Outside Moroccan School

Schools Around the World: Morocco

In Expat by Amanda Mouttaki22 Comments

Today’s post is written for inclusion in the Multicultural Blogging Carnival “Schools Around The World,” hosted by The Educators’ Spin On It. Next week stop by and find out about schools all over the world.  I’m focusing on schools in Morocco.  We’ve just begun education our children under this system so while I can’t offer a long-term view, you can get a first hand account of our experience so far.

Outside Moroccan School

My kids have been in school in Morocco for two weeks now. A lot of people have asked me what school is like here and it is very different in comparison to the US education system.  First, some background. Our children do not speak, read, or write Arabic or French – the primary languages that are taught here.  We decided on a small private school a little way from our house. After talking with the administrators we felt confident that our boys would be taken care of and that they understood the situation. For now both boys are in a 1st grade classroom.  While we were worried how this would affect M (who would be entering 4th grade in the US) we see that it is vital he understand the basics before he is put in at his grade level.  The school will continually move him up grade levels throughout the year until he is with his peers.

In order to enroll in school families must register with the Education Ministry and provide paperwork that they are Moroccan residents. We are currently working to secure all of of our paperwork so we met with the local representative for the ministry who gave the green light for our kids. One thing we’ve learned is not all schools are the same.  We visited another, larger, private school and were told the kids would need to sit a placement test with the education ministry and then go to public school until their Arabic and French was “good enough” to attend that school. No thanks.

The outside of our children's Moroccan private school.

The outside of our children’s Moroccan private school.

There are three big differences we’ve noticed about attending school in Morocco.

1) Most people prefer private school to public schools.  Under Morocco’s Family Code children are required to attend school until age 16 (though many poor children don’t attend at all).  Public schools are available though the general consensus is that they are underfunded and overcrowded. In talking with some people they feel the public schools are improving however, in big cities (like Marrakech) there is still a problem with overcrowding.  Private schools require a registration fee that can range from about $50 upwards of a few thousand dollars.  Then there is a monthly fee for attendance.  We pay about $70 a month for each of our children to attend school.

Inside of our children's school in Morocco

Inside of our children’s school in Morocco

2) School Hours.  Our kids are still having a hard time with this.  School here begins around 8am – 12pm.  The kids then go home for lunch, returning to school from 2:30-5:30.  It’s a big change for everyone. It’s also meant I have to adjust my schedule and plan a lunch meal for them.  It also ends up to be a lot of running around – having to drop off and pick up kids 4x a day.  I can’t see a system like this ever working in the US where there are a majority of homes in which both parents work outside the home.

School supplies and books for 2 kids.

School supplies and books for 2 kids.

3) School Supplies. In the US schools provide a list of basic supplies children need; backpacks, notebooks, pens/pencils, etc. Here we received a 2 page list of everything our kids would need.  Not only do they have to bring supplies all books have to be purchased as well.  Because children are educated bilingually there are 2 of every book.  A French and Arabic Math book, French and Arabic science book, etc.  We also are asked to bring paper for the printers, notebooks (and colored covers), and a lot of other things.  For the first grade materials it cost us $150.  In a few months we’ll need to buy all the 2nd grade books/materials for M.  $150 is a big expenditure for us, and would be for most American parents – it’s really A LOT of money for many Moroccan families. Children who attend public school are also required to purchase their text books and supplies though I’m told it’s not quite as expensive. Oh, and one other difference. We provide the list to a “supply store” that carries each school’s books.  The shop owner then collects everything and packages them so there’s not nearly the same level of fun selecting materials as there is in the US.

For most subjects there are two textbooks; Arabic and French.

For most subjects there are two textbooks; Arabic and French.

The first day of school here is not a big deal. In fact most kids either show up late or sometimes don’t go the first day at all.  I have been trying to understand this but am still drawing a blank. It was really sad for me the first day w ear I’ve ever cried dropping them off to school.

