Maintaining Momentum on Education Reform in Morocco

September 11, 2013


In lower secondary education, the net enrollment rate is 79 percent for boys in urban areas but only 26 percent for girls in rural areas.

Arne Hoel l World Bank 2012

  • Morocco has achieved impressive progress in primary school enrollment rates but still falls short on quality and faces gender and regional disparities at secondary level and beyond
  • A series of government programs have been launched to boost school attendance, improve the quality of teaching and reform the way in which the education sector is governed
  • The World Bank has provided financial and technical support for the ongoing reform program

The education system in Morocco has achieved important progress in terms of increasing access to education but has still a long way to go on quality.

As the country grew economically in recent years, it became increasingly clear that the education system had a role to play as a true catalyst for social and economic development.  Reaching out to the most marginalized populations in pursuit of this goal has led to significant increases in access to education.

Progress has been achieved on a number of other fronts through multiple and sustained efforts. While results are closely tied to means and resources, they also depend heavily on the continuity and consistency of education strategies backed by successive governments, with civil society and parents monitoring and evaluating public policies in the education sector.

A decade of effort

Morocco’s education system has faced a number of acute problems. They were mainly linked to insufficient coverage, gender disparity at all levels, and high dropout and repetition rates. The cumulative effect was poor, learning outcomes and a weak integration of graduates in the labor market; all leading to a lack of confidence in the public education system.

To overcome these challenges, the Government embarked on a comprehensive reform program, with the adoption of the National Education and Training Charter in 1999. The Charter declared the 2000 to2009 decade, the “decade for education” and established education and training as a national priority. However, as the reform program encountered delays, an Education Emergency Plan was drawn up in 2009 to boost the reform process.

Establishing equity in education, by ensuring the entire population has access, is the first step in enhancing the performance of the education system. Investments made over the past decade in school infrastructure along with support to the poorest students contributed to increases in national enrollment rates from 52.4 percent to 98.2 percent in primary education, from 17.5 percent to 56.7 percent in lower secondary education and from 6.1 percent to 32.4 percent in upper secondary education. There has also been clear progress toward equity, with the gap between urban boys and rural girls at the primary education level narrowing to just 3.5 percentage points by the 2012 school year.

However, significant gaps remain between rural and urban students and between female and male students beyond the primary level.  In lower secondary education, for instance, the net enrollment rate is 79 percent for boys in urban areas but only 26 percent for girls in rural areas. This gender gap is indicative of the social and cultural norms that continue to place rural girls in particular at a disadvantage.

More work to be done on quality

Beyond access, the cross-cutting foundation of a school system is the quality of teaching and learning. Morocco has made considerable efforts to enhance education quality over the years, particularly by upgrading teaching curriculums and implementing regional training centers for teachers.

However, the level of education quality remains low despite these reforms. The 2011 editions of the international Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) showed low learning achievement scores for Moroccan Grade 4 and Grade 8 students compared to those from other participating countries.In Grade 4 mathematics, for example, 74 percent of Moroccan students did not reach even the lowest of four benchmark levels, while none at all reached the highest benchmark level.

The reform momentum should therefore be maintained to build on the achievements of the past decades. More efforts are needed to modernize syllabuses and harmonize teaching languages throughout the curriculum. This will improve teaching practices and, avoid inconsistency and waste of resources. Equally important is the relevance of syllabuses and vocational training to the demands of the labor market. A growing number of trained and qualified youth struggle to find openings in a demanding job market and find little support or guidance from the education system in acquiring the skills for the most sought after professional profiles.

" Education is a long term investment that requires sustained efforts and consistent policies. "

Kamel Braham

Human Development Sector Coordinator

In well run schools, governance and human resources management are critical

Governance is another critical factor in the performance of educational systems. The ministry of National education engaged in a decentralization process to improve the management of the substantial resources allocated to the sector. Administering budgets locally was part of a program to increase efficiency, improve local-level school governance and ensure that education programs were responsive to regional needs.

Managing human resources is a key component of effective management with significant influence on the overall performance of schools. The ministry has engaged in an impressive effort to promote career development and to facilitate the movement of teachers to where their skills are most needed.

In an important speech on education addressed to the nation on August 20th, 2013, King Mohamed VI presented a candid assessment of the sector’s performance. The King emphasized the role of education as a leverage for social and economic inclusion and outlined the goals still to be done and the resources to be mobilized to achieve them. 

King Mohamed VI announced the re-activation of the Higher Council for Education (CSE). The CSE has around 100 members drawn from the government, the parliament, specialized state entities, universities, teacher unions, parent associations, student organizations, industry, and non-governmental organizations. The CSE represents the diversity of Moroccan society, and provides a permanent and independent source of the monitoring and evaluation that are essential for public policies toward education.


Over the Ppast few years, the World Bank Group, together with key development partners such as the European Union and the African Development Bank, has played a role in assisting the government in identifying and prioritizing the measures needed to upgrade the sector, most notably in terms of improving universal access, the quality of education, and sector governance. The donor community has offered active and sustained support to the Moroccan government throughout the preparation and implementation of the education reform programs. This engagement has been most effective in mobilizing coordinated financial and technical support. 

In 2010, the World Bank mobilized a US$ 100 million dollar loan in support of the policy measures put in place during the first two years of the Education Emergency Plan. The World Bank Board of Executive Directors recently approved a new US$ 100 million dollar loan to further support the consolidation of reforms throughout the second half of the Education Emergency Plan.

The Second Education Development Policy Loan focused on  strengthening  the education sector’s institutional arrangements in ways that will  increase access to schools , especially for rural girls and boys at the lower secondary level, improve the quality of teaching and learning in primary and lower secondary education, and  enhance the efficiency of the governance of the education sector through decentralization.  

"Education is a long term investment that requires sustained efforts and consistent policies. Morocco has made impressive achievements in improving access to education but additional efforts are needed to ensure equal opportunities, particularly for girls and rural communities, and to improve the quality of learning” said Kamel Braham, World Bank Human Development Sector Coordinator and leader of the team that will implement the Second Education Development Policy Loan.