Mhammed Abbad Andaloussi is modernizing the educational system and linking students and graduates to the market in Morocco. He involves the business sector to improve the management and education cycle of schools by enabling them to provide higher quality market-relevant education and enables students to see the connection between continued education and professional success.
The New Idea
Andaloussi is mobilizing collaborations between the business sector, schools and their communities, and the government to improve the educational system in Morocco. He created Al Jisr (the Bridge), which seeds and nurtures these collaborations, emphasizing society’s collective responsibility for the enhancement of the educational system in Morocco.
Andaloussi’s model of comprehensive engagement of the business sector moves it beyond charity or philanthropy to true engagement with civil society. Business organizations agree to sponsor or partner with a school, providing their expertise and tools to upgrade the education and services provided and equip the students for professions and trades in an increasingly globalized market. Business leaders join with principals, teachers, students, and parents to form a School Support Committee to assess and remedy the quality of a school. The school community and business support organization (BSO) collaboration aims to make schools more capable of providing higher quality education that leads to change, progress, and development.
Although the Moroccan government spends approximately 26 percent of its budget on education, the quality of education in Morocco is very low. In 2004, 14 percent of primary education students failed and 19 percent of secondary education students failed. The dropout rate in 2004 reached 6.5 percent in primary schools. The 8,722 public schools in Morocco lack many required facilities and most importantly, lack quality in their educational services. Schools conditions, such as facilities, classrooms, equipment and even hygiene, are poor. Fossilized school management structures generally operate far from systematic evaluation and analytical assessment of the causes behind poor performance. The Ministry of Education has consistently failed to offer a structurally sustainable solution to these problems.
The private sector in Morocco laments the lack of quality human resources necessary to improve schools’ competitiveness. The labor supply does not match private sector needs. Teachers ignore the world of enterprise and enterprises overlook education, except for few charitable donations invested in school construction. Success in school is based on memorization; curricula do not encourage initiative, imagination, teamwork, or an entrepreneurial spirit. Consequently, students are not well prepared for the labor market and the private sector in Morocco struggles. Despite these challenges, businesses have generally been reluctant to get involved in social issues or only do so through sporadic charity.
The majority of students do not link their studies with future employment. Science and mathematics courses are often far more rigorous than other classes. Fearing low grades, students choose theoretical or liberal arts studies at a secondary level more than applied studies. Only 1.6 percent of secondary school students choose to study mathematics. As their qualifications do not match the requirements of the labor market set by the business sector, an estimated 300,000 graduates are unemployed. They lack the necessary skills and have not cultivated the entrepreneurial spirit that would help them overcome this challenge.
In general, Moroccan schools are conservative regarding interaction with the outside world. Fully aware of their responsibility to inform youths’ character, schools have been extremely cautious about incorporating external social factors that might negatively affect their students. Teachers often use methods from thirty or forty years ago. They do not receive continued professional development and operate without reference to technological and scientific advances, with which their students are more familiar. Schools appear rigid and isolated from reality to the students attending, which decreases student motivation. Schools fail to graduate youth able to cope in the society where they must work.
As a businessman, Andaloussi spent much of his free time working with youth and encouraging them to succeed in school. As he worked with more and more youth, he realized their problems were endemic to students all over Morocco. At an international conference, he learned about the effects that public-private partnerships were having on education systems elsewhere in the world and became charged with the idea of creating indigenous Moroccan partnerships all over the country to fix the educational system.
Andaloussi began with the business sector, where his background and connections were. Business leaders’ first question was often “How is this good for us?” Andaloussi convinced them that engagement with schools would be good for their image, their competitiveness (by increasing the training and skills of those joining the labor force) and the stability of the country, as a more skilled, entrepreneurial labor force is a precondition to create the middle-class Morocco lacks. He convinced a national federation, the Association of Businessmen, to sign an agreement of support for his citizen organization (CO), Al Jisr, which enabled him to secure support from a large number of BSOs. BSOs working with Al Jisr sign an agreement to commit to a school for three to five years. They pledge to assist in school upgrades and modernization and to offer their expertise in the classroom, helping the students to realize their potential. Businesspersons expect and introduce project management to schools, insisting on best practices that yield demonstrable results.
