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Arabisation in the Moroccan Educational System: Problems and Prospects

Rabia Redouane
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Canada M5S 1V6 Morocco, like other countries, faces large national problems. The national language question is one of the most important because it is central to national unity. Recently, the Moroccan government has devoted considerable effort to crafting a careful and elaborate multi-sector language policy, with particular significance for the educational system, which aims at promoting Arabic as the language of literacy and wider communication. The paper examines the background to the new policy and its implications.

The Moroccan Linguistic Situation

Located at the crossroads of Greater Maghreb (Algeria, Libya and Tunisia), Europe, and the rest of the African continent, Morocco has, throughout its history, been the target of repeated invasions and conquests by Greeks, Phonecians, Arabs, and more recently Western Europeans. All these civilisations have deeply influenced Morocco and contributed to its linguistic and cultural diversity to produce what is today a complex, multilingual profile. Although little is known about the language demography prior to the coming of Islam in the seventh century, at least three languages were in use. First, Berber, the language native to the majority of the population, was used in the interior. Second, Latin was the language of administration, and later became restricted to liturgical usage until it was replaced by Arabic (Hammoud, 1982: 19). Third, a hybrid combination of Greek, Latin and Semitic elements was evolved in Carthage (Khalafallah, 1960: 568). Today, two native languages, Berber and Arabic, and an international language of wider communication, French, are predominant in Morocco.

The native languages

Tamazight (Berber) Berber was the indigenous language spoken by the inhabitants of Morocco before the Arab invasion. It belongs to the Hamito-Semitic group of languages (Brunot, 1950). In Morocco, as well as in other countries of North Africa, the people who speak Berber call themselves Imazighen, in the singular Amazigh, which means a free man. The feminine complement Tamazight denotes the language. Although the word Tamazight is usually used to designate a single language, in fact, the word covers a number of widely different dialects which are not entirely mutually comprehensible. In Morocco, Tamazight is used in reference to a particular variety of Berber, of which there are three dialects: Tarifit spoken in the Rif mountains of Northern Morocco; Tashlehait spoken in the South
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Language, Culture and Curriculum

West of Morocco especially in the Souss Valley; and Tamazight spoken in the Middle Atlas and the eastern half of the high Atlas mountains (Bentahila, 1983: 1). Arabic Arabic was introduced to Morocco in the seventh century. Two varieties of Arabic are used, as in other Arab countries Classical Arabic or its modern version, Standard Arabic, and Moroccan Arabic. The two varieties of Arabic can be said to stand in a diglossic relationship (Ferguson, 1959), that is two varieties of the same language existing side by side, each enjoying a particular status and fulfilling different sociolinguistic functions. Classical Arabic, having a written form, is the official language. It is learned only in a formal educational context. Moroccan Arabic, on the other hand, is acquired by most Moroccans as their mother tongue. It is the language of everyday conversation and folkloric literature which is transmitted orally. Thus, before the French colonisation, Moroccos language situation was already complex, with the coexistence of Tamazight and the two varieties of Arabic. Of these languages, Classical Arabic was the language of the traditional education system. This too will be later considered with reference to the different educational systems that existed before independence.

The foreign languages Of the several foreign languages that have had an influence in Morocco, French, which was introduced in 1912 through colonisation, is by far the most dominant. Even though Spanish once played an important role in Northern Morocco throughout the Spanish occupation, it is now only marginally used by the local population (Hammoud, 1982: 28). Other languages, such as English and German are more commonly taught as foreign languages in the public and private schools.

The Pre-independence Educational Policy

During the French occupation, the traditional and the modern educational systems coexisted. They were in direct opposition to each other and continue as a contemporary source of conflict between the Arabo-Islamic tradition (mediated through Arabic literacy) and Western culture (mediated through French monolingualism or Arabic-French bilingualism).

