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Morocco and Spain are building a joint future through education

Interview - January 14, 2015

Morocco and Spain are increasing a logical interdependence framework based on education synergies that is helping both nations to understand better each other and bring commercial opportunities


The changes that Morocco had with the new Constitution and the political and economic reforms ensured a very significant economic growth and the positioning of the country in the eyes of the world. What is the role that education will play in this new scenario?

These great changes that Morocco has experienced began in the late 90s, when a change occurred with the arrival of His Majesty Mohammed VI. Personally I had the opportunity, the honor and the pleasure of participating in a very important task, which was the fiftieth anniversary report that His Majesty the King had requested. With this report we were able to analyze in detail everything that happened during those 50 years. To simplify, it means that we have singled out what was then called "nodes of the future", and these nodes of the future cannot be challenged. It has put knowledge- including, of course, education-, health - which is extremely important - governance, economy, and then the last node that was tied to what used to be the issue of human development, so the whole part that is linked to cohesion and mainly everything which would encompass inclusion.

And from there, it imagined the progress of the country on the basis of previous years by analyzing both the fundamental aspects that are related to culture, traditions, values, and also everything that is potential on the economic and social aspects, to reach a proposal for a desirable and possible Morocco that could be achieved with will.

So in other words, political changes, which are linked to the new Constitution, which totally fit into a logical pattern that has been forged and built in time to, finally, get to be embodied in the Constitution. And that is very important because many people think that the Constitution was created in a few days after yesterday’s Arab Spring, but it was not that at all; it was a whole structure that was underway, including advanced regionalization. When talking about new occupations within Morocco, when talking, of course, about opening towards Africa, all these elements are part of a reflection and a well-constructed strategy.

Teenagers and young people (10-24 years) represent more than 30% of Morocco’s population: a human capital worth exploring through concrete actions and the institutional commitment of private and public sectors. Could you tell us about the importance of educational reform to capitalize Moroccan youth?

The future is education. However, education is of course not only equivalent to knowledge, but it is also linked to the training of citizens. The Moroccan youth of today is tomorrow's citizens. Education is also a Moroccan who must belong to his country, who is proud of its past and its culture, but who must also join a broader, wider world which is his and in which he must feel like a citizen.

But on the other hand this is not enough. We must be able to give him the tools to forge his personality but also give him the tools to confront the challenge of the future. This is the objective of change we are today thinking of.

We know that the education project for 2030 is possible. This project, of course, will come to fruition; it is in the process of getting organized. We already know what to do right now to make it succeed so we have now launched a number of measures and projects that are starting to create favorable conditions to be able to build on them major changes that we want to achieve. Let me just mention: the investment in education is one of the best investments that may exist. And investment in one’s early years, that is to say pre-school and primary school is the one that has proved most effective. It is much more important than investment in higher education or secondary education.

In Morocco, there are many sectors that are very attractive for investments: off shoring, the aerospace industry, ICT, and the automotive industry. And this must also be presented with vocational training, which leads the student into the labor market. Can you tell us about the professional education, which is also part of your Ministry?  

It has been our responsibility since the 10th of October. So we have a vision for the development of vocational training within the educational process. This is reflected in the changes that have been made in primary school where a special effort will be made to raise the awareness of ICT and technological and technical curiosity, so that children learn very early on to handle it, to be close to a number of materials, of instruments. At the same time they have to be open to their environment knowing that all professions are respectable, and that naturally we go into one profession or another based on a number of factors, but what is important is that the notion of profession already exists in their mind’s eye.  

Now we have already started to work at the secondary school level, where we decided to set up what was called professional college courses in which children can combine general education – such as the one that is given in other options – and an early preparation for vocational training. Gradually, over a period of three years, a child may evolve at the level of basic knowledge, at the level of general knowledge, and in open-mindedness, but at the same time the child acquires the foundation for a possible future profession. Finally, after three years, we give them the possibility of a professional internship in a company that will allow them, in this case, to have a professional degree, which opens them the door to work.

We have launched the first three with the automotive industry, with the aviation industry and in the field of agriculture, as part of the Green Morocco Plan with the Ministry of Agriculture, on the training of farmers. And we are now finalizing a program for 16 other types of occupations which this time will include services such as tourism, logistics, commerce, but also other industries such as textiles, chemistry, and so forth. We are therefore now in this vision of integration, while providing opportunities for young people, either by attaining a given level of diploma, or by continuing their studies. This is basically the philosophy that we began to implement in our training and education system.

As Minister of Education and as founder of the first Information Technology Council in Morocco, an area that has great importance in cognitive education and research information, what importance do you give to the ICT sector in your educational model?

