Credit: Jalil Arfaoui

Launched last week in Skhirat, Morocco, on the national day for pre-primary education, the Minister of Education, Said Amzazi, described a new national programme that aims to have 67% enrolment in early childhood education by 2021 and every single child in pre-primary school in a decade. As written in the Constitution, the King Mohammed VI said in his accompanying message, basic education should be “a binding obligation for the State and for the family”.  This is “in perfect agreement with the global reform that we aspire to.

Credit: Andrea Cavallini

Currently, only half of children in Morocco are in pre-primary school, falling to just over a third of children in rural areas, according to the Ministry of Education. That means almost 730,000 children are not benefitting from an early childhood education.

While private schools make up one third of the total number of pre-primary schools in the country, they accommodate only one-sixth of the students, giving an indication of the disparities in class sizes between public and private.

Our future won’t wait”, said Minister Amzazi, as he announced the news. The programme, launched in partnership with UNICEF and the Fondation BMCE Bank, will include building no fewer than 57,000 classrooms, and hiring 55,000 more teachers.

Benefits, the press were told, would start to be seen from the beginning of academic year 2018-19, with 4,000 more classes, 28,000 more teachers hired and 100,000 more children enrolled. It includes new training programmes for teachers prior to starting and on the job, including using a positive discrimination approach to enrol more children from rural areas.

The main challenges identified to slow progress thus far were the lack of funding, the absence of a unified reference framework for early childhood education, and the gaps in enrolment between rural and urban areas. Minister Amzazi also noted the need for better mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating progress, and for an effective national strategy to profoundly reform the education system.

But to counter these challenges, the Ministry also highlighted some opportunities, including renewed political will, a dynamic civil society, new energy given to the local authorities and strong engagement by the private sector.

This is excellent news for a country that has had the fifth lowest enrolment rate in the Northern Africa and Western Asia region and could set an example for countries like Saudi Arabia (13%) and Turkey (17%), which also have very low enrolment rates. Because, in the words of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, “early years education enables children to acquire mental and cognitive skills and abilities that ensure smooth access to learning and success in school”.

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