Arabic schools The traditional system was well established before the French Protectorate, and still exists today in a slightly different form. It is a three tier system operating in Classical Arabic, comprising the Koranic primary schools, known as masjid or jama, where students are taught to read and write and memorise the Koran at a young age. More recently, other subjects such as arithmetic and language arts have been added to the curriculum as a result of the 1968 reform of Koranic schools, endorsed by King Hassan II, to alleviate overcrowding in regular public primary schools (Hammoud, 1982: 34). The second tier comprises the Koranic secondary schools known as madrasa or

Arabisation in the Moroccan Educational System


zaouia. Madrassa, which means school, often located in the city. Zaouia is its rural equivalent. The curriculum in these institutions includes Arabic language and literature courses, some arithmetic, and introductory courses in theology, Islamic law, and Koranic interpretation (Hammoud, 1982: 34). The third tier is the Islamic university, such as the University of Karaouine, which typically offers a more versatile education. The curriculum includes a variety of subjects such as philology, philosophy, biology, and mathematics. Both the primary schools and universities still exist today in their original form, but secondary schools have now been integrated into a modern system.

French schools The modern system of education introduced alongside the traditional Moroccan system was based on the one that existed in France. This modern system contained three kinds of school: (European schools, Franco-Islamic schools, and Free schools). The first two types are part of the public sector and the last one remains private. The European schools were reserved mainly for children of the colonising French community, with curricula identical to those used in France. Only Moroccan children from the elite upper class were admitted to these schools. The European system is comprised of the three cycles of primary, secondary, and higher education. Primary education is a five-year cycle. Secondary education spans seven years, subdivided into two cycles (first and second). The second type of school was the Franco-Islamic schools, of which there were several types based on the social class of the students parents. The coles des fils de notables were primary schools in urban areas, reserved for a limited number of upper class children. The coles rurales were for country children. Only a limited number of students from both types of schools were allowed to go on to secondary school. In addition to these two types of public school, the modern system comprises several private free schools, many of which are now under government control. In all these three types of school, French was instituted as the language of instruction, and Classical Arabic as a foreign language. According to Ezzaki and Wagner (1992), the French colonisers pursued a policy based on what they perceived to be their mission civilisatrice (p. 216) spreading their language and values by educating Moroccans to believe in the universality and superiority of the French culture and language, which they then imposed in the cities and certain selected rural areas as the only language of civilisation and advancement (Bourhis, 1982: 14). The elite were encouraged to reject everything that belonged to their own culture and to substitute French mores. The colonisers strategy was best summed up by Gordon (1962) who noted that:
When the Portuguese colonized, they built churches; when the British colonized, they built trading stations; when the French colonize, they build schools (p. 7).


Language, Culture and Curriculum

Moreover, the French educational policy weakened the status of Classical Arabic (the perceived symbol of national and cultural identity) by promoting the Berber dialects and the Arabic vernaculars through formal teaching, and by closing Arabic (Koranic) schools in Berber-speaking regions. This was done through the Dahir Berbere (Berber Decree) of 1930 which created yet another type of school, where Arabic was excluded and only French and Berber were taught. The aim was to prepare a new generation of Berbers integrated into the French Christian culture instead of the Arabic Islamic one, and thereby erode the cultural and linguistic solidarity that existed between Arabs and Berbers, and intensify the separation between the two ethnic groups. Thus, the French system of education in Morocco before Independence was as Bentahila (1983) stated: a vehicle for the policy of divide-and-rule, designated to multiply the types of schools, to encourage the separation of Arabs and Berbers, and to contrast sharply with the traditional Moroccan system of education with which it co-existed. (pp. 910)