Vision is currently as follows. First it must be said that for some years already there is a major effort that has taken place within the Ministry. We decided to launch a program called "GENIE". This program, through a funding from tax levies done on utility operators, has enabled the introduction in a number of institutions- unfortunately not all, but a good part of them – of equipment, software, and of computers and the internet in schools. It is program that has begun and continues. This also helped launch a number of projects enabling to implement software and tutorials to accompany the use of such equipment. A great effort has been made.

On the other hand it has practically provided the majority of teachers with an educational package that allows them to use information technologies in the classroom, to make projections, etc. And all that is an important step in which there has been this integration or this entry of information technologies in schools.

Today we want to move on to a different stage. The stage at which we would like to arrive is for information technologies to become a structural part in all educational fields, which means that they would not be used beside it but within. So we are now going towards a real integration of technologies. Of course we cannot pretend that we are going to invent everything. There are others who have made it before us and that have made it very well in a number of countries. Moreover we are now very interested in the experiences that have been made in Latin America. So we are trying to see how to be guided by some experiences, especially in Colombia, with the “Escuela Nueva”, and to build on this success. There is also the Portuguese program “Magellan” which is also in Latin America. Therefore we are extremely open and we want to go into this process.

You mentioned looking at experiences that have been made in other countries such as Colombia and Portugal. What partnerships do you have with Spain? 

Talking of these problems of technologies of information and their use, I remember that back in 95-98 I visited my Spanish colleague at the time, and we saw what was done in this area in Spain, and I believe that it had guided us already at that level.

Today the field of cultural, scientific and educational cooperation with Spain is a key area of our cooperation. At the Ministry, we have now started a project that is linked to the International college degree in Spanish. If Spain is Morocco’s leading economic partner, Moroccan youth should be prepared to work with their Spanish counterparts. So the issue of the Spanish language ability today is not a luxury. We do not do it only to learn Spanish, to go to university in Spain, but we must do it because it is a necessity. So we have a great working path together to develop new projects and not always stay on traditional ones. But when I see the success of the Cervantes institutes in Morocco that gives me the idea that there are many things to do, because the Cervantes institutes are limited in number, and that perhaps there are other cities, other places where people would like to have access to that same service which is not only linguistic but cultural too. They enable us to know Spain and to know a different culture.

In the project of change that we are launching, we thought of creating in all the cities what we called “centres d’épanouissement” (development centers). And we have the intention to invite our Spanish partners to join us in this project: when they have artists visiting Morocco, going to the Cervantes institutes, we are looking forward for them to go also to these development centers. We also wish that young Spaniards interested in the field of cooperation come and teach Spanish at these centers, we wish to create links between these centers and similar centers in Spain, so that our teachers and Spanish teachers may have direct contacts via the internet, exchange their experiences, and also information, documentation, and so on.

We are increasingly entering in a logic interdependence framework between Morocco and Spain.

There are 20,000 Spanish companies with business relations in Morocco. There is interdependence in many sectors.  In our last report we didn’t talk a lot about national education and vocational training. This time we will give it a focus speaking of new technologies, of the industry, how vocational training is also aimed for Spanish companies coming here to settle. What three elements of your sector would you like to highlight in our report?

The first element that we can point out is that we would like our education to be a universal one. And for this education to open the minds of our young people on their culture and the various cultures in which, it must be said, they are in already, since we are in an extraordinary mix of cultures; they have to understand that.

The second message is that our world once again is a world that is plural. And in this plurality those who will succeed are the ones who have the ability to integrate. And someone who has this openness, who appreciates knowledge, who masters languages, will have the ability to succeed in his country, to succeed elsewhere and succeed with others, because no one succeeds alone. I think that countries, if they get organized to be complementary, to work together, can win much more. It is a historical and economic data at the same time; border areas have always been active areas in which things move much faster than areas that are isolated or that are distant. As soon as you open a highway or a road, automatically economic growth around increases. Why? Due to mobility, to growth, to exchanges. Then Morocco and Spain, that are neighbors despite the Mediterranean, that are face to face (there are only 14 kilometers separating them), should finally make an integrated zone of this whole area.

The third concept is precisely integration, which could bring a lot and completely change relations between citizens as well as between countries. You mentioned it: with the crisis in Spain, a number of Spanish citizens thought that by coming to Morocco they would have a chance and they tried it. That means they did not consider borders. And here when they arrived people did not consider borders. This message should be understood at the political level and we should notice that the way to follow can be indicated by our own citizens.