As a U.S.-Moroccan partnership to strengthen teacher training in Morocco begins to achieve its goals, leadership by local stakeholders is taking an increasingly prominent role.
USAID and the Moroccan government launched the Higher Education Partnership–Morocco (HEP-M) in 2019 to convene leaders in higher education and teacher training to work together to advance primary teacher preparation in Morocco. Since then, USAID has collaborated with Morocco’s Ministry of National Education, Preschool, and Sports, and the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Innovation to review, enhance, and standardize the modules used in various teacher training institutions throughout Morocco.
As the project’s partners convened in Ifrane, Morocco, in May 2023 for a workshop to digitize the revitalized teacher training curricula, local stakeholders demonstrated notable leadership. While technical assistance under HEP-M is provided by Arizona State University (ASU) and its Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Moroccan teacher trainers led the majority of the sessions.
“I appreciate that most of the trainers come from Morocco,” said Sara Aouad, a digital learning expert from Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Ben Guerir who is volunteering to assist the project as a mentor. “They’re experts who have handled this for years and years. It’s refreshing.”
Among the trainers was Mourad Benali, a researcher and instructor at the Regional Teacher Training Center (CRMEF) in Oujda, Morocco. Benali joined HEP-M as one of many members of research and development groups of teacher trainers enhancing the curricula used in preparing future primary school teachers. When the other members noticed his commitment, they asked him to serve as their group’s coordinator.
Benali said he recognized that the objectives of HEP-M reflected principles upon which he built his own career. “The project is working to provide a program of initial training that can prepare teachers to meet the unique challenges of the country’s educational system, namely inclusion of learners across socio-economic differences, cultural diversity and linguistic issues,” Benali said.
ASU held biweekly online meetings with the group leaders, and as their expertise became clear, the project’s organizers offered for them to take on additional roles. “I look for ways to showcase their individual strengths within the project and to scale this to more faculty,” said Janice Mak, the ASU faculty member who co-manages activities with Moroccan e-learning leaders to train Moroccan instructors to create Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs).
Benali said the time he has given to HEP-M has yielded rewards in strengthening his leadership skills and relationships with fellow education professionals. “Joining this project allowed me to develop my leadership, my management of efficiency and effectiveness in this working environment, and cooperation and communication with other colleagues.”
Moroccan e-learning experts collaborated with ASU to create a MOOC that participants completed prior to the workshop, providing a foundation of teaching online.
This local ownership and leveraging of local resources is an example of USAID’s emphasis on localization in international development projects, an approach that “puts local actors in the lead, strengthens local systems, and is responsive to local communities.” During the workshop’s opening ceremony, Juan Carlos Rodriguez, USAID/Morocco General Development Office Director, emphasized USAID’s commitment to locally led approaches. “Via programs like this, we recognize and cherish local knowledge and build on existing expertise that our partners have and always leverage through our collaborations,” Rodriguez said. “We are relying on you, the experts from Moroccan universities and CRMEFs, to build the tools and resources necessary to develop and deliver the Massive Online Open Courses and effectively support all teachers in the digital age.”
The workshop was a turning point in the HEP-M project. To that point, participants learned how to enhance the curricula to train prospective primary teachers in all types of institutions and how to design digital educational materials to international standards. During the workshop, 43 teacher trainers from 15 institutions gathered for sessions on how to turn a syllabus into a map or storyboard for a digital course. They learned how to record videos in a studio and on their own computers. Those videos will provide an overview for each of 13 MOOCs on topics crucial for primary school teachers such as planning lessons, using information and communication technology in teaching, and evaluating students’ progress.
“We are training them (teacher trainers) to go from classic classroom teaching face-to-face to teaching at a distance in good form, all while respecting the standards and norms which are recognized internationally,” said Abdellatif Fergoug, e-learning project manager at the National Center for Teaching Innovation and Research (CNIPE), another local participant taking a leadership role. “Thanks to this project, we are in the process of putting in place a mechanism, which is to say, qualified human resources and content that are useful, usable, and used.”
Digital materials such as MOOCs will allow Morocco to reach more teacher trainees while providing standardized training across regions and institutions, noted Dr. Mohamed Tahiri, Director of Higher Education and Pedagogical Development in the Ministry of Higher Education. “When you produce digital materials and courses, you are able to achieve a sort of guaranteed level of education among students,” Tahiri said in his comments during the opening ceremony. “This is very important.”
Next, the teams will work with video studios in their home institutions to record other elements of the MOOCs. They will convert course content to digital form such as quizzes, evaluations, and resources. After collaborating online, the teams are scheduled to finalize recording at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in November 2023.
“The highlight in my eyes is to see the degree of ownership by the actors of the whole training process,” said Abdessamad Fatmi, HEP-M Chief of Party. “We’ve had professors themselves leading workshop sessions, making presentations, and actually taking the lead. It just shows the degree of … ownership of the process.”
As participants assume leadership for the progression and future of the work, HEP-M reflects USAID’s approach to localization and local capacity strengthening, which seeks to elevate local ownership in sustaining development results.
“Through what is being done, it’s becoming clear that the project is managing to contribute in building a real local group of expertise that beyond the life of the project can take this further,” Fatmi said. “We’re going to be leaving behind a whole community of practice that is not only able to continue the work but will also be able to train other actors.”