Free schools In the early 1920s, in reaction to this divide-and-rule policy, several individual Moroccan nationalists defied the school system and the language allocation set up by the Protectorate. Discontented with the archaic type of education dispensed in the age-old Koranic institutions, they set up private Islamic schools in the major cities called mada:ris al hurra or free schools which offered a modern curriculum using Arabic as the medium of instruction. By providing a viable alternative to the French educational system, the free schools did more than simply maintain the Arabic language by promoting it as a language of modern knowledge. The free schools also provided the Moroccan nationalist movement with an important crucible for dissemination and growth. The insistence of the free schools on using Classical Arabic as the medium of instruction in mathematics and the sciences reflected a strong desire to see it ultimately in use as a fully-fledged official, national language in Morocco, under the colonial administration (Hammoud, 1982: 3031). In the 1940s, the colonial administration, under pressure from the nationalists, designate commissions to improve education and assess ways to introduce Arabic language and culture and Islamic studies into the mainstream curriculum. (Hammoud, 1982: 31). After Independence, the cadres trained in these free schools were to assume leadership positions and to make the prospects of Arabisation concrete and politically legitimate (Damis, 1970).

Current Language Planning in Morocco: Arabisation

Since Morocco obtained its Independence in 1956, it has been a national priority to decrease the amount of French used in Morocco and to promote Arabic as a component of national identity, and as the language of literacy and wider communication. A basic objective has been to restore Moroccos pre-colonial culture through a development of the national, culturally unique educational system one that provides an education that is Moroccan in its thinking, Arabic in its language and Muslim in its spirit (Kings speech from the throne, 1958, as quoted by Zartman 1964, 15556).

Arabisation in the Moroccan Educational System


Arabisation In the early years following Independence, a consensus supported Arabisation as one of the principal goals of educational policy. While widespread support for this principle was politically inevitable, its implementation has proven an arduous process. For example, a politically charged and sustained debate developed between the proponents of a modern and Westernised trend who favour balanced bilingual education and the supporters of the Arabo-Islamic culture who advocate radical Arabisation. The pace and scope of Arabisation has depended largely on which of these groups has had more power in the government at a given time. For this reason, the history of Arabising the school curriculum has been marked by ambivalence and discontinuity. The Arabisation process intensified in the wake of political independence in 1956, when the conservative Istiqlal Party, which played a major role in winning independence, gained power and was faced with the task of national reconstruction (Hammoud, 1982: 31). The Partys position on language policy preferred a return to old ideals and the reinstating of a national Arab-Islamic identity in Morocco. It was at first implemented sporadically, as teachers and funds were available. During the second year of Independence, complete Arabisation of the first year of primary education was accomplished. A bilingual policy was adopted for the remaining four years, during which students were given 15 hours of Arabic instruction and 15 hours of French per week (progressing in later years to 20 hours a week of Arabic and only 10 of French) and where elementary natural science and arithmetic were taught through the medium of Arabic. Problems But Arabisation was halted in the mid-sixties, and put on a back burner until the 1970s. By the end of 19901991, Arabisation was completed for all primary and secondary levels in the state schools. Alongside the state schools, however, there are private schools. These include the original schools created by the Nationalists during the Protectorate, which have now adapted their programmes to correspond to those of the state schools. The other private European schools which have ben preserved are now organised by the Mission Universitaire Culturelle Franaise. In these European schools, Arabic has been introduced into the curricula, and is now taught as a foreign language. But, the process of Arabisation has still not been fully completed. There are important areas of the education system, particularly in the domain of science and at the more advanced levels, where French continues as an important medium of instruction. Today, French still plays a big part in the socioeconomic life of Morocco, because officials apprehend with fear that linguistic isolation, resulting from total Arabisation, would have a negative consequence on the countrys socioeconomic growth (Ennaji, 1988: 10). According to Hammoud (1982):
the convenient long-term reliance on French as an advanced language of wider communication and a medium facilitating access to the modern world of science and technology has made Arabisation harder and harder to achieve. (p. 228)


Language, Culture and Curriculum

Laroui, a Moroccan historian (1973), adds that no significant changes would happen, until the social, economic, and political foundations made French language education inappropriate for the real life of the country (Laroui, 1973). But complete dependence on French is not the only factor that has made Arabisation harder to achieve. Many claimed that there are other factors which have been considered a hindrance to successful Arabisation. Some of these will now be examined

