Muslim students surprised by little homework in NZ

27 March 2013

Virtually all Muslim students studying in Christchurch find there is very little homework for New Zealand school children, a UC researcher has found.

Muslim students surprised by little homework in NZ - Imported from Legacy News system

UC PhD student Erin Loo.

Virtually all Muslim students studying in Christchurch find there is very little homework for New Zealand school children, a University of Canterbury (UC) researcher has found.

UC PhD social work student Erin Loo said the Muslim students studying in Christchurch were used to having to cope with substantial homework back in their home country.

"They are extremely worried that they cannot cope when they return to their home country as some are here with their parents who are international students themselves.

"Despite that, the majority say they would recommend their current school to their friends back home and hope to return or continue to New Zealand universities in future.

"The study is ongoing but what is important to schools and social workers, is the fact that in working with Muslim clients the support of their family and community cannot be excluded. They form part of the client’s identity and support network. Engagement with Muslim students needs to be ongoing and not a one off," Loo said.

Her research examines in detail the experience of Muslim students in Christchurch schools. Loo said it was believed to be a first of its kind in New Zealand.

The project hopes to find out how the psycho-social aspects of young Muslims are impacted, how students cope and the implications for school counselling and social work with minority youths.

The study in Christchurch looks at Muslim students from ages 10 to 18 and includes Singaporean, Malaysian, Saudi, Iraqi and Somali children.

Early findings suggest that while some of them struggle with communication in the beginning, many find schools and friends welcoming and are able to integrate into the school system once they overcome the language barrier.

"For those born here, or who came when they were very young, they see themselves as Kiwis. They take to rugby and the All Blacks and are fans of Shortland Street. The only difference is their faith.

"They have no problem socialising at school or out of school. Many cite the large space in Christchurch schools as liberating and enjoy school camps and outdoor activities very much. 

"Their Kiwi teachers and classmates are mostly curious about the Muslim way of life and the Muslim students have taken proudly to explaining and sharing information about Islam. The reciprocal relationship promotes the wellbeing of both parties at school.

"They also find the majority of schools extremely respectful of their needs at school by providing space for prayers, excused from swimming especially for the girls who can’t swim with the boys and understand when they cannot participate in strenuous activities during the holy month of Ramadan.  

"Girls have it harder than boys especially if they wear head scarves. They have been teased and called names but they are isolated incidents and only in the beginning. It does not last. The girls feel hurt but not angry and they depend on their faith and parents for emotional support," Loo said.

Loo’s research is being supervised by Dr Andrew Frost, Dr Annabel Taylor and Dr Mohamad Alayan and has received a Building Research Capability in the Social Sciences grant from the Tertiary Education Commission. 


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