The Paradoxes of Genderin the Moroccan Educational System Fatima Sadiqi International Institute for Languages and Cultures (Fez) Mate 33, Marrakech, Jan 28, 2013
Background Preliminaries• This presentation is based on my own experience, research, and observation. I focus on foreign language teaching/learning and I adopt a broad intersectionality approach whereby various social divisions intersect to explain attested phenomena (Crenshaw 2005, McCall 2005). My premise is that teaching a “global” language in a multilingual setting does not mean that we won‟t have to worry about gender issues. Teaching English or teaching in English in Moroccan schools and universities, like teaching other subjects anywhere in the world, is never gender-neutral.• Much of the literature in humanities and social sciences has shown that the intersection of gender (a social construct but also an analytical tool) and education (a genuine source of empowerment) does not take place in a vacuum (Sunderland 1994, Yepez 1994, Willett 1996, Vandrick 1999, Gurian 2001, Sadker 2002, Sanders 2003, among others).
Background Preliminaries So far as the Moroccan context is concerned, the intersection of gender and education is not born in the classroom (Ghuddami 1996 ,Abu-Risha 2000, Sadiqi 2003, Ennaji 2005, Moghadam 2008). Two interrelated aspects are central in this intersection.1.Both gender and education are engineered by the sources of power and authority in Moroccan culture (gender is primarily constructed and reinforced in family socialization and education is primarily “manufactured” by state policies).2. Gender is a significant linguistic variable in any EFL (or ESL) experience; hence the classroom is a context/space where considerable reflection/remedy can be provided.
Background PreliminariesThese two aspects are linked by language. Indeed, language is adeterminant factor in both gender role assignment and teaching/learning. Inher landmark piece « He Is the Sun, She Is the Moon: A FeministSociolinguistic Approach to Teaching the French Language», ClaudiaMoscovici (1997:1) states: As a result of current sociolinguistic research, we have begun to acknowledge the fact that language is neither a "neutral" nor a "natural" phenomenon, but a symbolic system which produces, shapes and perpetuates social norms and relations. Consequently, just as the use of language impacts behavior and attitude infamily settings (Sadiqi 2003, 2012), it also impacts behavior and attitude inclassroom interaction (whether teacher-student or student-student, orindirectly through the language of textbooks).
1. Aspect 1: Gender and education are engineered by the sources of power and authority in Moroccan culture• A space-based patriarchy (men and women are culturally assigned different spaces. These spaces may be physical (e.g. dress, home architecture), symbolic (e.g. masculine/feminine discourses), or linguistic (e.g. space allocated to teacher/student classroom interaction). Men‟s spaces are “public” and women‟s “private” (with “public” also meaning endowed with authority (power sanctioned by society). Within this space-based patriarchy, girl‟s education may lead to power but not authority in the cultural sense (e.g. educated women may acquire power but not a culturally sanctioned independent status).• Religion (where education is valued but the readings of the sacred texts have always been only male, hence intrinsically biased and leading to a cultural meaning of a girl‟s education).• Urban/”modernity” nexus (e.g. only urbans “deserve” education).
Aspect 2: Gender is a significant linguistic variable in any EFL (or ESL) experience• Research in the field of foreign (and second-) language acquisition, tells us that like the age, race, social class, or ethnicity variables, gender is a determinant factor in the success (or failure) of any teaching/learning experience: Clarricoates, (1978), Stanworth (1981), Spender & Sarah (1980), Mahony (1985), and Coates (1998), among others. In Morocco, a number of unpublished manuscripts, monographs and graduate theses attempted to look at these issues but more research is still needed here.• Indeed, research in education is being increasingly informed by feminist paradigms. From a feminist perspective, education in Morocco is a genuine venue of progress and change. It is a powerful locus where paradoxes can be unpacked and addressed. There are 2 reasons for this: girls‟ education is increasingly valued by families and development promoters can no longer overlook women‟s education. But what are the paradoxes that can inform this research?
Paradox 1• With this overall background in mind, reflecting on the status of gender dynamics in the Moroccan educational system almost 60 years after independence, three intriguing paradoxes come to mind.• Paradox 1: on the one hand, the number of female pupils and students has been on the increase at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels (over 60% at the tertiary level), yet on the other hand, the academic achievement of this female population decreases drastically when it comes to employment especially in the higher spheres of decision-making positions in both the private and the public sectors. How is this paradox attested in the classroom (assuming that it can be approached from various angles)? Facts• 1-In Morocco, females are present quantitatively more than qualitatively in classrooms. This is most attested in class interaction feedback.
