In some ways the Moroccan education system is similar to that of the U.S., but there are also some striking differences. Students here attend classes 6 days of the week. School goes from 8:00 to noon, then has a two hour break for lunch, and afterwards reconvenes from 2:00 to 6:00. The system here is based on the European model; there are national exams in every subject at the end of each year, culminating in baccalaureate exams, which determine whether a student will get into a university.
Classes are about the same size as IHS, but the school has far fewer resources. There are no honors classes, however students are separated according to subject emphasis. So some students are in the science track, some are in the humanities track, etc. Once you are in a designated track your classes are pretty much prescribed and you travel with the same peers all day. Everyone takes classes in Arabic (the language of instruction), English and French, as well as Islamic studies, sciences, "maths" as it called social studies and technology. As you might expect, students are unfailingly polite. Everyone is well dressed and attentive. Students sit in pairs and it is common for them to greet each other upon entering the classroom by kissing both cheeks, ie. boys kiss boys, and girls kiss girls. Picture that in IHS.
One of Morocco's greatest educational challenges is that many students (45%) drop out before they finish high school. In contrast to "No Child Left Behind" America, Morocco has more of a Sink or Swim attitude. Although I observed several excellent teachers today, I noticed that none of them called on students by name, but rather relied upon volunteers. At no point did I see a student ask a question on their own initiative. Students sit where they wish, so in the back of every classroom there is a collection of students who do little work, don't really understand what's going on, don't get called on, and are not encouraged to ask for help. These are next year's drop outs.
At the front of the room are the best and brightest, and they are extremely bright. Today I heard discussions on human rights, the role of the United Nations, and the pros and cons of global education. In one particularly poignant exchange a girl discussed her desire to study medicine in France, but said it was important to her to be allowed to wear a headscarf. (I have not seen any full burqas, but about half the girls do wear head scarves, known as hijabs. These are now banned in France.) She made a pretty strong case, citing right to education, freedom of movement, freedom of expression and religious freedom.