After independence in 1956, the new government declared their main goals to be Arabization of the educational institutions, general access at all levels and unification of all systems. There were then two main types of education, the widely used Koranic and the limited French systems. Three years later, in 1959, Ministry of Education was established.
At this time, only 10% of children attended elementary schools (education primaire), and about 5% attended secondary school, and then only boys. The total number of university students was extremely low, only 350.
The earliest programs were to fight illiteracy, and a program of setting up simple schools was quickly carried out. Over few years a 9 year basic education system was developed.
More than half a century later, Moroccan is far from have a good educational system. Literacy rate remains very low, access to public schools is limited or non-existing many places, a substantial number of pupils never begin school, many drop out and the universities fail to produce candidates which have qualitifications securing them good entries into work life. Yet, there are many good schools across the country and things are improving.
Expenditure on education was estimated at 4.9% of GDP in 1999, from which a 2008 estimate sets education costs at $200/capita. This is one of the lowest in the MENA region, 1/3 of what is the case in Tunisia.
Today, adult literacy rates are 52%, with a great discrepancy between women and men. Programs to combat this have been launched, learning centres have been established in 100 mosques across the country. In addition to schooling in writing and reading, instruction in general social studies and hygiene is offered for men and women between ages 15 and 45.
There are also great differences between in favour of urban compared to rural areas. Hence, a Moroccan village woman is very, very unlikely to be able to read and write.
Illiteracy is in Morocco not an inheritance from times before, a thing that fades out with new generations. Even among the poor, illiteracy is a great problem: Morocco scores poorly compared to other North African countries, with 30% illiterate compared to 14%.
In most larger towns and cities there are 2 year preschool programs which some children attend. Many such schools are Koranic, in towns and cities private schools offer a form of advanced kindergarten.
Today, Morocco has 9 year basic education, between ages 6 and 15. It is free and by law compulsory. It is divided into two sections, 6 years of primary school, 3 years of primary secondary school. Although the basic rules of today's system was introduced already in 1962, 1996 figures showed that only 81% of all boys and 63% of all girls attended school. This has improved since then, but not substantially.
The building of new schools have over the last 40 years been on a slower scale than during the first 8 years of independence. As shown above, Morocco spends too little on education to make changes that benefits all.
Drop-out is high in Morocco, although it is going down year by year. In 2006, drop-out rate at primary levels was 22%.
Morocco offers the choice between two directions: Modern which is based upon French system and the Original which teaches Islamic law, Arabic, history, Arab civilization, Islamic thought and philosophy and sciences. It is by far the Modern which attracts most pupils.
School day is 5.5 hours in the 1st and 2nd grade, increasing every second year until the 7th until 9th grades, when it reaches 7 hours a day.
Arabic is the main language first two years, French is introduced in the 3rd grade, and then taught with more hours a week than Arabic. Morocco has a greater focus on Islam than other North African countries, 4 hours a week in the early levels, being reduced to 2 hours from the 7th grade.
Although official politics aims at a unified public school system, private schools are permitted to continue both because of the lack of alternative resources, and because many of these offer a better alternative, preferred by many of the affluent part of the population.
Secondary education is entered usually after successfully competing the first 9 years, but there are programs for pupils quitting primary school after the first 6 years. Between 50 and 60% pass from primary to secondary.
The main secondary education offers its pupils two directions: the general and technical tracks leading to the Baccalauréate; or the vocational track leading to the award of professional qualifications.
Until 2000, the Baccalauréate exam decided everything, now average grades from the last school year are included in the total.
Pupils of the general and technical choose between 3 specializations: Language and Arts; Experimental Sciences; and Mathematics.
As in primary schools, Arabic is the main language of instruction, but with French used widely. The number of instruction hours is between 5.5 and 6.5 a day, expecting every pupil to add some time for self-studies.
Drop-out rates remain high, up to 20%. A large percentage repeats one or more years.
Entry to the vocational track is permitted after 6 years primary education. It is a 2 year program, concluding in the Certificat de Formation Professionnelle (CFP). A higher vocational program is offered pupils that have completed all 9 years primary primary. This program leads to the Diplôme de Qualification Professionnelle (DQP). Holders of a CFP with relevant work experience may enter a program to obtain the DQP. Holders of a DQP may after a period of time in work life enter the 2nd year of normal secondary education with the aim of obtaining a normal Baccalaureate degree.
Pupils that finishes secondary education but without a Baccalaureate, may enter a 2 year program that concludes with the Diplôme de Technicien.
About 40% of vocational schools are privately run.
Morocco has today 15 universities, 14 public. The country's university history is very long, the University of Al-Karaouine in Fez was founded in 859, and makes a claim on being the oldest university in the world. It was, however, first in 1962 officially recognized as an Islamic university.
In addition to the universities, there are several higher schools (grandes écoles) and institutions.
Entry to public universities is by the Baccalauréate, while private institutions require additional tests. About 11% enter university level studies. As of 1997, 41% of students were female.
French is the primary language of instruction at university, reflecting the vast difference in available material in French (and English) compared to Arabic. Arabic is used for humanities and social sciences.
In order to pass from one year to the next, students must pass written and oral examinations scoring at least 50%. Many students are forced to repeat a year, many use 6 years to complete a 4 year degree.
The LMD reforms were introduced 2004 to bring the Moroccan university degrees into accordance with international systems. The new system makes each semester conclude in exams (before there were exams first after a a full year); and it allows the combination of exams from different departments and schools. With the LMD, 3 years of study concludes with the Licence degree; and the Master after another 2 years.
Lower than a university education are the 2 year technical programs leading to the Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS). It is offered across 20 specializations.