Major Factors Delaying the Implementation of Arabisation

Laroui (1973), Hammoud (1982), Bentahila (1983), El-Biad (1985), and Ennaji (1988) have argued that inconsistencies in policy, inadequacy in planning by the ministry of education, as well as lack of coordination among the offices and public administrations have been the biggest problems for efficient language planning in education. Hammoud (1982) found that: one of the setbacks Arabisation has suffered is a remarkable lack of consistency and continuity in its execution. It has been at the mercy of changing ministers and coalitions until pronouncements were made about it by the king. (p. 229) The fact that policies tend to come direct from the ministry, without reference to any independent sources of expertise is also considered to be another factor (Hammoud, 1982; Bentahila, 1983). Little effort seems to have been made to carry out any objective assessments of the implications of change, and plans often seem motivated by political considerations rather than concern for educational values. Also little effort seems to have been made to consult ordinary, non-political Moroccans for their views on Arabisation, or professional educators and specialists in areas such as education, sociology, etc. who have a working knowledge of the system .

Attitudes to Arabisation Both Bentahila (1983, 1987) and Ennaji (1988) argued that the problems Arabisation has been encountering are also attributable to contradictory attitudes held among policy makers and ordinary Moroccans. Some Moroccans hold a favourable attitude toward Arabisation, feeling that using Arabic is somehow the right thing to do, and that there is an obligation for them to uphold the value of Arabic. These people are inspired mainly by political and ideological motives. They feel strongly that the use of French in Morocco is a scar left by colonisation, a source of conflict and confusion, and that the country can only re-establish its authentic identity by operating solely in Arabic. Others, mostly bilingual Moroccans, may value the principles underlying Arabisation, but, for practical purposes, want French to remain in use. These people are in favour of bilingual education in two languages (French and Arabic). Within these two groups of Moroccans, individuals do not always maintain a consistent attitude towards Arabisation. To illustrate this point, there are members of the elite, many of them directly involved in decisions to promote Arabisation, who nevertheless send their own children to French schools, while preaching Arabisation as best for the masses. While such people may publicly

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express support for the teaching of traditional culture in schools, they are at the same time reluctant to abandon the advantages of knowledge of French language and culture for their own children. Bentahila (1983) came up with four groups who have contradictory attitudes towards Arabisation: First the Traditionalists whose aim is to maintain the Arabic language and to protect the cultural heritage of Morocco. Second, the Modernists who are less involved with Arabisation because their main concern is to secure an efficient education which would make Moroccans disposed to a modern world. Third the Nationalists whose attitudes towards Arabisation are connected with ideas of defending their country and who consider Arabisation as a political and post-colonial problem rather than a cultural and economic one. Fourth the Bureaucrats who acknowledge the importance of Arabisation but are also aware of the problems it involves. For them, replacing French totally by Arabic is not a feasible and practical proposal (Bentahila, 1983: 1234).

Linguistic factors Apart from these practical factors, many have considered a further source of problems, this being the nature of Arabic itself: the coexistence of two divergent varieties: Standard Arabic, the written language which is learnt in school, and the unwritten colloquial variety which is the mother tongue. The Arabisation process may heighten the problems which are posed by the coexistence of these two varieties and the need to determine which should be used for what purpose. Many students of this problem feel that Standard Arabic should be used as the vehicle for Arabisation, and that this form can most readily substitute for French. Two main reasons offered are: first, the status of Standard Arabic as the medium for religious matters, and the fact that it is the language in which the cultural heritage of Moroccans is maintained; and second, Standard Arabic is judged fundamental to the cultural unity of the Arabs because, unlike the dialects, it allows Arabs from different countries to communicate and understand each other. But nevertheless, Standard Arabic is not the students native language, and the extent to which it is different from the Moroccan dialect that children are exposed to and learn before they go to school must not be under-estimated; it must be taught through formal education, with the same rigour as French or any foreign language (Bentahila, 1983: 129). So, in some respects, replacing French with Standard Arabic simply substitutes one non-native language for another; albeit with a net gain in terms of Arabic culture. Gains notwithstanding, teachers still find it necessary to resort to vernaculars in teaching and explaining Standard Arabic to students. Of equal importance is the impoverishment of Arabic. Lakhdar-Ghazal (1976), former director of the Institute for Arabisation in Rabat, dealt extensively with the subject and asked for a methodical Arabization with prior linguistic simplification and elaboration. He investigated problems of corpus planning and examined foreign lexical borrowings into Modern Standard Arabic (Saad, 1994: 50). According to him Classical arabic is backwards compared to French and that its lexicon is poor and sometimes inaccurate (quoted by Ennaji, 1988: 12).


