Developing Democracy through a Morocco-U.S. Education Partnership
Maryville University of St. Louis* + Hassan II University, Casablanca Teacher Training Institute, Moroccan Center for Civic Education, and the Center for Civic Education
The United States and Morocco have a long, shared history. As President Barack Obama acknowledged in a 2009 speech, the Kingdom of Morocco was the first nation to recognize the sovereignty of the United States in 1778. A great deal of time has passed since those first friendly overtures, but the opportunities for successful collaboration have continued.
One example of successful collaboration has been the Civic Education Partnership Initiative (CEPI), funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Middle East Partnership Initiative through Higher Education for Development. CEPI began in 2007 as a collaboration of U.S. and Moroccan educators to prepare new democratic citizenship curriculum for use in Moroccan schools, teacher education and university classrooms. While developing curriculum for different schooling levels is challenging enough, doing so in the politically charged environment of U.S.-Arab relations and between the world’s oldest continuous democracy and a constitutional monarchy has made the CEPI project unique. Such challenges have not made the collaboration easy, but they have made the successes much better.
U.S. project director Alden Craddock said the greatest success is the partnership itself. “Through CEPI we have confirmed the belief that despite our differences, we share a common desire to have a better future for our young people – a democratic future.” Key to this belief, Craddock said, is the “crucial role that education can play in preparing effective citizens.” Moroccan project director, Elarbi Imad echoes these sentiments, “Working with our American partners has not only been helpful with developing the new curriculum, but it has also removed many misconceptions about the differences between our two peoples.”
In past three years, the CEPI project has conducted a variety of activities focused on assisting the Moroccan partners through a capacity building approach. Through the project, educators shared lessons learned and created a cross-cultural environment for sharing ideas, experience and expertise.
In the end, the Moroccan partners were supported by a community of learning to produce curriculum uniquely Moroccan but infused with common democratic principles. For example, curriculum materials have been prepared for various levels of the Moroccan education system and they all share a common organizing core. This core is based on a 2006 proclamation by King Mohammed VI who identified the content, skills and attitudes that all Moroccan citizens should share. Using that proclamation as the Moroccan foundation, the partnership then collaborated on identifying democratic methodology for effectively teaching the content. Thus, the final products are Moroccan in content and character but international in democratic education pedagogy.