Carving in stone: the educational efforts of Iraqi mothers in Australia

2017-02-27T22:30:35Z (GMT) by Jamal Al-deen, Taghreed
This thesis investigates ways in which a group of Muslim Iraqi migrant mothers experience their involvement in their children’s education in Australia. Following migration, the lives of these mothers are located in two different countries: Iraq and Australia. The thesis shows how mothers’ practices and beliefs regarding their children’s education have a complex connection with their religious, cultural and social values and beliefs, their upbringing, and schooling experiences back in their birth country, Iraq. Their mothering work, therefore, transcends time (past and present) and space (Iraq and Australia). The study focuses on the interplay of ethnicity, gender, class and religion embedded in Iraqi migrant mothers’ lives and the relationship of these factors with their children’s education. This research draws on in-depth interviews conducted with twenty-five Iraqi Muslim mothers from different social and educational backgrounds whose children were enrolled in primary and secondary, public and private, including Islamic, schools in Melbourne. Bourdieu’s concepts of ‘cultural capital’, ‘habitus’ and ‘field’ were used to analyse the way these mothers engage with their children’s schooling, their practices, beliefs and attitudes about, and understandings of, the education system in Australia and the way these have shaped their interactions with schools. The findings show that the traditional relationship between parental engagement with children’s education and cultural capital differs in the case of migrant mothers. I argue that the level of involvement is not necessarily compatible with the level of cultural capital mothers hold but, rather, explains the extent to which mothers’ involvement is effective. Therefore, I constructed a set of three analytical categories to identify the differences amongst the mothers in relation to their involvement in their children’s schooling. These categories are: High capital-highly involved (HC-HI), Low capital-highly involved (LC-HI), and Low capital-minimal direct involvement (LC-MDI).This study shows that Iraqi migrant mothers’ attitudes to, and participation in, education and school choice in Australia are varying, ambiguous and complex, covering the full range from determined rejection, to selective use, to grudging acceptance, to strong embrace.