Language, Culture and Curriculum

Possible solutions In the remaining pages of this paper I will suggest some steps towards the resolution of these issues with respect to the nature of Arabic, and the achievement of successful Arabisation. Providing competent teachers in Arabic and suitably trained ones who could work through the medium of Arabic would help achieve an effective Arabisation. This latter must begin with the preparation of competent teaching staff, so that the teaching of a subject in Arabic can continue throughout the system. Before making use of Arabisation at the lower levels, it would seem reasonable to make sure that enough teachers at the higher levels are given timely preparation. This would avoid the problem of Arabised students who, upon attaining a more advanced level in their education, do not find qualified teachers to teach them in the language in which they have up to now continued their studies, and whose advancement now necessitates mastery of a second language! Upgrading methodology for teaching Standard Arabic in the schools would be another worthwhile step for successful implementation of the Arabisation policy. Most Arabic textbooks that have been used to teach Arabic are mainly based on written materials. Most texts tend to deal with the distant past, rather than daily life situation. Moreover, they do not reflect the modern world (Ibaaquil, 1978). The content is grammatically-based, not contextualised, and teachers use excessive translation and pattern practice techniques. This has made teaching Arabic a difficult task for teachers and a boring subject for students. Teaching Arabic should introduce textbooks that deal with everyday life situations. Teachers should be supplemented with interesting and authentic materials. Additionally, they should use communicative and integrated drills and activities to make Arabic more attractive and lively. Moreover, more attention should be paid to the way Arabic is presented to the students, since it is not their first acquired language, but it is formally taught in school. We believe an alternative approach to the teaching of Arabic which is based on the integration of the dialect in the classroom context would help smooth the transition from a bilingual education to a complete arabised one. A significant merit of this approach is that it takes advantage of the fact that Colloquial Arabic and Standard Arabic are varieties of the same language which share a number of linguistic features, and alleviates some of the problems facing the students in learning Standard Arabic. Teachers would alternate between the dialect and the Standard in instructing and explaining the language in order to facilitate students understanding. Last but not least, we should renovate Arabic and develop an adequate terminology compatible to the modern world. Lakhdar-Ghazal (1976) claims that Classical Arabic is under-developed as a means of instruction and as an instrument of communication with the external world. For him, serious Arabisation should be gradual and should be preceded by a renovation of classical Arabic (Ennaji, 1988: 12). Many argue (Salmi, 1987; Zizi, 1984) that word formation processes of Arabic are not the only source of the problems in developing an appropriate terminology. Attitudes to the language are also to blame. People feel that Arabic should remain unaltered and kept safe from any foreign interference. As it is characterised as a privileged and sacred language, it

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is very difficult for people to accept the kind of change which are normal in the evolution of other languages. Borrowings can be seen as a threat to the status of Arabic (Bentahila, 1987).

So how, in a word, can an effective Arabisation be achieved? I have argued that the nature of Arabic itself is at the root of the problem, and that a solution lies in improving Arabic. The kind of Arabisation that I am advocating would be able to function in a lively modern Standard Arabic.

Acknowledgements I am indebted to Professor Ian McDougall for his valuable comments on the English usage. Needless to say, the author is solely responsible for any inadequacy of English and any error at any point. References
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