HomeFrom the school door to the classroom

HomeFrom the school door to the classroom

From the school door to the classroom

De la porte de l'école à la salle de classe

School life in the Arab and Muslim Worlds

Vivre l'école dans les mondes arabes et musulmans

*  *  *

Published on Friday, June 18, 2021


This special issue focusses on school everyday life, interactions and knowledge and identity construction in primary and/or secondary schools in contemporary societies in the Arab and Muslim worlds. It aims at gathering papers from all social science disciplines, preferably through a qualitative methodology, that explore social, pedagogical and cognitive dynamics within schools.



Everyday life within schools in the Arab and Muslim worlds has been rarely documented as a research topic, as Chantal Verdeil stresses (2017). Existing studies often focus on education and schooling from the outside in a global perspective. Few researchers enter into these relatively inaccessible “black boxes”, though their everyday functioning and internal logics have a central role in the reproduction of a society whose future citizens they are in charge of educating (Durkheim 1922, Bernstein 2000[1996], Forquin 2008). Hence, they constitute a meaningful entry point to social analysis.

A great number of historical, political and sociological works study school as a state apparatus of social control aimed at reinforcing the power of ruling elites and at ensuring their control over knowledge and qualified positions on the job market. They also analyse, in different national contexts, how legitimate knowledge transmission practices have developed, transformed and coexisted between precolonial forms of Islamic teaching and schooling forms imported by colonial powers and used as the model for the creation of national education systems after independence. Some focus on the role of Islamic education in schools and on tensions between islamisation and secularisation processes in institutionalised educational settings. On these topics, recent works can be consulted such as Verdeil (2017) on the contemporary history of education in the Middle East, Honvault & Rashoud (2019) on the Arabic peninsula, Vermeren (2011) on the Maghreb, Dia, Hugon & d’Aiglepierre (2016) on Sub-Saharan Africa, or Thobani (2007) on Muslim contexts in Asia. Other studies focus on curricula and textbooks of Islamic education (Doumato & Starrett 2007) and history (Seri-Hersch 2017).

Besides, anthropologists have mostly investigated traditional Islamic teaching by conducting research in Qur’anic and religious schools and focussing on their everyday life, on religious knowledge transmission methods and on relations between the sheikh and his disciples (see, among others, Messick 1996 on Yemen, Starrett 1998 and Dupret & Lavergne 2008 on Egypt, Fortier 2003 on Mauritania, Hoechner 2018 on Nigeria). Hefner & Zaman (2007) and Daun & Arjmand (2018) gather studies conducted worldwide in Muslim countries, among which Indonesia, Pakistan and Tajikistan. Eickelman (1978, 1985) studies the training of “men of learning” and the development of Islamic knowledge in Morocco compared to Egypt.

However, few works focus on everyday life inside primary and secondary schools, in classrooms and in the different school spaces in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The collective work edited by Herrera & Torres (2006) gathers school ethnographies in urban and rural areas in Egypt in a “critical ethnography” perspective. Benéï (2008) investigates processes of national identity construction among minority pupils in Western Indian schools. Adely (2010) analyses nationalist and patriotic rituals that structure the school day and moral education contents in a high school for girls in Jordan. Recent works have been conducted in Morocco. Boutieri (2016) draws on class observations in state high schools as a set-up for her sociological analysis on social inequalities. In rural areas, Nait Belaid (2014) researched pupils and families’ relations with school while De Meyer (2019) conducted a long-time school ethnography on school as an emanation of the state. Pellegrini (2019, 2020) conducted her research in nine Moroccan primary and secondary schools and focussed on teaching practices and knowledge and identity construction in language classes.

This recent development of research within schools deserves to gain more visibility as they investigate the educational experience as a whole in all school spaces, among school actors, be they experienced or junior teachers, pupils, board and admin staff, parents, etc. Sociologists of education such as Becker (1983) in the United States and Payet (2016) in Europe have highlighted how important these researches are to analyse which educational interactions, teaching practices, forms of knowledge and relationships with knowledge are constructed, valued and legitimised in schools. Moreover, it is worth exploring which forms of national identity are conveyed in schools in relation to citizenship, religion, language or ethnicity (Lorcerie 2003), in curricula and learning materials as well as in teaching practices and interactions (Adely & Starrett 2011, Pellegrini 2020).

This special issue seeks to contribute to the development of this field of investigation and to provide a comparative dimension. It aims at gathering papers from all social science disciplines that explore social, pedagogical and cognitive dynamics within primary or secondary schools, be they state or private schools (but not foreign schools), in contemporary societies in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Qualitative research methodologies will be appreciated such as ethnographic methods, including participant observations in schools or in teacher-training centres, interviews and collections of in-depth narratives with school actors, etc.

