Muslim school girls in Vienna © WwB

Austria - Learning to Live Together

A Research Project on Muslim and Non-Muslim Students, Parents, and Teachers in Austria

On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Education, Art, and Culture we conducted two research projects: Lived School Partnerships: For a Culture of Encounters in School. Intercultural Parent-Teacher Cooperation and Learning to Live Together in School. Students with a History of Migration in Austria.

The goal of the research projects was to document the daily realities of students aged 14-18 with migratory Muslim backgrounds in Austria as well as to uncover deficits and prejudices. Non-Islamic students in the same age range but without a history of migration were also questioned as a control group.

Individual and group discussions provided insight into the adolescents’ worlds. The guiding research questions: what does these young people’s social environment look like? Where do they position themselves? How do they get along with their classmates? How are interactions in school? What are the socio-culturally determined differences between Muslim students and those without a Muslim background? How do they organize their day-to-day activities? What role does religion play in their daily understanding of life, in their value construction, and in public? How much influence do their parents have?

The second part of the study concerned the interaction between parents and students with histories of migration and the students’ teachers. For some time, articles and reports on how to work together across cultural lines in school as well as the interaction between educational institutions and parents have dominated the discussion in both the public sphere and in the field of education.

Schools are beginning to play a growing role in current discussions of migration. Communication between teachers and the parents of students with a migratory background is increasingly being defined as the “missing link” and critical factor for successfully living together. Surveys clearly show the trend among parents of children who have migrated in the past to appear less frequently at parent-teacher meetings and at other school events. Mothers are often invisible and therefore not contact persons when it comes to daily school activities, and fathers tend to avoid interaction with teachers, especially if they are female. This point is a critical signal for the concerned children in regard to general acceptance of women’s equality. Female teachers are sometimes confronted by male youths with a history of migration, who openly voice their critical views of women and display macho tendencies, and who generally have issues interacting with female peers.

The goal of this study was to identify and address these problems, and to determine strategies to positively overcome the issues.


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