Schools are very  recognizable by their bright colors. They are built into neighborhoods, just like a big house.  Our boys school sits next to a bakery. There’s no central air conditioning and I’m guessing there’s no central heat in the winter. Children have a “recess” in the mid-morning where they can play in the courtyard area and have a snack that they bring from home. There aren’t music classes or gym classes but I do think there are some art activities (guessing by the supplies we had to buy). Sometimes schools teach a third language (English is most popular, then Spanish).  This is taught as a second language is in US schools.  Children spend a few hours a week learning the basics.  The core studies however are done in tandem between French and Arabic.

While a few private schools provide transportation (small buses) the majority do not.  There are a lot of small neighborhood schools here in Marrakech, in fact there’s often several within a very small distance. In rural areas and small cities there are fewer options.  In many desert and mountain communities children may have to walk several miles to get to schools that are much more dire than those in the city.

So there’s a peek into a school in Morocco.  If you’ve got more specific questions feel free to ask! Don’t forget to stop by The Educators’ Spin On It next week to see all of the posts from bloggers around the world!

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Amanda MouttakiSchools Around the World: Morocco

Comments

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  3. James

    Amanda,
    What a wonderful website! As an American teacher I find your insights very interesting. Also, my wife and I are planning a trip to Morocco this summer. We are both social studies teachers, and we would like to visit with a Moroccan teacher or teachers to discuss teaching and or social studies. Do you think you can recommend a teacher or teachers who might be willing to meet us. Please feel free to email me and I can give you details about our trip.

    Thank you and I am looking forward to hearing from you,
    James

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  5. maryanne @ mama smiles

    I definitely see a French influence here – in the school hours and the huge supply lists, besides what you mentioned on my blog. We selected our own supplies in France, but there was no choice – everything was dictated, down to notebook brand and color. I remember that we were allowed a fountain pen of our choosing, and that was a big deal!

    Good luck to your children as they adjust!

  6. soreya

    HI Amanda!

    Nice to read your posts!
    We are a french family living in dubai who is planning to move to morroco soon…
    My concern are the kids : both ( 14 years and 9 years) of them have started school here in dubai under british curiculum and we do not know how to manage the follow up…
    I am lost!
    Any advise that could help?
    many thanks!

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Hi Soreya – thanks for visiting! There are some schools that operate under the British system but it will depend on where in the country you live. I don’t know of any in Marrakech, but am fairly sure there are in Casablanca and Rabat. There also is a Canadian school in Rabat. Hope that gives you at least a jumping point!

  7. Jody

    I really enjoyed reading this and I look forward to an update as you and your sons have more experience with school in Morocco. I’m especially interested to hear how your older son adjusts to going through so many grade levels so quickly. He will be an expert on this particular school in no time I’m sure – with that exposure to a variety of teachers and a variety of students in such a wide age span. I think learning French and Arabic and having this exposure to the other side of your family is such a special gift you are giving your sons.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Hi Jody — it’s amazing how things have changed even since writing this post. I am looking forward to sharing how things progress and can only hope they both will be near grade level by the end of this school year.

  8. Varya @ CWOV

    Thank you for sharing! It is very interesting to know how the school system works in Morocco. A friend of mine moved with her family almost 2 years ago to Morocco due to her husband’s job. We kinda lost touch as she isn’t big on emails. I always wondered how her kids adjusted to the new system.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      You’re welcome – thanks for reading! Too bad you lost touch with your friend though :(

  9. Taha

    I have truly enjoyed your article, thank you Amanda!

    How is it in the US that books and everything is supplied by the school? Public schools do this? And do you have to pay or is it through taxes?

    It would be great if schools would buy the books and keep them and give them to children. And then they’d be passed on to other people. But, sometimes you need to write something on the book, and so each child needs a separate book and other books need to be purchased the following year. You can still use a pencil instead of a pen and have the new student erase everything, but the book will wear out real quick.

    By the way, you can give the list to a “bookstore” or just ask him to give you stuff individually. You’d for instance get the books you need from the store and you can still have the selection fun at Marjane.

