing inequality

Learning outcomes in Morocco are poor, with the country ranking 47th of 49 countries participating in TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) in 2015. Following the advice of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Morocco has made private schools a key part of its education provision strategy, to the detriment of public schools.

The new Education International study notes that strong government support for private education and underfunding of public schools has led to a dramatic increase in the number of private schools, especially at primary level. Whilst in 1990 3.6% of primary students were enrolled in private schools, by 2016 the proportion had soared to nearly 16%. In addition, 84% of the early childhood education centres are private, with 61% of these being traditional, non-accredited Koranic schools.

However, as Abdous points out, the increase in the number of private schools does not correlate with improved learning outcomes for students. In addition, the proliferation of private schools has created a system wherein a family’s income largely determines the quality of education their children can access. This result contrasts with the Moroccan government’s stated vision where “private education is a partner to public education in the generalisation and realisation of equity”.

Public schools plagued by underfunding and poor quality

While the government prioritises private education, the study found that some public schools lack basic infrastructure and teaching materials.

The government’s drive to cut costs led to several ongoing programmes through which experienced and qualified public teachers were encouraged to leave the profession or retire early. The measures resulted in major teacher shortages, combined classes and overcrowded classrooms, all of which undermine quality. As a result, many Moroccan families prefer to invest in private education.

Market principles in education deprofessionalising teaching The study also highlights the consequences of government policy and increased privatisation for the teaching profession in Morocco. As experienced teachers retired from public schools to work in private education, the government hired 70,000 contract teachers to respond to the teacher shortage, leading to unprecedented precariousness in the profession. The poor employment conditions of contract teachers led to repeated strikes and many learning hours lost in public schools. Moreover, as Abdous points out, the government has recently launched a partnership with Teach for Morocco, an organisation that places unqualified teachers with just a few weeks of training in public schools, undermining the status of the profession.

Unregulated and profitable private schools

Morocco’s education policies are pro-private schooling – the national charter set a goal for 20% of students to go to private schools by 2010. Private actors enjoy government support, including administrative and financial assistance. Meanwhile, government regulations for private schools are inadequate, in particular regulations on fees and registration. The study warns that as public schools degrade, private education is fast becoming a profitable market with few checks and balances to safeguard quality.

Education International: Only free quality public education can ensure equity

Commenting on the research findings, Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards stated: “We are deeply committed to equity and social justice. When these two principles are applied to the education sector, they imply equal access to free quality public education for all without discrimination. We call on the Moroccan government to move away from private schools that deepen inequality and segregation and instead focus on public education – the only way to achieve the promised equity in education”. The summary of research findings is available in English, Arabic and French.The full study is available in French.____Over the last four years, Education International’s Global Response campaign has driven the fight against the growing privatisation and commercialisation of education with member organisations in every region of the world.