Main topics

The special issue is also open to audio-visual materials as well as comparative perspectives. The four topics below are not exclusive.

Topic 1: School materialities and sensorialities

In this topic, school spaces, rituals and objects are studied in their materiality and their sensoriality. Papers could focus on how actors navigate and appropriate spaces like playgrounds, courtyards, corridors, classrooms, teachers’ rooms, the headmaster office, administration areas. They could explore how the school day is organised and which rituals punctuate it such as bell rings, flag-raisings, anthems and songs, symbolical acts of opening and closing of the day. They could also focus on teachers’ and pupils’ sensory and affective relationships with the classroom and its objects: its physical organisation (the teacher’s desk, pupils’ tables, decorations, objects of rewards and sanctions, etc.), as well as teaching and learning materials (the blackboard, chalk sticks, school bags, uniforms or gowns, slates, pens, etc.).

Topic 2: Teaching practices and knowledge construction in the classroom

Papers could explore teachers’ practices and/or discourses on their practices in classrooms in specific disciplines, whatever they are, or in different disciplines comparatively. How do teachers conduct their courses? How do they embody their role as teachers? How do children embody their role as pupils? How are discipline and authority enacted and constructed? Which pedagogical relationships are imposed, created and negotiated? Which knowledge and skills are valued? Which explicit and implicit norms are used to define what it means to be a “good/bad” teacher and a “good/bad” pupil? Which roles are allocated to the class as a group and to the pupil as an individual? To what extent are these practices and knowledge conceptions inspired (or not) by those of traditional Islamic teaching and/or by other cultural and religious traditions of knowledge in the region? Similarly, to what extent are they inspired by international educational standards like the skills-based approach?

Topic 3: Language practices at school

Numerous studies focus on youth attitudes and representations on languages in the Arab world, especially in relation to Arabic diglossia and the social and cultural roles of local and foreign languages (Taine-Cheikh 2000, Haeri 2003, Benítez, Miller, De Ruiter & Tamer 2013). Educational language policies are highly sensitive and complex in the Arab countries, as well as in non-Arabic-speaking Muslim countries (Kirkpatrick & Liddicoat 2017). Hence, teachers and pupils’ language practices in classrooms and in the different school spaces are an interesting topic of research. How do teachers teach languages? Which languages are valued and which are dismissed in the discourses of adults and children? How are mother languages treated compared to taught languages and languages of instruction? Which consequences do these practices and discourses have on teachers and pupils’ representations of the self, of one’s language, of one’s family and relatives? What are the consequences for their language security, their self-confidence and their sense of cultural and social belonging?

Topic 4: Religious and civic education at school

In this topic, the focus is on contents and practices of religious and/or civic and moral education in classrooms, be they treated as school curricula as such or integrated into other disciplines. Papers could also study adults and children’s patriotic and religious discourses and practices in the different school spaces. What relationships do they develop with these teachings and their contents? To what extent do they appropriate, transform and negotiate them? Do their discourses and practices follow the official guidelines and positions of the state?

Submission schedule

Please send your article proposal (4000 characters maximum, including spaces), together with a short biographical note, to Chloé Pellegrini ( chloepellegrini.maroc@gmail.com )

before 15 September 2021.

Authors will be notified by the end of the following month. Articles may be written in French or English and should not exceed 45,000 characters, including spaces. The final version will be due on 30 April 2022. For more information concerning the style guidelines and the editorial process, please click here : https://journals.openedition.org/remmm/3004

Issue editor

Chloé Pellegrini, chercheuse associée à l’Institut de Recherches et d’Etudes sur les Mondes Arabes et Musulmans (IREMAM), Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, France


Adely Fida, 2010, “Performing Patriotism : Rituals and Moral Authority in a Jordanian High School”. In Education in the Arab World: Local/Global Resonances and Dynamics. André E. Mazawi and Ronald G. Sultana, eds. Pp. 132–144. World Yearbook of Education 2010. London, Routledge.

Adely Fida & Starrett Gregory, 2011, « Schools, skills and morals in the contemporary Middle East », in Bradley Levinson & Mica Polloc (dir.), A companion to the anthropology of education, Chichester, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 349-67.