Paradox 1• This fact is a reflection of the widespread stereotype that girls/women do “badly in serious situations/jobs” where leadership is required.• Theoretically, the importance of gender in feedback provision and task- based interactions is highlighted by some studies in foreign language learning: Aries (1976), Gass & Varonis (1986), Tannen (1990), Pica et al (1991), Kasanga (1996), and Oliver (2002). In cultures more or less like ours, the two Iranian scholars Parviz Birjandi and Omid Tabatabaei (2009) have shown that in conversational interactions, the gender of both the learner and the interlocutor impacts the quality of EFL learners performances. Thus: managing gender and creating balance is crucial for boosting the self-esteem and self-confidence needed for quality performance in and outside the class. The role of the task of the teacher is important.
Paradox 12-In classrooms, the “linguistic space” of girls is smaller than that of boys.• The concept of linguistic space was first used by Mahony (1985) in relation to students‟ participation in class. Later on Allison Julé (2009) used the expression to examine language use in class. In my 2003 paper “Women and Linguistic Space in Morocco”, I argue that Moroccan women‟s linguistic space is smaller in the public sphere of authority, including education. As a result, Moroccan girls‟ class participation, and hence their language-learning opportunities are restricted. Further, the fact that women‟s silence is generally favored in our culture is transposed to the classroom situation. Silence is often used by girls to avoid situations where the teacher would react negatively to their comments (we all know that generally speaking, rebukes are more consequential for girls than boys in our culture).
Paradox 1• 3-There is gender bias (conscious and unconscious differential treatment) in the Moroccan Classroom• Teachers and students don‟t leave their gender biases at the door of the classroom (see also the findings of the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, 1992, 1999; Sadker & Sadker, 1994) where gender inequity in society is amply documented.• Because gender bias impacts girls‟ self-esteem and self-confidence negatively, it weakens their achievement, kills their ambition and lessens their accomplishment. This makes girls overall school experiences qualitatively different from boys‟. Numerous works have shown this at the theoretical level with various socio-cultural contexts in mind: Streitmatter (1994), Wellhousen & Yin (1997), Sadker (1999), and Bauer (2000), among others.• Thus: teachers (male and female) need to recognize gender bias in themselves and work towards eliminating it.
Paradox 14-Gender stereotyping abunds in the classroom. Gender bias creates gender stereotyping. The term “stereotype” initially referred to a printing stamp which was used to make multiple copies from a single model or mold. Walter Lippmann (1922) was the first scholar to adopt the term and use it as a means of describing the way society sets about categorizing people or “stamping” them with a specific set of characteristics. Lippmann identifies four major aspects of stereotypes: simplicity, secondhand acquisition, falsehood, and resistance to change. Accordingly, stereotypes are simpler than reality (often capable of being summarized in only two to three sentences), acquired from cultural mediators rather than from direct experience, false by nature (as they attempt to claim that each individual human being in a certain group shares a set of common qualities with the members of that group), and tenacious (even after centuries of recorded history, the old stereotypes relating to gender and race are still stubbornly present even in the most developed countries).
Paradox 1• Stereotypes render girls “invisible” in class (Marshall & Reinhartz, 1997, Sadker & Sadker, 1994, Sadker, 2000, 2002). Teachers (male and female) need to question commonly held beliefs about behavioral differences, segregation, expectations, and student-teacher interactions. How?-By controlling one‟s own behavior in class.-By discussing gender attitudes through videotapes for example.-By allocating the same praise, constructive feedback and consideration to girls and boys.-By being neutral when commenting on students‟ performances.-By taking into account the fact that whereas boys tend to jump on the answer girls do this less.-By questioning deeply rooted sexist attitudes and be willing to find pedagogical ways of helping pupils and understand that sexism, gender bias, and stereotypes have dire personal and professional effects.All these need awareness of the Moroccan socio-cultural background.
Paradox 1• Poor class performance leads to poor employment opportunities. According to modernization theory, a society‟s investment in education is expected to pay off in the increase of the workforce and efforts in female education are expected to pull more women into the labor force. However, female unemployment rate in Morocco is still disproportionately high relative to male unemployment. In other words, while women‟s educational attainment has increased, their participation in the labor force has not increased as expected. Paradox 1 is the most appropriated to the classroom setting. Moroccan girls are socialized in a general context where media continuously sends messages that traditional gender roles are the only guarantee of a stable family, that women‟s primary roles in society are housewife and mother. As a result, the girl‟s employment is often seen as unimportant to her and her family despite her level of educational achievement. Further, culturally, men are understood to be the breadwinners. In the Moroccan patriarchal society, many women are dependent on the male members of their family including father, brother, uncle, husband, and son.