As Andaloussi reached out to schools, he often found that they were unable or unwilling to engage a BSO as anything other than a donor. Andaloussi’s solution was to establish School Support Committees, mechanisms involving business leaders, administrators, teachers, youth, and parents, as partners in assessing and improving a school. BSOs agree to help lead the School Support Committees and to finance the improvements identified by the School Support Committee. Schools agree to open their practices and engage in self-examination and change. Together, all partners in a School Support Committee are responsible to collaborate in activities and modes of operation that improve the quality and the relevance of the education offered by the school and that develop skills and entrepreneurship among its students.
Andaloussi begins the partnership by asking the BSO to develop a needs assessment of the school. The School Support Committee uses the assessment to develop an action plan to address identified needs and implements it jointly with the school community. Thus, the school administration, parents, and students are trained in how to develop plans using business tools and skills.
Al Jisr assists the Committees to implement the action plan. Teachers are trained in enhanced teaching methodologies. Computer labs are set up from donated equipment. Play spaces and buildings are renovated and refurbished. Extracurricular activities are designed and implemented collectively, involving the BSO, teachers, students, and parents. Committees are encouraged to implement school-wide projects and to empower students to decide what those projects will be. Performance assessments are conducted systematically to enable the Committees to continue to refine their efforts and to learn as they go along about how to improve the school.
Andaloussi began his partnership program in Casablanca, inviting companies to support schools of their choice and to create success stories about the added value of private sector involvement in education, and motivate other companies to do the same. Realizing that the curricula for schools are often fixed by the Ministry of Education at a national level, Andaloussi worked with the Ministry from the beginning. The Ministry sponsored a conference that Andaloussi staged for businesses and schools to learn about the potential of public-private partnerships and began to forge them. He met almost daily with the Director of the Academy in Casablanca, who supervises all 1,000 schools in Casablanca. He put the Director on the board of Al Jisr, and the Director reciprocated, asking Andaloussi to join the board of the Academy, whose chair is the Minister of Education.
Andaloussi is collaborating with a number of international organizations who are helping him to achieve his goals, including USAID and the International Youth Foundation. Along with Moroccan banks and companies, they finance Al Jisr’s activities, such as training teachers and refurbishing schools. Through Al Jisr, Andaloussi has forged partnerships for 110 public schools around Casablanca’s marginalized poor areas: Ninety-seven in Casablanca and thirteen in other areas chosen by the BSO partners. Recently, up to ten schools a day contact Al Jisr with requests to be part of their collaborations. Some of the BSOs who have joined Al Jisr’s efforts have expanded their partnerships from one school, to include four or five.
Al Jisr has an IT training center where it offers advanced training of trainers to teachers on new learning/teaching methodologies. One hundred teachers trained at the center have been able to train 1,000 more teachers. In addition, Al Jisr organized thirteen training workshops for teachers and a workshop for the benefit of local education authorities to promote the use of IT in education.
To expand his idea, Andaloussi works on three main pillars: Continuing to link BSOs to public schools; promoting his unconventional idea through conferences, publications, and other outreach activates; and, establishing field offices for Al Jisr all around Morocco. Andaloussi developed and published a manual explaining his concept of partnership between the business sector and school community. The manual was widely distributed under the name, Enterprise and Education: How to Help. He also constructed a website for Al Jisr highlighting its activities and initiatives and above all its philosophy. He produced a documentary about Al Jisr explaining its concept and activities, showing life testimonies from participating schools and BSOs, students in their new classrooms and doing extracurricular activities.
Andaloussi plans to sponsor 600 schools in Morocco in five years time. In ten years, he expects to reach 1,275 schools through Al Jisr and its field offices. He will hold forums for different School Support Committees around Morocco to exchange expertise and ideas. These forums will encourage and foster collaborations between School Support Committees; launching large-scale educational projects sponsored by the business sector.
