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When school lessons are different from home lessons: a psychosocial approach to Muslim immigrants’ children’s relations to knowledge
« Quand les leçons de l’école ne sont pas celles de la maison : une approche psychosociale du rapport au savoir des enfants d’immigrés musulmans »
Audrey Heine, Nicolas Van der Linden, Charlotte van den Abeele and Laurent Licata
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) – Social psychology section
Brussels – 2008
Web Article
Integration of immigrants students
This article addresses the construction of relations to knowledge among young people with a Muslim immigrant background.

For some students, this construction is undoubtedly a failure, while for others it is a successful school path:
- Thus, on the pretext that scientific knowledge contradict their religious believes, some of those students (such as Amina, whose story is told in the article), may question the accuracy of the facts and theories that are presented to them, or even refuse to attend some of the courses. In this way, they participate in a complete rejection of the school, its authority and the values it defends.
The authors were interested in the way those students build their relation to knowledge: through what mechanisms do they eventually reject school knowledge, and particularly scientific knowledge?
- On the contrary, other students (such as Kamal, whose story is also told in the article) refuse fatality and achieve a school path without trouble, sometimes better than native children with the same social characteristics.
The authors tried to identify the processes involved in the acceptation by those children of knowledge, including scientific knowledge, passed in the class and in their successful integration with the family background. A survey conducted among young women whose parents are from North Africa and who achieved university studies show that those women have multiple affiliations; they refuse to relinquish one of the cultural systems and are able to take on very different roles according to the social situation they are in (in family or at school).

Two theories in social psychology show the diversity of migrant children’ positions to school knowledge: Camilleri’s “theory of identity strategies” (1990) and Moscovici’s “theory of social representations” (1961/1976).
In the first part of the article, the authors set out the studies that support the idea of a contentious relation to knowledge and present two theories (Camilleri and Moscovici) to identify its mechanisms.
The authors then show how the same theories can be used to explain the attested cases of knowledge integration.
The article ends with a recap in which the authors try to reconcile those contradictory observations.
The authors note that to support the construction of an integrated relation to knowledge that leads to school inclusion, all the protagonists (school and family) need to be involved in the education process, taking care to take into account the cultural context of knowledge, including scientific knowledge.
This does not mean a completely relativistic position should be adopted: recognising the Other is not equal to giving up one’s own epistemological framework. One type of knowledge can be given value without depreciating the ranges of knowledge associated with other cultures.
In this article, the authors show how the concepts of social identity and social representations can be of interest for education professionals: they make it possible to approach social determinisms and freedom of choice and of production of meaning by the person.
The authors clearly show that certain conditions, more than others, make multiple identification and cognitive polyphasia* possible. These processes would among other depend on the “course of study”. In mainstream education, students of foreign origin tend to have a positive view of school skills and deem their teachers as strict, while in technical and vocational education they have a negative view of their school skills and consider their teachers unfair.
Besides, “the family’s ability to mobilise and most of all the type of migratory project” also foster multiple affiliations: the high and urban social origin of the parents before immigration with a project oriented toward their children’s education and promotion leads to good school performances.
Finally, the authors points out how important it is to “negotiate”. They say the lack of negotiation space in the students’ family or school environment is a limit to their identity and representation constructions.
*Confronted with variable categories of knowledge, some seem able to organise them together rather than reject some in favour of another.
Name of Compiler
Julien Keutgen
Name of Institution
Role in the institution
Translator – project assistant

20 December 2014

Final Partners’ meeting

The fourth partners’ meeting took place in Florence (IT) on 15 December 2014. The meeting had the objective to check the activities carried out since the third meeting of the project and share and assess the in progress results. A special focus has been dedicated to the presentation of the strategies to solve the case scenarios.