In ninth grade classrooms throughout Morocco this fall, students will gain a deeper understanding of their roles and responsibilities as citizens of the North African democracy. The lessons and materials were developed through the Civic Education Partnership Initiative (CEPI) and under the watchful eye of Alden Craddock, PhD, director of Maryville’s new Center for Civic Engagement and Democracy.
“Although Morocco is a monarchy, King Mohammed VI is very interested in citizenship,” Craddock said. “The curriculum is based on a proclamation he made which in effect describes what he thinks young people need to know as citizens.”
Recently, Craddock traveled to Morocco to kick off the first in a series of workshops to prepare teachers to use the new lesson plans and teaching methodologies necessary for active citizenship. Participating teachers work in schools located in seven of 16 different regions throughout the country and were selected by the Moroccan Ministry of Education.
Why Promote Democratic Citizenship?
Promoting democratic citizenship is important to Moroccans on several important levels, Craddock said, noting that the ninth grade was chosen for the project because that’s the last year students are together before they’re tracked according to interests and abilities.
“The ninth grade marks one last opportunity to reach out to students and teach them the content, skill and attitudes that the King says they should know,” Craddock said. In general terms, the sovereign wants students to understand their country’s unique place in history, learn about its multicultural heritage and know the rights and responsibilities of Moroccan citizenship, he said.
How is the Initiative Funded?
The CEPI program is funded by a three-year, $1.6 million grant awarded in 2006 by Higher Education for Development with funding from the Middle East Partnership Initiative of the US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development. The partnership originated at Bowling Green State University, where Craddock was previously based, and is in the process of moving to Maryville University. Along with the Moroccan Ministry of Education, Hassan II University, Casablanca Teacher Training Institute and the Moroccan Center for Civic Education are also partners in CEPI.
Following a model developed by Craddock in partnerships in Poland, Ukraine and South Africa, CEPI is founded on the importance of cultural relevance and professional development.
About the Curriculum
The new curriculum is based on universal democratic principles but tailored to Moroccan cultural and educational needs. Most importantly, the materials are developed by Moroccan educators and premised on their understanding and desires for democracy. The companion teacher education materials and a university level course will both reinforce the teaching and learning about democracy at additional levels of the education system.
To understand the impact of the 9th grade curriculum, Craddock is also working his Moroccan partners to design and implement an assessment of student learning and teacher practice. In all of these efforts, he stresses the importance of his model’s professional development approach,
“In all of our efforts, we seek to help our colleagues develop strengths in areas where they have identified needs,” Craddock said. “We don’t simply translate our materials or tell our colleagues what to do. Instead we work with them to identify their goals and needs and then work with them to build the capacity to achieve their own goals.”
Online Civics Education Resource Developed
In addition, the CEPI project has developed – through a partnership with the Center for Civic Education in Calabasas, Calif. – an online, international resource inventory of best practices in civics education. The Civic Education Resource Inventory (CERI) is viewed as growing online database for educators from around the world to share their experiences and materials.
Craddock has devoted his professional career to citizenship education based on the belief that good citizens of democracy are taught not born.
“Democratic societies are only as good as their citizens,” he said. “If we believe in democracy then we must invest in preparing our young people to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens. This is true for the U.S. and all other democracies around the world.”
This is certainly true in his latest partnership with Morocco, Craddock said.
“They’re interested in developing a society that is innovative, open and creative without the same things we don’t want here – the excesses,” he said. “By establishing a strong citizenry, Morocco is in many ways combating extremism and terrorism. If we want our students to understand what’s become an important place in the Arab world and at the same time be safe, Morocco provides tremendous opportunities for that.”
Craddock hopes his work with CEPI in Morocco will provide an entrée for Maryville University faculty, staff and students to explore this increasingly important part of the world. A fusion of Arab, African and European influences, Morocco has a long history of good political and trade relations with the western world. Tourism is the number one industry, English is spoken widely and Moroccans are welcoming – so it’s easy for Americans to travel there. (In fact, Morocco was the first country in the world to recognize the independence of the fledgling United States in 1776.).
Maryville to Host International Conference
As a first step in this and other international collaborations, Maryville University’s Center for Civic Engagement and Democracy will host an international conference, “Gateway to the World,” on citizenship education in November in the President’s Conference Center. The conference will bring together educators from Morocco and other Maryville partnership sites, along with peers from the St. Louis area, to share best practices in citizenship education and establish connections for future collaboration.
For more information on the Gateway to the World conference, visit the website.