Episode 59 Transcript

Welcome to Episode 59 of the Business in
Morocco Podcast today we're going to
talk with Dr. Benmakhlouf, the founder
and director of London Academy
Casablanca this will be our second
interview with Dr. Benmakhlouf and
certainly under extraordinary
circumstances as you can see we are all
in separate locations and we are using
zoom which is a video conferencing
software so ryan take it away
so Dr. Benmakhlouf thank you so much
for being with us
we're excited to get your thoughts on
this situation especially as it relates
to online education
now London Academy is really known for
embracing technology and preparing
students for the jobs of the future so
tell us a little bit about the the
technology you're using and what school
is looking like these days for your
students and for your teachers thank you
very much for inviting me to this
podcast well I always thought that the
digital world had to transform education
but I never thought it would come this
fast and it just like hit us in a very
subtle way and we had to adjust to it
pretty fast as a school that's thrives
on technology obviously at different
levels of the school you have more
adoption of technology than others so
for example our high schoolers were very
well acquainted with blended learning
and not only we use technology such as
soon to connect with teachers locally
and internationally with the United
States but there's a lot of blended
learning so interactive education and
the students can follow the education
online from their homes or in inside the
school and that what you mean by blended
learning is that it's a mix of in-person
classroom and then online education
correct
so a lot of the contents instead of
having the teacher presenting we have an
interactive platform from the US which
is a virtual high school from the US
where the students can get the text the
videos the quizzes a lot of online and
they have sessions in school where they
are learning online and there are
sessions where they are learned in the
same courses with a teacher
now the main difference that's happening
now instead of doing those what we call
presential they're present with the
teacher we're doing a live class using
teams so that's the main difference but
they're already used to having a
platform that they can connect to and
that they can conduct or learn and
continue their learning so that's at the
high school level if you go down to the
middle school and the primary school the
middle school were easily also adaptive
to a team's platform and they're more
eager to learn and as you know there's a
lot of specialty teachers in the middle
school so you have a math teacher and
you have a science teacher and you have
a history teacher and Arabic and French
and English so there is that hunger for
learning and it's different from primary
so we reorganize the timetable we sent
it to the parents and in teams they have
a calendar and as each hour or each
session they log in and they find
themselves in a classroom and the
teacher teaches the class we use OneNote
as a virtual notebook where they will
find a lot of content whether it's text
content or a audio or video content and
exercises on what they're going to learn
and quizzes etc so there is that support
even in case the students or the teacher
cannot log in they still have that as a
backup okay we go down to the primary
school where the interaction with
the students is very important we found
that the live classes are very very
important and they are key to our
success so you'll find that there's a
lot of interaction and it's very how do
you say it's important that social
aspects for the students to look at his
t-shirt to guess that knowledge from the
teacher is quite important and we
actually we are teaching even at the
early years level at the kindergarten
level so we have actually from two years
old they're actually logging in with
their parents of course two different
sessions and they're getting classes
from their teachers but a lot of it is
mainly art or some of the Montessori
things and keeps it keeping the students
as young as they are keeping them
engaged so this is how we're driving the
school and I can tell you that our
presence rates I just measured yesterday
was above eighty percent which is quite
high so I'm very pleased with what we
were able to achieve but I'm still not
happy I would like to see more than
ninety percent and see all the classes
being delivered on time to the students
and getting the right engagements from
the students and the teachers have you
faced any challenges with your staff
with the teachers I mean the high school
students were already doing blended
learning they were combining online
content with the classroom stuff but now
your teachers who were used to doing a
lot of teaching face-to-face live are
now just staring at a screen and trying
to keep their students attention through
zoom and teams how have they adjusted
have you provided them some extra
training tell us more about that
well the main challenge is to take some
of the teachers that never had to
deliver courses online and not only have
them deliver the course but they need to
prepare for the course they need to put
it on one note they need to login they
need to schedule they need to have a
planning of the of the
that is adequate so that's when the
students come in they're ready to
deliver the class and it's it has to be
you know important enough and inter
interesting enough for those students to
be engaged so that's why I said last
week we had some instances where we
invited the teachers we actually picked
up map from their homes brought them to
schools help them with their laptops
help them with their computers set up
everything and then do hands-on training
we sent them some videos so that they
can do some online training and now we
are even doing some hand-holding where
the IT manager is taking control of
their desktop and showing them how to do
step by step especially some of the
Arabic teachers or the French teachers
who are Moroccans and never faced such a
