CourseraProvide job-ready skills to reduce university dropout rates in Morocco

Provide job-ready skills to reduce university dropout rates in Morocco

With high student attrition on bachelor’s degree programmes, learners must be supported to manage the transition from high school and equipped with the skills employers demand

Round table held in November 2021.

Teaching skills and embedding technology to offer learners a more personal pathway can help reduce university dropout rates in Moroccan universities.

A Times Higher Education round table, held in partnership with Coursera, asked panellists from academia and industry in Morocco what strategies institutions could adopt to retain students.

Chair Ashton Wenborn, special projects deputy editor at THE, said universities in Morocco had the opportunity to reduce student attrition by adopting more flexible teaching and learning models powered by digital tools. She asked the panel what was causing bachelor’s degree students to drop out and how this could be reduced.

Cherif Belfekih, executive director of institutional research and effectiveness at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, said that the Ministry of Higher Education in Morocco should carry out a study into the reasons students drop out. He said out of every 100 first-year students who enrol in the country’s higher education institutions, only about 30 graduate with a degree.

“I feel students drop out because they lack purpose, and they lack job-readiness skills. They don’t see the end. They don’t see themselves as doing something that will guarantee their future. That lack of prospective employment probably discourages them from continuing,” Belfekih said.

Moroccan universities moved to the bachelor’s system from the licence-master-doctorate system in September 2021, and panellists agreed that some students were underprepared.

Fatima-Zohra Iflahen, vice-president of Cadi Ayyad University, said there were several reasons for student attrition, including the transition from high school to university. 

“Nothing is done during high school, middle school and primary school to equip students to have critical thinking skills, to be creative, to be innovative, to work in groups,” Iflahen said. “It’s like small islands. Primary school is an island, middle school is an island, high school is an island and higher education is another island. And each of these islands are drifting away from the others without any type of connection between them.”

Kacem Rharrab, professor at Abdelmalek Essaâdi University, said the university had designed a soft skills programme for students focused on things like communication and teamwork. He said without these sorts of skills, graduates would struggle to find employment given the rapid pace of technological change.

“We can have lots of graduate engineers in something like artificial intelligence, but the university cannot change the programme frequently. So even three or four years after, students on the same programme will have difficulty finding a job,” he said.

Mike Howard, director of partnerships at Coursera, said that about 20,000 Moroccan students had taken courses on the platform when it was made available for free at the height of the pandemic. As well as soft – or human – skills, Coursera offered courses on emerging skills such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cybersecurity.

“I think the use of technology and online learning, and how that is blended with face-to-face learning, can actually be a solution to a lot of the issues,” Howard said. “The more you can integrate online learning, the more you can increase the capacity…If you can do that lecture part online, through an integrated and active learning methodology, then you can free up the teacher time to maybe have more interesting, smaller discussions and maybe be able to address the students’ problems on an individual or personalised level.”

The panel:

  • Cherif Belfekih, executive director of institutional research and effectiveness, Al Akhawayn University
  • Mike Howard, director of partnerships, Coursera
  • Fatima-Zohra Iflahen, vice-president, Université Cadi Ayyad
  • Kacem Rharrab, professor, L’Université Abdelmalek Essaâdi
  • Ashton Wenborn, special projects deputy editor, Times Higher Education (chair)

Watch the round table on demand above or on the THE Connect YouTube channel.

Find out more about Coursera for Campus.

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