    Thanks again, Amanda. I appreciate this article more than all the others. I truly care about education and how it changes from one country to another.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Hi Taha,
      Yes in the US public education is funded through taxes. Children don’t normally write in text books – they are expected to last and re reused for several years. If there are workbooks they are purchased new by the school each year. Families do supply notebooks/pencils etc (it changes by school) but most areas also have programs so if you can’t afford this, they will be given to you. Many schools also have free breakfast and lunch programs for children whose families can’t afford this.

      As much as I worried about the lack of selection etc my kids really didn’t care lol.

  10. Sue

    Hi, I hope you don’t mind me asking, why as an American would you want your children to grow up in Morocco and learn Arabic and French? Is it something to do with your husbands religion, like a religious migration or something, like Jews go to live in Palestine? Or is it because he prefers Morocco?

    I don’t mean to sound close minded, it’s just that I’m very intrigued why Western women would want to do such a thing, what does your family think?

    Thanks.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      Hi Sue,
      I’ve thought a little bit on your questions here because initially I had a very negative reaction (for the sake of honesty here!) My husband and I are Muslim, and yes our kids are too. We chose to move to Morocco for several reasons but the most important is that they learn Arabic and French so that they can communicate with my husband’s family. We have been blessed to live near family in the US where our children have been able to form strong bonds with my family. However, they can not even have a basic conversation with their other half of the family. I feel that by them not having this we are depriving them of very important relationships. Our move to Morocco was my desire to give my children this opportunity. When I married my husband we both knew that we would each make sacrifices at different times, and that essentially no matter where we lived, one of us would always be “away from home.” So for almost 10 years we lived in the US, and now it’s time to try things here.

      We also were able to make the move at this time which is not always easy/possible. Sure there are things I like about the US but it’s not the be all end all. I love traveling, exploring other cultures, and exposing my kids to the world. So I guess my question back is why not? Why wouldn’t I want to move here? Thank you for asking – I actually think I’m going to write a longer more in depth post on the subject. Oh, and as for my family – sure they miss us but the internet is great so we can video chat. They’re also very excited to come visit us in coming months. I think they too knew one day this move would happen so they weren’t totally surprised.

    1. Author
      Amanda Mouttaki

      The American school is about $15000 a year for each child which is way more than I would pay for elementary school. And, we came here for our kids to learn Arabic and French – there these are not the instruction languages.

  11. Kris

    I also do not understand the start of the school year and that they do nothing for the first couple of days. My daughter went for her first half day and said it was the most boring day of her life. Her first full day is tomorrow and I plan to send some small reading books for her so she can do something. I also thought the school supply thing was a letdown and fairly expensive. I really hope she doesn’t hate school, but once they start learning I hope it will be better.
    Hope your kids are adjusting well!

    1. sugar

      Wow!, The cost is 150,000? Does that translate to 15 (thous.) American$?

      Also, is there ANY Elementary or Jr High Schools in Marrakesh that are teaching SOME classes in English that cost maybe $125 wkly(which is translated to be 1,250 drm. If ANY1 has children in the Marroco School System, could you please type & let us all know if the schools are even worth it. Are your kids happy with the school supplies & do they understand anybody very well?

      1. Author
        Amanda Mouttaki

        Yes that’s roughly the cost. Almost every private school in Morocco teaches some level of English. My kids in elementary school have 30-45 minutes a week. Older grades have more and different schools include it more. My kids finished their first year and they now understand what is going on. The first six months were hard. We thought a year would be all we would stay but have decided we’ll stay longer so that they have a firm grip on the languages.

  12. Carissa

    I want to add a few points about the schools. They do go on at least two field trips a year, at least in the two schools my children attended. They do provide “sport” activities on the weekends and I know that my husband (who is 35 years old and attended Moroccan public school his entire life) participated in theater and play productions when he was in high school. My daughter also had a computer class in the first grade. Overall I was very pleased with the schooling and the extra activities they provided.

  13. Jeanna Umm Aaminah

    Salaam sis and glad to hear the boys are getting somewhat settled in their new school. Transition and change is always difficult and with the language barrier I am sure that places an added concern.

    However children are sooo resilient, mA, and it will be such an enriching and rewarding experience for them iA. :) Looking forward to more posts!

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