This multidisciplinary study examines the chronic crisis and exclusion that has characterised the development of school education in Morocco. After highlighting the failure of social reproduction theory to account for inequality in access to schooling when applied to educational development in the South, the study provides a historical overview of the expansion of primary education in Morocco over the course of the 20th century, as well as the incomplete reform and resulting marginalisation of traditional Muslim education. Failure to reach universal primary education goals since Independence in 1956 is explained in terms of a combination of factors, including ; the inequitable patterns of public funding observed since 1960, the weight of poverty in shaping household demand for basic schooling, and the complex interplay between primary schooling, poverty and Quranic education in disadvantaged and rural areas