Paradox 2• Paradox number 2, Morocco is today at the forefront of the Arab-Islamic world with respect to women‟s legal achievements, and yet in spite of some progress, Morocco counts one of the highest illiteracy rates in the region. Moroccan women‟s illiteracy is attested statistically and sociologically. Statistically, women constitute the largest illiterate portion of the Moroccan population . According to the Ministry of Education (2012) , the rate of illiteracy among the female population is 46% in urban areas and 64% in rural areas. Credible women‟s NGOs give higher rates: 56% on average in urban areas and 75% in rural areas (ADFM 2012).
Paradox 2Sociologically, the pools of illiterate women are poorer, older and frequentlyrural .For example, in the Moroccan countryside, access to education is not easy for girlsas they are less likely to be permitted to travel to school (even on foot or by publictransport) or to attend public boarding schools. Women‟s illiteracy is also a result of a trans-cultural inequality whereby men‟seducational achievement is privileged over women‟s. Illiteracy creates gender division and excludes a large portion of Moroccan womenfrom positions of decision-making, the written media and similar powerfuldomains. Cameron „s (1992: 203) words resonate here: The higher a country’s overall illiteracy rate, the wider the gap between women and men.
Paradox 2 The extent and meaning of gender and illiteracy in Moroccan culture needs to be understood within the overall educational system in the country characterized by:• Inconsistent educational policies• Instrumentalization of the ambiguity between modernity and Western ideology• Politicization of language• Instrumentatlization of religion• Hence, the urban/rural, formal/informal, public/private, structure of Moroccan education maintains an elitist delivery system of learning in terms of geographic origin, class and gender. As a result, women suffer from geography, culture and class positions in education .
Paradox 2• As a result, the majority of Moroccan women are „doubly‟ illiterate: historically, they have not had the chance to become literate in Standard Arabic and nowadays they miss literacy in their mother tongues. Within the Moroccan socio-cultural context, literacy presupposes knowledge of a written language and Moroccan Arabic and Amazigh are not considered „languages of literacy‟. The fact that Standard Arabic is a written language distances Moroccan women even further from literacy.• In sum, in Morocco, illiteracy perpetuates the gender gap between women and men and further subdues women (see similar results in Ramdas 1989, Stromsquist 1990, and Carmack 1992).
Paradox 2Overall, Paradox 2 reveals that education is not a steepingstone to greater autonomy for women. Education may lead towomen‟s higher level of social status but still as dependents.Latouff (2004) attributes this state of affairs in the Arab-Islamic world to women‟s lack of improved social status. Thesocial and cultural constraints still prevail.The general belief is that a woman can achieve a higher socialand financial status only through marriage. Families educatetheir daughters with the idea of finding them more suitablehusbands.
Paradox 3• Paradox number 3 : it is true that Moroccan women scored significant educational gains, yet it seems those gains benefit Moroccan society more than they benefit women themselves.• Moroccan women do not constitute a homogenous group and hence are not equally empowered by education.• Women‟s education is primarily seen by the state as a means of development .• For women‟s own interests to be satisfied women should be promoted as human beings with rights, foremost among them is education.
Paradox 3• Paradox 3 is a reflection of the previous two paradoxes. A combination of socio-cultural constraints and volatile educational policies render girls‟ and women‟s empowerment as individuals with educational rights invisible.• The classroom is often understood as an extension of family: it is both a public and a private space.• Only an understanding of Paradoxes 1 and 2 can allow us to start thinking about Paradox 3.
Conclusions If, as I stated in the introduction to this presentation, both gender and education are shaped by the sources of power and authority in Moroccan culture, and if gender is a significant linguistic variable in ESL/EFL experiences, then remedies to gender and educational issues can be found only inside the Moroccan socio-cultural and political context.* Western theories in the field are very helpful at a certain level of general approach, but as with everything related to gender and education, an understanding of the ground realities can in no way be circumvented in analysis. Work on „Moroccan‟ language and gender (also referred to as „feminist linguistics/sociolinguistics‟ ) falls within the wider gender/women studies and is only emerging, but it does provide genuine and promising venues of research in feminist classroom pedagogy. Our mulitlingual and multicultural context is rich enough to provide the necessary raw data and, why not, theory?