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Morocco to boost higher education.

Summary: People should stop calling Moroccan universities unemployment factories, according to Higher Education Minister Lahcen Daoudi.

Universities are not responsible for the jobless rate for young graduates, which has reached 24%, he said at a MAP forum in Rabat on Tuesday (September 16th). Instead, the minister blamed the national economy.

"To boost employment, we need a stable rate of growth between 7% and 8%. Until we reach that percentage, unemployment will continue," Daoudi said.

Moroccan universities have a better image outside the country than inside it, he continued, noting that his department was considering a large number of measures to improve university education.

There are two main areas of focus for reform, the minister explained.

The first is a restructuring of higher education by grouping big universities together into "hubs", in order to increase their visibility across the region and the continent.

The second is the promotion of university scientific research. The minister lamented the neglect of this aspect by previous governments.

Several research projects are currently under way, thanks to national and international partnerships. The minister wants to see Morocco move up from fifth place in Africa in terms of scientific research to second place behind South Africa within two years.

Universities should not receive all of the blame for the failings in the higher education sector, he said, adding that the entire education system should be reviewed from the primary level upwards.

This view was shared by sociologist Samira Kassimi, who said that the system as a whole needed to be reviewed and that precise targets needed to be set. According to Kassimi, curricula, language-learning and skills need to be rethought.

"You get the impression that Moroccan education is floundering from primary level up to higher education level. The learning model needs to be revised to address current and future challenges," she explained.

"With regard to higher education, we are still awaiting the launch of a study of the needs of the job market. Without this survey, we can't adapt higher education and successfully create a strong link between university education and the business world," she told Magharebia.

Students mostly want to see job prospects improve.

"The government must forge partnerships with businesses to make it easier for students to access jobs in the private sector," 19-year-old economics student Najat Bachir said.

"It's not enough to say that universities aren't responsible for youth unemployment. The government must take concrete steps to help university students. Conventional training must be backed up by practical training to improve graduates' skills," she added.

Akram Gouram, a 20-year-old legal science student agreed, noting that advanced training courses should be compulsory for students as a way to supplement their training.

"Most students gain their degree or master's degree without having any contact with the business world whatsoever. That's wrong. University education can't be improved unless it includes a practical and work-based aspect," he told Magharebia.

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Publication:UMCI News (Potomac Falls, VA)
Geographic Code:6MORO
Date:Sep 24, 2014
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