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Morocco's New Way to Teach English Proves Popular, at Least With Students

AA: I'm Avi Arditti, Rosanne Skirble is away -- this week on Wordmaster: meet a young English teacher from Morocco.

LAHCEN TIGHOULA: "My name is Lahcen Tighoula. I am a high school English teacher from the south of Morocco. I am from the city called Agadir. It's to the Atlantic coast. It's just two hundred kilometers from Marrakech -- I think Marrakech, lots of people know it -- so it's a beautiful city."

AA: "So tell me about developments in English teaching in Morocco."

LAHCEN TIGHOULA: "In the last three years or so there has been a reform in Morocco, of the educational system in general. And concerning English, now we [have] started to teach English in middle schools. That is, just after the elementary school. Before, we just taught English in high school. So this is the first change.

"The second change is in the curriculum. Before, it was structure-based, it was just teaching grammar and so on. Now, we include content, we teach the content through English -- like, for example, in our textbooks you'll have units on citizenship, on environment, on human rights, on women in the world, etcetera. So this is why now teachers have started to be involved in projects like tackling issues of citizenship, issues of human rights and using them as springboards to teach English in the classroom."

AA: "How do the students like that?"

LAHCEN TIGHOULA: "Well, the students enjoy it, because these are issues that really interest them [and] they would like to know about. Especially with the global changes now, the things -- I mean, and unfortunately what happened on September the eleventh, students are preoccupied with a lot of issues that are sometimes taboos.

"So the English classroom provides them with an opportunity to talk about this. And at the same time they are learning English. Instead of teaching English in the traditional, boring way, you teach it through exciting and interesting issues, and that's really a big thing. And we notice that the students in their feedback like that and they carry out projects in their cities about these topics and issues."

AA: "So the students like it. How do the teachers like it?"

LAHCEN TIGHOULA: "Well, for the teachers, there's just a little problem. We have a problem of in-service training. The teachers are used to the traditional way of teaching English. So just now a lot of teachers are not yet motivated or sometimes they are not well equipped to do this, to implement the content.

But we are trying in our association -- we have an association of English teachers in Morocco -- trying to help teachers deal with this problem. But still the government, and the ministry, needs to do more efforts in this way. So it has to do with teacher training, in-service teacher training. We still have a lack in that domain."

AA: "That's common, isn't it. In other countries, too, they face the same problems when they try to change the style of teaching English. Is there an example of a project that your students have done where they've taken it outside the classroom?"

LAHCEN TIGHOULA: "Sure. I can assure you that at least my students have done a lot in this. And I feel really satisfied that a lot of my students have done so much in this domain. For example, just before I came here, three groups of students did projects in their city.

"One did it on the effect of American culture on Arab youth. And she talked about things like students' favorite stars, students' favorite brands in terms of clothes, etcetera. And then the second part of her project was to talk about the American culture and to try to explain the difference between American culture and the image that we have about America in the media.

"And one other group of my students did a project in the city on the environment, how to protect the environment in our city. They went out of the school, did interviews in Arabic first and then translated them into English and came to the classroom and presented. And they felt very satisfied with their work, and they encouraged them and they felt very happy that the students can really do something with the language and in topics of interest to them that are motivating for them. And a lot of other colleagues are doing the same thing in Morocco, although other teachers need to do the same thing, but we feel that this is the start for more projects or more collaboration maybe."

AA: Lahcen Tighoula of Morocco was in Tampa Florida, for the convention of the international group TESOL -- Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. He's been an English teacher for eight years.

And that's Wordmaster for this week. Our e-mail address is and all of our segments can be found on our Web site, I'm Avi Arditti.