AUI events - Study Day: "Challenges and avenues to early grade literacy instruction in Morocco"

Study Day: "Challenges and avenues to early grade literacy instruction in Morocco"

Hosted by: The School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The event will start on: 20 Mar 20 10:00
And will end on: 20 Mar 20 17:30
Location : Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco


Outcomes of early grade literacy instruction in Arabic have generally been inadequate as pointed out by several studies (UNDP, PIRLS, PNEA, EGRA,  ..). In Morocco, PIRLS results have consistently been quite poor. As early grade reading is a well-known determinant of school success, education authorities have tried to bring solutions to the problem, but results have continued to be below expectations. In the last five years, curricula and textbooks have been changed twice and new instructions and training programs on how to improve the results of reading instruction have been developed. Although there are indications, still to be confirmed, that progress is being made, some issues that have often been considered as peripheral are coming to the fore and calling for attention. These are concerns about testing and evaluation and questions about the learning environment, from home to the classroom.

The purpose of the proposed Round Table is to address some of these concerns.

 1.     Vision of the national education strategy (2020-2030)

First, a review of research on learning as part of the national education strategy (2020-2030) will be addressed as well as the lessons learned from its implementation in schools.

The second study consists in a report on an on-going large-scale study of early grade learning and teaching that uses ethnographic methods to study classroom communication and interaction and delves into the daily life of young schoolchildren examining their social environment especially in rural and peri-urban areas. Who speaks, who listens, who asks, who answers, what place for imagination, and for group work, what skills are valued and rewarded? These are questions that studies in education point to as essential for successful learning.

 2.     Testing and evaluation

Testing and evaluation rarely get adequate space in teacher training programs. As education authorities have been trying to get new teachers to the classroom as soon as possible to fill the pressing needs, not much time is sometimes reserved for adequate training. The first approach to literacy instruction difficulties that we propose is to examine first grade children’s misspelling as one of the crucial components of early literacy acquisition. It is highly predictive of subsequent reading success, and more importantly it reflects children’s understanding that sounds in language can be represented by abstract symbols in print, a key factor to becoming literate in any society. The study will reveale some of the many factors that should be taken into consideration when testing and evaluating first grade students' ability to spell.

Other literacy difficulties may be due to causes other than inadequate instruction. Dyslexia is a reading and writing disorder that needs to be recognized and differentiated from more common types of literacy problems. We will present, in the second approach, a medical school study that targeted Arabic speaking children from grades 2 to 6 and elaborated a battery of diagnostic tests that may be helpful for educators. The general objective would be to draw attention to the disorder and to try and get educators and applied linguists to pursue the research and development venues that may help develop ways of identifying dyslexic children early enough for them to receive the right attention. 

The third approach to literacy instruction difficulties that we propose is to develop an instrument that is simple enough and adaptable to early grade classes. We start from an existing instrument, EGRA, which has been used in some Arab countries and in Morocco. We use it to evaluate the impact of the new phonics and syllable approach on student reading abilities in Grade 2 in a school that has been part of the pilot group. EGRA seems to have been quickly adopted and adapted to Arab classroom environments and it would benefit from a close examination of its validity and reliability.  

3.     ICT in schools 

Intelligent tutoring systems have recently made many strides and, for well-resourced languages such as English, there are already applications being used in schools to help children read correctly and develop fluency. These tools, with the aid of Automatic Speech Recognition software, can help detect reading difficulties, assess the level at which the child is reading, and give the child the individualized attention that s/he needs to advance towards the appropriate level of reading. The fourth approach concerns text readability assessment research targeting Arabic language. New attention has been given to this topic with the use of machine learning techniques to create models that can classify texts into a small number of difficulty levels based on specific features. More work is needed to bring the accuracy of classification higher while simultaneously using finer discriminations for level of difficulty and information from the language curriculum. Tools resulting from automatic readability assessment research also have good potential for helping textbook writers select and/or modify texts for readers remaining sensitive to general skill and reading maturity levels of groups of different ages, as well as individual readers. 

Programme provisoire

Salle de Conférences, Bâtiment 2 





Bilan des recherches faits sur l'apprentissage dans le cadre de la vision stratégique 2020-2030. (en arabe)

Mouncef Abdelhak, Conseil Supérieur de l'Education, Rabat.                                         


تقييم اكتساب القراءة في ظل إصلاح المنهاج واعتماد جيل جديد من الكتب المدرسية.

Fouad Chafiqi, MOE, Rabat                                                




التعلّمات في المدرسة المغربية.

Khalid Mouna et Zhour Bouzidi, My Ismail University, Meknes




Role of spelling in reading and writing acquisition.

Mina Afkir, Hassan II University, Casablanca


Dyslexie (en français).

Faris Alaoui & Ahlam Elmoutez, Mohamed V University, Rabat


EGRA & PIRLS : évaluation des tests internationaux (en arabe).

Abdellah Chekayri & Mohamed Dahbi, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane.




Readibility of texts in Arabic (en français).

Violetta Cavalli Sforza Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane.


TICE et promotion de la lecture en arabe (en arabe).

Hassan Darhmaoui Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane.


Discussion & conclusions