Language policy in Moroccan public education has been a highly debated and controversial issue given the nation’s complex history (Boutieri, 2016; Tomaštík, 2010; Zouhir, 2014). Currently, the Moroccan state recognizes two official languages: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Tamazight, the local indigenous language. While language instruction at the primary and secondary levels of public education is largely limited to MSA, higher education shows a greater degree of flexibility. Most Moroccan public universities use French as the language of instruction for STEM subjects and MSA for subjects in the humanities and the arts (Spolsky, 2018). This language dichotomy prevails in most of the Moroccan public sector, where French exists as the de facto official language of communication for business, government and science professions (Boutieri, 2016).
During the French Protectorate, the majority of the population had limited access to formal education, and the imposed language policy at all levels of education resulted in the creation of a wealthy and literate ruling minority (DeGorge, 2002; Salhi, 2010). Following independence, the state adopted the policy of Arabization which placed greater emphasis on MSA as a medium of instruction in public education. Arabization, however, was largely backed up by conservative, nationalist parties and gave rise to an additional elite minority (Zouhir, 2014).
In 2016, King Mohamed VI officially repealed Arabization, and bilingual (MSA and French) education was formally recognized at the tertiary level of public education. While the gradual abandonment of Arabization in all levels of Moroccan public education may have tried to modernize the country and create a more equal footing for all linguistic groups in Morocco, the country still faces the challenge of adopting a comprehensive language policy in public education that takes into consideration its various multicultural and multilingual societies (Alalou, 2018). Additionally, with the introduction of Tamazight as an official language, the government charged itself with the responsibility of adopting an inclusive linguistic policy that recognizes and promotes “diverse Moroccan cultural expressions” which ultimately “constitute [the nation’s] one authentic patrimony” (Article 5, Title 1, Moroccan Constitution, 2011). However, as Zouhir (2014) notes, despite the state’s official recognition of Tamazight and increasing pressure from various cultural movements in the country, the implementation of a multilingual policy remains a large challenge in Morocco.
This presentation provides a literature review of the history and development of language instruction in Moroccan public education, beginning with the French Protectorate, and ending with the failure of Arabization. This presentation examines the major challenges that have prevented the Moroccan state from adopting a language policy for public education that promotes greater social equity and positive student learning experiences. In doing so, this presentation highlights some of the challenges and implications of the emerging global trend of education policies that seek to bridge multiple perspectives and knowledge. The findings from this presentation raise additional questions about the role that language instruction plays on student learning experiences, and how national governments representing multicultural and multilingual societies can promote policies that empower and give agency to all of their citizens.
Alexandro Gonzalez-Calvillo is an MPA/MA in International Education Management dual-degree candidate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. A few of his academic and professional interests include diversity and inclusion initiatives in study abroad, educational language policy in multicultural and multilingual societies, and environmental sustainability literacy in international education.
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