dilemma of presenting and teaching
online mm-hmm yeah so this could go on
for weeks possibly months what do you
think will be the implications for
London Academy longer term coming out of
this how will you change your strategy
or your delivery to be honest with you I
think we were the most prepared school
for such a thing yeah first one of the
biggest challenges that every school
faces is how do I progress the students
from year to another and the fact that
we have a virtual school and we can
actually we have an accredited high
school program where the students online
can get their high school so at the top
level do you know our students can
graduate actually my son is in high
school on his last year and he's getting
his credits to be able to graduate and
he's already accepted in University in
the United States for next year so I
hope the university will be open next
year well as far as the were concerned
we are able to graduate all our students
online and that's one of the biggest
dilemmas is is this what we call in
Morocco with nanny blonde is it a white
here are we going to everybody is gonna
have to redo the year so for our case
it's not the key it's not gonna happen
because we're progress in everyone and
we have the accreditations to graduate
our students online and they will get
the accredited high school and you know
all the levels from there down so so we
are we are we are well-equipped I I
think education is gonna be different
from now on
especially somehow so can you tell us
more about that
in Morocco I was pushing technology in
education and I remember signing a
partnership with the Ministry of
Education to train 300,000 teachers on
technology but what has been achieved
last week it is a lot more than what has
been achieved in many years because all
of the sudden you're in in war and you
have to deliver and you have to connect
with the students so what we have seen
is that the ministry all of the sudden
has deployed all is learning elearning
material
everyone now is finding ways to connect
with the students so we you know we have
achieved in one week what I said a lot
more than we could achieve in many years
and I hope that this will be a learning
lesson from us for us as Morocco cannot
afford quality education in a
presidential way so that the students we
need to build schools and they need to
be inside the school in which to have a
teacher that's present with the with
those students why don't we think from
an hour about the digital way of
teaching I'm not saying that they need
to all go to YouTube I'm saying that
partially then
should be some online content and
partially they need to be like what I
call Skype like or zoom like teachers
delivering those courses online in an
interactive way I'm not saying we're
just gonna record and we're gonna put
them on YouTube no there needs to be
some interaction and we can support
those students in a very efficient and
productive way
centrally we don't need to have though
that's very good teacher sitting in in a
village somewhere in the far corner of
Morocco we can have that teacher maybe
in robot connection with the students in
some very you know far village and they
can be talking and they can understand
and they can interact so I think this is
the way education has to change both
that will have an impact economically
and in an efficient and productive and
quality size of education what about the
the costs of that I mean I guess you'd
be saving money on on buildings and
infrastructure but you know do people
have reliable internet do they have
access to the tools they need like a
laptop if they're in some remote village
in Morocco can you speak to the
challenges there we're proud to say that
we have 20 million plus Facebook users
so if you are able to access Facebook
and if you have all those smartphones
out there then what are we talking about
I think the infrastructure is already
there I think it's just a matter of
making its cost of that and making it
available to the poor people who are in
in the far for four corners of Morocco
so that they can access such technology
but I think it's much more efficient to
give internet through to the poor people
or the road
area and give them some kind of tablets
and have those classes delivered in a
synchronous or synchronous or live
method methods then have in a not such a
good teacher who is not reliable who's
gonna you know not want to go to those
villages and teach because with the
technology we can guarantee a minimum of
education I'm not saying that we don't
need the teachers to be in rural areas
but the role of the teacher will change
that teacher is gonna be a facilitator
he's not going to be the source of
knowledge anymore and the source of
knowledge or the main source of
knowledge is gonna come from the
Internet using those devices by those
students yeah yeah doctor I think this
is a it's a great initiative I think
you're definitely on the right path in
terms of of the direction you're heading
integrating technology into education
one of the things that I'm reading about
right now
regarding this virus and the economic
impacts is that the commercial real
estate sector specifically in the United
States is very worried because they
believe that everyone's going to work
from home right now I mean you have
places like the whole state of
California New York are on lockdown and
everyone is getting used to working from
home and using all these tools like
slack like Microsoft teams like zoom and
so the idea that your students would
graduate having already used all of
these tools seems to give them an
advantage in the economy of the future
do you have more ideas on that in terms
of preparing these students for for what
the work relationships will be in the
next 10 years or the way the
international business will get done I
think this this pandemic has really III
think this will be a time in history
that will always be remembered because
this pandemic
forced us to get into the information
age
full speed ahead with the total
interruption in a destructive manner so
