Notes from the Field: Harnessing Technology to Increase Access to Quality Education in Morocco

Fatine Guedira

Morocco ranks among the 21 least advanced countries in terms of education. Not only in terms of quality, as almost half of primary school students reach secondary school without having basic reading and writing skills.  Furthermore, drastic social and geographical differences throughout the population mean that many children in the country have limited access to schooling.

Given these institutional challenges, innovation is central to Morocco achieving the second Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education. Zakoura Foundation  is one of several organizations harnessing knowledge, technology and innovation with the goal of increasing access to education in Morocco.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit Zakoura Foundation’s headquarters in Casablanca. For seventeen years, the foundation has been actively involved in improving access to quality education and learning in Morocco. Its mission is to improve children’s education, promote adults’ literacy, and offer vocational training. In 17 years, more than 130,000 people have benefited from Zakoura’s programs thus far.

To further their impact, Zakoura is now branching into education technology and scaling-up its programs. In the fall of 2014, the foundation launched its first numerical school in Morocco, expanding on their non-formal school model and incorporating the use of technology, like tablets and computers. I was particularly interested in this project due to the fact that the education content and the tablets have been designed and built by Moroccan stakeholders - the Moroccan Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training, Zakoura Foundation, and its Moroccan IT partner.

The non-formal Education program targets children between ages 8 and 16 that have either dropped out of schooling or never attended. For three years, the students receive intensive training to gain basic literacy and numerical skills that will make up for the years they have lost in their education. After the three years, the students can choose between opt to integrate into public schools, get vocational training or engage in working life.

Results show that after these three years, more than 96% of students passed the national entrance exam to secondary school. This year, Zakoura expanded this program by using tablets and educational apps, which, in turn, allowed each student to learn at his or her own pace and opened new learning possibilities.

Zakoura Foundation works specifically in rural areas that that are falling behind in human development. The wide gap between rural and urban development in Morocco is most apparent in education. 19% of primary school age children are out-of-school in rural areas, as opposed to only 4% in the cities. Moreover, according to the World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE), rural children stay enrolled for an average 2.5 years in contrast to children from urban areas, who stay enrolled at school for an average 7 years.

To address this discrepancy, the Foundation built on major findings on the effect of Early Childhood Development (ECD) on cognitive and non-cognitive development.

According to the study, a child is less likely to drop out from school if he or she went to preschool.  For this reason, Zakoura Foundation is fully involved in the development of early childhood education in Morocco and particularly for rural children. If this project is successful, it will most likely bring a major change to Morocco’s education sector by making preschools more cost friendly to poorer families.

On my way back home after meeting with Ms. Rita El Kadiri, Zakoura Foundation’s director, I reflected on the virtuous circle at work; organizations such as Zakoura have an impact beyond those who enroll in their programs, they are also educating the next generation of innovators that can contribute to the innovation ecosystem to the benefit of even more Moroccans.

Watch this space for Zakoura Foundation’s full CEI profile!

Fatine is currently an intern with the Global Education team at Results for Development (R4D). She grew up in Rabat, Morocco, before moving to Paris, France. She is a graduate student in Economics at Sciences Po Paris.

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