As Andaloussi establishes Al Jisr offices in other Moroccan cities, he has secured a decree from the Minister of Education to all Directors of Academies in Morocco that they should facilitate Al Jisr efforts to implement its activities. Directors of Academies have been asked to invite schools’ directors to cooperate fully with BSOs willing to sponsor their schools by establishing School Support Committees. The Ministry also stated in its decree that every official and school should support this initiative by investing time and effort, as it represents a crucial step towards Moroccan educational system reform within the global context. Moreover, the Ministry of Education has appointed some its own employees to support the work of the School Support Committees established by Al Jisr. Andaloussi considers this decree a passport to expand his idea in Morocco without barriers. On the business side, he has been successful in using his professional contacts and those of the BSOs working with Al Jisr to convene business leaders in each city he visits to convince them to establish partnerships with their schools. Andaloussi obtained His Majesty King Mohammed the Sixth’s agreement to assume the honorary presidency of Al Jisr, a key step to gain credibility and support across the whole of Moroccan society. The young king in turn has appointed Andaloussi as a volunteer member of the Moroccan Higher Council of Education, which is a constitutional consultative council for educational reforms. Such a position will enable Andaloussi to influence and advocate for reform in the Moroccan educational system. He has been asked to chair a subcommittee of the Council on institutional issues and partnerships. In this role, he is getting committee members to address the mobilization of civil society around a national project to improve education and to take steps to better link education with the skills needed for professional success.
Andaloussi was born in Fez to illiterate parents of modest financial means; his father owned a small carpentry workshop. He is the youngest son with four brothers and two sisters. All his siblings left primary or secondary school to work and support the family. Andaloussi was the only member of the family who had the chance to go to university. At fifteen, he started working in summer agricultural camps in England where he was able to save money to co-finance his studies, which became more expensive with time.
During school, all his colleagues came from a similar background and experienced financial problems. Some came from the countryside and had painful situations, living far from their family. Andaloussi created student associations to help students support each other, to give them space to share their dreams, fears, and exchange experiences.
He started his professional life at the age of twenty-three, and at twenty-five, he joined the Rotary Club of Agadir as a way to serve his community. Two years later, he joined the Rotary Club of Marrakech where he became President. During his professional life, Andaloussi’s main concern was to inform, train, motivate, and support his associates and collaborators. He organized weekly meetings to exchange information about achievements and difficulties and the support they needed to achieve their targets. When he was forced to retire due to health complications, all his co-workers, higher management, and junior employees expressed their deep regret and sadness. He was considered a mentor to them.
Andaloussi’s commitment to education stems from his concern with the development of his country. He has created a number of initiatives all contributing to the modernization and improvement of the educational system and environment in Morocco and its link to create job opportunities. In 1990, he helped establish a CO called Al Ikram, which helped hundreds of students with difficulties finish their schooling. He was the vice president of the association for fifteen years managing the association activities where social assistants identified potential dropouts and teachers offered them extra courses and extracurricular activities. In 2004, he created Réseau Maroc Entreprendre which supports youth who wish to create their own businesses. This initiative launched an extensive program of collaboration with universities sponsored by Attijariwafa Bank Foundation.
His passion became mobilizing BSOs to help improve the educational system. From his expertise in the banking sector and passion to participate voluntarily in students’ associations, Andaloussi observed the wide gap between the demand and supply of the labor market in Morocco. He describes the turning point for his idea and working towards implementing it as the moment he chose his life’s mission. He attended a conference in May 1998 in Washington to represent the Moroccan private sector. The conference, Educating Girls: A Development Imperative, was co-sponsored by USAID, the Inter-American Development Bank, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Delegation of the European Commission and the Lewis T. Preston Education Program for Girls. Forty-three countries participated. Many speakers focused on public-private partnerships to support girls’ education. Sitting there, Andaloussi decided he wanted to crown his endeavors to support Moroccan students by getting the private sector to support a dramatic improvement in Morocco’s educational system.