Elarbi Imad, President, Moroccan Center for Civic Education
Recently, there has been growing interest in citizenship education across the world. With the rise of the Arab Spring there has been recognition within Morocco that citizenship education can help equip youth with knowledge and skills for active participation in their society. The strong social mobilization triggered by the uprisings brought about unprecedented popular demands to combat corruption and promote democratization, freedom, and human dignity. NGOs are actively engaged in this process, not only as providers of citizenship education, but also as facilitators in the interface between schools and communities.
Although Moroccan youth constitute almost a third of Morocco’s population, according to the World Bank, their “participation in civic life is very low” and “most of their time is spent on unstructured personal activities.” However, as the 2016 GEM Report showed in the PEACE chapter, citizenship education in schools, if correctly constructed, can provide an enabling environment to help students learn human values such as democracy and human rights, and prepare them for greater involvement in their communities. The challenge now is to take this one step further and ensure that various programs and training workshops are equipping educators with effective tools for the teaching of global citizenship education. Fortunately, a number of civil society organizations in Moroccan have started filling in this gap.
Interest in global citizenship education is growing
Global citizenship education (GCE) has attracted considerable interest in recent years. In September 2012, for example, the United Nations Secretary General launched the Global Education First Initiative (GEFI), including GCE as one of its core priorities. In 2011 a report by the Carnegie Middle East Centre, which focuses on North Africa and Middle East, concluded that: “Citizenship education in the Arab world is a key element in education reform and in the development of future pluralistic societies as well as sustainable political systems and economic models.” According to this report, the goal of citizenship education resides in forming “well-rounded, responsible citizens who know their legal rights and duties.”
In Morocco, the National Charter for Education and Training and the Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research have created a roadmap of, and guidelines for, citizenship education in Morocco. In 2003, the Ministry of Education introduced a Citizenship Education course into the national curriculum. At present, this course is taught from Grade 4 to Grade 9 and contains units addressing topics such as rights and responsibilities, democracy, the Parliament, the Constitution, political participation, anticorruption, peace, human rights and justice. New textbooks were designed to complement the curriculum in this area. The challenge today is to provide effective programs and training workshops that equip educators with the necessary tools for implementing this course.
Despite the on-going efforts by textbook designers and the Ministry of Education to promote GCE and sustainable development, however, it is clear that the links between students and their communities are still limited in much of Morocco. One explanation for this is the lack of emphasis on critical thinking or analysis in textbooks, something I discovered when analysing instructional materials used by secondary school students. In addition, the tone and language of most textbooks is highly normative. The learners are generally encouraged to identify and describe rather than analyse contents and facts. Furthermore, the dominant pedagogical style is to inform; most exercises and tasks do not lend themselves to promoting critical thinking.
These challenges illustrate why we need CSOs to help countries mainstream GCE into their education systems, a key indicator of Target 4.7. Morocco has set the groundwork for this by including in its 2011 Constitution a paragraph encouraging NGOs and civil society to propose alternative public policies and to work with the government to implement policies that serve communities. The document highlights the right that CSOs have to submit petitions, make legislative proposals, and contribute to shaping public policy.
Recommendations going forward:
- Given the attention to global citizenship education, more training and teacher development opportunities need to be regularly provided so that teachers and CSO leaders can help ensure active and interactive instructional methods focused on sustainable development;
- Different education strategies should be supported to strengthen the capacities of youth in GCE and ensure their involvement in sustainable development;
- GCE-focused training for school leaders and MOE administrators needs to be improved to reduce the wide gap between the goals of national education programs and their actual implementation in schools.
- Strengthening partnerships and networks between schools and CSOs that provide citizenship education can help to ensure transparency, and sustain projects that disseminate universal values such human rights, peace, religious diversity, pluralism and inclusiveness.