CASABLANCA – The question of teaching scientific subjects in foreign languages is dividing politicians and intellectuals in Morocco where the public education sector is in crisis despite the reforms.
A bill which would regulate the education sector and which was adopted by the Council of Ministers in mid-2018 was blocked in Parliament due to the provision which provides for the teaching of scientific and technical subjects in French and, in to a lesser extent, in English.
The linguistic system, initiated by the Higher Education Council, aims to better prepare Arabized students for higher education in scientific specialties taught in French.
The Arabization of education occurred in Morocco in the early 1980s to stimulate conservatives and Islamists against a growing left current. However, the policy created a crisis in public education, the quality of which deteriorated as expensive private schools sprang up in many cities across the country.
Arabic and Amazigh are the two official languages of Morocco, but French is widely used, including in finance and health. More than a third of Moroccans are French-speaking, according to a 2018 survey by the International Organization of La Francophonie.
Mourad Alami, professor at Mohammed V University in Rabat and expert in linguistics, felt that a change was necessary because the Arabization of scientific subjects up to the baccalaureate did not give results.
The ruling Islamist Party for Justice and Development (PJD) as well as the two main opposition parties – the Party of Authenticity and Modernity (PAM) and Istiqlal
Party (PI) – boycotted a meeting called by House Speaker Habib El Malki to reconcile views and set a date for a committee vote on the measure after it was blocked by the PJD.
Abdelilah Benkirane, who had been Prime Minister from 2011 to 2017, called in a Facebook post on PJD deputies not to vote for the proposed text. He said Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani should step down rather than accept the “francization” of scientific subjects.
“It would be a shame if history records that the PJD has gone back on a point as fundamental and more dangerous than the government blockade,” said Benkirane.
PI, which deems the bill unconstitutional, called on Othmani to apply Article 103 of the constitution, tying the vote on the bill to a vote of confidence in the government. He said the discussion over the measure had been marked by an “unprecedented legislative crisis” within the government.
The member of the PJD and Minister of State Mustapha Ramid said he was in favor of the use of Arabic as a language of instruction but also for openness to foreign languages, while considering the Amazigh language.
In an interview broadcast on April 14 to the 2M television program “Confidences de presse”, Ramid declared: “It takes a strong will to make Arabic a real official language and this is not the case today. ‘hui.
“At university, science subjects are taught in French. Translation centers are limited and the business world as well as certain levels of administration are French-language, ”said Ramid. “That this case becomes a question of identity is unreasonable, inadmissible and unfounded,” he added, referring to Benkirane’s statement on Facebook.
The PAM, the largest opposition party, reiterated its “unwavering” position, defending the right of children of the working classes to benefit from openness to foreign languages while strengthening the teaching of Morocco’s two official languages.
He criticized the archenemy of the PJD for delaying the vote on the bill for “narrow electoral agendas and calculations” and blamed Othmani for failing to straighten out members of his party and his parliamentary majority.
Alami insisted that Arabic is not qualified for use in science because there are no research laboratories.
“The Arabization of science is purely ideological and has nothing to do with common sense,” he said. “It is the hobbyhorse of the Islamist PJD party and the conservatives of the Istiqlal party although their children have attended the French mission and studied in France, England, the United States and Canada. They only want to reproduce the same elites and thus block the way for gifted young students from modest families.
Intellectuals are also divided on the subject. Some say it is okay to teach science in foreign languages, but others see it as betrayal.
The writer Mohammed Ennaji asked the question of correct teaching in French or in English.
“Primary education forges identity and the Arabic language must be a priority, but there is no harm in using foreign languages when they are more effective for secondary level courses in French and as long as we cannot afford to do otherwise, ”writes Ennaji. on Facebook.
“You have to do what you are able to do and do well and there is the question: are you able to give lessons correctly in French or in English? He asked.
“We must detach the question of identity from that of efficiency, under penalty of falling into the shadows to defend an identity that is in no way affected by social contradictions, poverty, the forced exile of young people. executives, dropping out of school at two or three speeds. , he added, warning that the education sector would never come out of its crisis unless the subject had to be treated with the usual precautions.
Alami stressed the need to sacrifice a generation or two for a transition period, the first phase of which would be taught in French while the second phase would be followed by learning science subjects in English so as not to have to wait for translations. of texts in French, which, he says, takes an average of five years.
Alami said he was in favor of teaching science subjects in English, as Moroccan researchers would then be able to communicate and work with researchers and academics around the world.
“English is the language of the world, the lingua franca par excellence. It is the DNA of the exact sciences, ”he said.
Abdelali Oudrhiri, winner of the King Faisal Prize for Arabic Language and Literature, compared the position of Moroccan policies vis-à-vis the Arabic language to “a steering wheel whose movement is reversed from right to left.
“We have gone through 60 years since independence but we have only been able to gain our Moroccanization. In our fight for Arabic, on the other hand, we have the impression that we have never made progress, ”Oudrhiri declared during a press conference organized by the National Coalition for the Arabic Language.
M’Hamed El Khalifa, lawyer and former minister, said voting on the language bill amounted to “betrayal” of citizens.
“We do not want a society of false guides who do not master any language but a society which masters its Arabic language,” Khalifa said at the press conference.