The comparative schooling experiences of Muslim girls in Brisbane secondary schools

  • Huma Kanwal

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This study investigated, from a comparative perspective, the lived schooling experiences of Muslim girls studying in secondary state and Islamic schools in Brisbane. It was grounded in the contemporary Australian context of Muslim immigration into a substantially non-Islamic culture where Muslims have often been seen as ‘different’ and where international events have often seen Muslims portrayed as enemies of Western liberal democracies, fuelling Islamophobia and the negative stereotyping of Muslims. An initial review of research and scholarly literature identified five challenges impacting significantly on the schooling experiences of Muslim girls in that context: (1) managing Islamophobia and the negative stereotyping of Muslims,(2) experiencing education that supports the development of an Islamic way of life,(3) managing their academic achievement,(4) managing their identity formation, and (5) participating in school sport and physical education. A lack of comparative research into the schooling experiences of Muslim girls in Secondary state and Islamic schools in Queensland was identified, particularly with respect to those noted challenges. Those five challenges identified were taken, then, as defining five focal points for the study: (1) the girls’ interactive experiences with their non-Muslim peers and teachers,(2) the girls’ experiences of their school’s accommodation of their religious needs,(3) the girls’ academic experiences in their schooling,(4) the girls’ experiences of managing their identity formation at school, and (5) the girls’ experiences of participation in school sport and physical education. To address those five focal points, a phenomenological research approach was used, centring on Muslim girls in both state and Islamic schools in Brisbane. The data were obtained through in-depth narrative interviews with twenty-four Muslim students across four state and two Muslim secondary schools. Supplementary data were also obtained using similar interviews with seven teachers and six parents of the girls interviewed. Data analysis followed the procedures articulated in interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA). Seven conclusions were drawn from the study: (1) that, although interpersonal challenges were experienced in both types of school, the way in which the challenges were managed by the schools differed across the two school types; (2) that both types of school were seen as appropriately accommodating the religious needs of Muslim girls; (3) that Muslim girls in the state schools had high educational and career aspirations, whereas Muslim girls in the Islamic schools had more moderate educational and career aspirations – Muslim girls in the state schools had a significant orientation to STEM academic and career pathways, whereas Muslim girls in the Islamic schools were more oriented to health and physical education pathways; (4) Muslim girls experienced a diversity of subject choices in the state schools, but in the Islamic schools they experienced quite limited choices; (5) Muslim girls in the state schools experienced successful integration with the wider Australian society, but in the Islamic schools, they saw themselves as struggling in integrate; (6) Muslim girls in the state schools were developing strong Muslim identities, whereas in the Islamic schools they were developing their ethnic identities; and (7) Muslim girls in the Islamic schools were actively participating in school-based sport and physical education, but in the state schools, Muslim girls’ participation in sport and physical education was minimal. Six key implications were drawn from those findings for educational practice: (1) that state schools should ensure that all teachers and students have a good understanding of Islamic practices pertinent to schooling; (2) that state schools should ensure that they provide appropriate opportunities for Muslim students to exercise their religious commitments; (3) that state schools should pay particular attention to providing for the inclusive engagement of Muslim girls in school sport and physical education; (4) that Islamic schools should pay more attention to providing a wider range of school subject choices, responding to the contemporary higher educational and vocational options open to girls; (5) that co-educational Islamic schools should pay particular attention to providing appropriate single-sex educational activities to respect Islamic traditions; and (6) that Islamic schools should pay particular attention to helping their female students integrate into the wider Australian society. Recommendations for further research arising from the study are for undertaking a follow-up study of the girls in this study to track their post-school educational and vocational pathways and achievements; comparative research across Australian states and territories to examine the response of both state and Islamic schools to the educational, cultural and religious needs of Muslim girls; and a further study of the type here undertaken that includes the perspectives on non-Muslim peers of the Muslim girls.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra
SupervisorRichard Bagnall (Supervisor), Robyn Jorgensen (Supervisor) & Tom Lowrie (Supervisor)

Cite this

The comparative schooling experiences of Muslim girls in Brisbane secondary schools
Kanwal, H. (Author). 2018

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis