Multicultural Education and Immigrant Children: The Case of Muslim Children in Canadian Schools

  • Author / Creator
    Amjad, Afshan
  • This study investigated Muslim elementary school students’ classroom experiences in Alberta. The central question of the study was: How do Muslim children experience schooling in Canada? Although existing studies have examined the experiences of Muslim high school, college, and university students, no research has focused specifically on Muslim elementary school children’s classroom experiences in Alberta prior to this study. I expect that my study will fill this gap in the literature. The study used an interpretive inquiry approach in which the interpretation of dialogues from interviews with children about their lived experiences of schooling served as a foundation for critical analysis of school culture. Upon completion of my candidacy and ethics approval, I sought consent to interview Muslim immigrant children and youth who were born outside of Canada and were currently attending mainstream Canadian schools. I interviewed seven participants—three males and four females aged 11 to 18 years. All my participants self-identified as Muslims. All were from the Sunni sect of Islam and from middle-class families from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. I conducted two to three interviews with each participant over the course of one year. The interviews used pre-interview activities and mainly open-ended questions (Ellis, 2006; Ellis, Hetherington, Lovell, McConaghy, & Viczko, 2013). To analyze the data, I used “narrative analysis” (Polkinghorne, 1995) to first create individual narrative portraits followed by what Polkinghorne (1995) describes as “analysis of narratives” to examine selected experiences across all participants. The study results provide important insights into the lives of Muslim immigrant children who are trying to adapt to their host country while maintaining their family and community religious beliefs and practices. According to my findings, there are clear signs of the presence of Islamophobia (a form of discrimination rooted in negative stereotypes that affect the behaviours and beliefs of non-Muslims about Muslims [Abu-Laban & Dhamoon, 2009; Fekete, 2001]) in Canadian schools. Through analysis of the data I reconcile the conclusion that although the Muslim children who participated in my study liked the flexibility of the Canadian education system and found it better than their previous school experiences, these children were marginalized in their schools in various ways, either through biased curricula, discriminatory school cultures, or negative and unfair attitudes on the part of their peers, teachers, and school administrators. Some of the children shared their positive experiences of developing a few good relationships with their peers after periods of loneliness and isolation; however, most of the experiences they shared with me were coloured with discrimination. Four main themes emerged from the data: relationships with peers; teachers’ attitudes; neighbouring community behaviour; and the role of the media. Within each theme are several subthemes. One unanticipated outcome of my study was my participants’ suggestions to the “next generation” of Muslim children who will attend schools in Alberta, as well as to their teachers and administrators. I present a few recommendations for policy and practice based on these suggestions. Lastly, based on my own understanding of issues related to Muslim children’s schooling from my personal experiences and those of my participants, I introduce additional recommendations for policy makers, administrators, teachers, and future research.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Elementary Education
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Dr. Anna Kirova
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. Sophie Yohani (Educational Psychology)
    • Dr. Julia Ellis (Elementary Education)
    • Dr. Ozlem Sensory (Education)
    • Dr. Lynette Shultz (Policy Studies)