all the business models the traditional
business models all the traditional ways
of doing things have to change after the
after last week so when we look at
medicine for example I think health is
becoming something of now not something
of the future where you don't need to go
see the doctor physically we can do a
lot of screening on you know on a tool
like what we're using now whether it is
the interaction with the governments the
interaction with the administration and
interactive interaction with the banks
interaction with businesses you know has
to change we cannot continue doing the
the the old ways now the impacts on
countries like ours developing countries
I believe is gonna be much higher than
the impacts on on developed countries
because we are able we'll be able to
leapfrog join the information economy
much faster than other countries I
understand that you know the reals
commercial real estate is gonna be
impacted I understand that the malls
will be impacted I understand that the
even the airlines are going to be
impacted and has so many impacts but
this is a new reality and we have to
live with that and what do we prepare
our students for that's the main
question I see for areas where we need
to really prepare our students for the
first one is definitely technology we
need to have technology savvy students
because without technology they won't be
able to do much in the future number two
is
all this climate change we need to
people need to know about climate change
they need we need to have specialists on
this climate change we don't know I mean
this thing hit us tomorrow we can have
massive earthquakes or for God God
forbid some kind of asteroid hit our our
our earth you know so many things that
are happening or these major tsunamis
around the world so we need to be ready
for that and we need to have
knowledgeable people about that number
three is all about health and when I
talk about health it's not talking about
doctors look at the lack of disparity
devices that we are lacking all over the
world and that that needs engineers that
means what I call biomedical engineers
and we need to have a lot more of those
there's love compose or parts of our
body that can be replaced with
artificial parts and we need to have
knowledge about that we need to be able
to predict diseases we need to be able
to know from our DNA if somebody's gonna
have a lima in the future or some kind
of virus that's may awaken at any time
so we need to have a new age of medicine
and not to rely on on what we was was
before and the last thing is all these
geopolitical changes are have been
around the world
you know how something happening in
Syria can affect all of Europe and this
pandemic how it can affect the whole war
so we need to have people who can manage
this better and I don't think the
traditional government the way it was
set up and all these Parliament's are
effective way today to manage such a
crisis so these are what I believe the
four areas that we need to raise our
children to learn more about and they
can be ready for the 21st century yeah
that's good
those are great great points do you have
any advice for for teachers I know
there's a lot of people that that's
their their their business that's their
trade
and they're used to going into a
classroom and physically delivering
content typically being that source of
knowledge do you have any advice for
people in that line of work well I I
think the teachers also need to adapt to
today's changes teaching in in the
presence of students is you know we have
seen now the limitations of it and to
prepare class online is totally
different then prepare in a class in a
you know in inside the classroom so and
that's taking a lot of efforts on a lot
of energy so my only advice is there's a
lot of tools out there like OneNote
where you can host text videos you can
interact with the students you can give
you can give exams I think also Google
classroom does the same thing so you
need to really master these tools you
need to really masters how depending on
your school whether the school is using
zoom or teams or Google whatever you
need to really miss or master the
communication and master the way you're
gonna deliver the content and when
you're gonna master these two you will
be able to supply the students with the
knowledge that you're gonna upload on
one knows for example as even if he
cannot be connected they should be able
to learn by themselves and so the main
thing at the end of the day is we need
to teach students how they can learn by
themselves that's the one of the main
objectives we need to set for ourselves
you mentioned changes to healthcare what
what are you hearing in terms of the
healthcare impact here in Morocco how is
the system functioning have you heard
have you gotten any feedback regarding
the situation at hospitals or clinics in
terms of
as virus well to be honest with you I I
haven't I'm reading as everyone and I'm
receiving all this vid the all this
knowledge is being shared but what I
know is that they asked the Morocco a
cellar and of a true step systems so if
somebody feels that they may have
contracted the corona virus they call a
number and they send actually a team
that will take the sample from that
person and we did a few hours they know
whether that person has it or not if
that person has it they will come and
pick pick up that person take him to the
hospital and his family stays on
quarantine to make sure that nobody else
has it so these are I see as ghosts now
the sooner we find out if someone has it
is key for us to limit the impact of
this this virus and that's why I would
love to see people to be able to contact
different doctors on film so that at
least the doctor can see the patients
you can see some of the external signs
can tell them okay can you measure the
temperature and tell me can he see how
his coughing can hear him coughing okay
and that will be a step that will screen
a lot of people who may be shy from
calling that number if you make it easy
for them to call on a word stop or on a
on a Skype or a news room or something I
think that will limits the impacts that
coronavirus has all over all over the
country and all over the world so but
there's other aspects of medicine that I
think should not be neglected is as
people being confined there's some
psychological aspects and impacts on the
ponder on the people and I think having
psychologist and psychiatrist
impacts in reducing some of the
long-lasting problems that that the
people will keep after hopefully this
virus is over yeah from my point of view
the people at least here in Casablanca
have taken this virus very seriously
everyone is doing the social distancing
clearly most people are staying home and
not going down into public and you know
obeying sort of this shut down how long
do you think that the economy can can
really bear this kind of shut down with
everyone staying home and not going to
work and are you hearing about what are
companies doing are they laying people
off are they just putting them on
furlough what are your thoughts on that
the economic impact well I'm not an
economists and I don't claim to be an
economist but I will answer you as a as
a head of an company and how you know
things will will lay out in the coming
weeks one of the first dates that will
really impacts Moroccans at the end of
the month as you know minimal archons
are paid at the end of the month so I'm
sure that the government's would fulfill
its obligation with governments workers
but are the private sector is able to
fulfill its obligation with its
employees and very big challenge there
are companies who do have the
relationships and have the guarantees
and the collateral to to guarantee the
cash flow and continue paying their
employees until this crisis is over but
the majority that's one aspects of
things the other aspects is more than
50% of the economy is in the black
market 50
son of the Moroccans or more live day
today you know that taxi driver who
collects money every day that person who
sells the vegetables in the street so
that you know there's a lot of people
who live day to day and that's where the
huge impact and god forbid if these
people can't find what to eat I don't
think they can sustain to become find in
their homes they will have to go out and
work and that's where the impact on
their health is gonna be in an
exponential way so the government is
taking steps I'm hearing that they are
going to deliver money to the needy
people by phones like the EM pays us
that's happened in Kenya they're talking
about 2,000 their homes they talking
about covering any employed people so
these are good steps I'm very positive
about these steps I don't think we're
prepared for it but it shows that we are
unified as people as a country just
follow this problem for all of us
because as whole as it's a chain
reaction you know if you can't pay that
person and that person does not have
money to buy what to eat and then the
person who's trying to sell him
something cannot sell it to him then is
it's a whole chain reaction that is
negative spiral so we need to keep that
positive spiral going and keep the
spirits up until hopefully some kind of
vaccine appears and this will solve all
our problem but going forward even if
this happens and we find a vaccine and
this problem is is over
I think the humanity needs to prepare
itself for worst scenarios and we should
have a new way of approaching such such
problems I think we were taken by
surprise
I remember publishing a video about just
where I told the schools guys be ready
be ready technologically such a thing
may happen and on the same day the
Ministry of Education
I stopped all the schools from working
upcoming Monday so I think this is a
reality that we have to live with and we
need to be better prepared for the
future going forward in education do you
see it being government that really
leads the change and the shift towards
more digital education or do you think
it'll be private institutions here in
Morocco that that really instigate this
change I mean because today 85% of the
students are still in government-run
education or public sector there is
there is no way that the private sector
can replace that now the private sector
in partnership with the public sector we
can do a lot of things we can learn from
each other I think we are as a private
sector or more agile to implement things
that the government's cannot do that
fast so there is an opportunity for a
public-private partnership at the same
time the resources are still with the
government's money financial resources
and they must have the biggest impact so
definitely the government needs to play
a role in public education and we are
here to help if we are needed yeah I
hope to see the day where where you and
your staff are acting as consultants to
bring public schools online learn from
what you've learned that would be very
exciting to see that rolled out more
widely we are we are doing that's
already I think our teachers and myself
are talking holes I've been talking to
even government people on how we're
doing it and I hope that's our case can
be looks at carefully and other schools
can follow the same steps yeah that's
excellent what right do you have any
more questions I think we've covered a
lot I think that's good yeah been really
helpful so thank you very much for
inviting me
the you know like stay home stay safe
thank you Dr. Benmakhlouf it's been a
privilege to hear from your experience
and what London Academy is doing and
also oh yeah your vision of what the
future could look like a lot of
challenges we're gonna face in the
future but a lot of opportunities and
thank you for being the exemplary and in
leading leading the changes that are
taking place thank you very much and I
wish to you and to your families in
Morocco and all over the world in the
United States that they stay safe and we
hope that this pandemic will go away as
soon as possible thank you
yeah you too thank you doctor have a
good week thank you

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