Becker Howard S., 1983, « Studying Urban Schools », Anthropology and Education Quaterly 14: 2, 1983, p. 99-108

Benéï Véronique, 2008, Schooling passions: nation, history and language in contemporary Western India, Stanford University Press, USA, ISBN: 9780804759069

Benítez Fernandez Montserrat, Miller Catherine, De Ruiter Jan J., Tamer Youssef (dir.), 2013, Evolution des pratiques et représentations langagières dans le Maroc du XXIème siècle, Volumes 1 et 2, L’Harmattan, Collection « Espaces Discursifs », Paris

Bernstein Basil, 2000[1996], Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: theory, research, critique. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

Boutieri Charis, 2016, Learning in Morocco: language politics and the abandoned educational dream, Indiana University Press, Bloomington (Indiana) USA

Daun Holger & Arjmand Reza, 2018, Handbook of Islamic education, Springer Cham, Switzerland (IHRE volume 7), https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64683-1

De Meyer Mathias, 2019, « Tachraft, Ecritures et ordres d’Etat dans une école de village au Maroc » ; thèse de doctorat soutenue en mars 2019, Université Libre de Belgique (ULB), Bruxelles, Belgique

Dia Hamidou, Hugon Clothilde & d’Aiglepierre Rohan, 2016, « États réformateurs et éducation arabo-islamique en Afrique : Vers un compromis historique ? Introduction thématique », in Afrique contemporaine, 1(1), 11-23. https://doi.org/10.3917/afco.257.0011

Doumato Eleanor & Starrett Gregory (eds.), 2007, Teaching Islam: Textbooks and Religion in the Middle East. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.

Dupret Baudouin & Lavergne (de) Nicolas, 2008, « Pratiques de véridiction. Inculcation, contrôle et discipline dans une école coranique de Haute-Egypte », Revue d'anthropologie des connaissances 2008/2 (Vol. 2, n° 2), p. 311-343. DOI 10.3917/rac.004.0311

Durkheim Emile, 1922, Sociologie et éducation, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris

Eickelman Dale F., 1978, “The art of memory: Islamic Education and its Social Reproduction”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 485-516 Published by Cambridge University, https://www.jstor.org/stable/178560

Eickelman Dale F., 1985, Knowledge and Power in Morocco: the Education of a Twentieth-Century Notable, Princeton University Press, USA

Forquin Jean-Claude, 2008, Sociologie du curriculum, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, Rennes

Fortier Corinne, 2003, « « Une pédagogie coranique » », Cahiers d’études africaines [En ligne], 169-170 | 2003, URL : http://journals.openedition.org/etudesafricaines/198 ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesafricaines.198

Haeri Niloofar, 2003, Sacred language, Ordinary People: dilemmas of culture and politics in Egypt, Palgrave McMillan, New York, USA

Hefner Robert & Zaman Muhammad Qasim (ed.), 2007, Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Herrera Linda & Torres Carlos Alberto (Eds.), 2006, Cultures of Arab Schooling: Critical Ethnographies from Egypt. New York: SUNY Press.

Hoechner Hannah, 2018, Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria: Everyday Experiences of Youth, Faith, and Poverty (The International African Library). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108348270

Honvault Juliette & Al-Rashoud Talal (dir.), 2019, « L'éducation dans la péninsule Arabique durant la première moitié du XXe siècle », Arabian Humanities 12, https://journals.openedition.org/cy/4842, https://doi.org/10.4000/cy.4842

Kirkpatrick Andy & Liddicoat Anthony, 2017, “Language education policy and practice in East and Southeast Asia”, Language Teaching, 50(2), 155-188, doi:10.1017/S0261444817000027

Lorcerie Françoise (dir.), 2003, L’école et le défi ethnique. Éducation et intégration, Paris, ESF et INRP

Nait Belaid Youssef, 2014, École et familles en milieu rural : les enjeux de scolarisation et de déscolarisation, Editions AFAQ, Marrakech, Maroc

Messick Brinkley, 1996, The calligraphic state: textual domination and history in a Muslim society, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, USA

Payet Jean-Paul (dir.), 2016, Ethnographie de l'école. Les coulisses des institutions scolaires et socio-éducatives, Presses universitaires de Rennes, coll. « Didact sociologie », 2016, 223 p., Rennes, France

Pellegrini Chloé, 2020, “Arabic teaching in state schools in Morocco: ‘identity literacy’ and the endeavour to construct a unified national and religious identity among pupils” in Gardelle L. & Jacob C. (dir.), Schools and national identities in French-speaking Africa: political choices, means of transmission, and appropriation, Routledge Book, Grande Bretagne

Pellegrini Chloé, 2019, L’enseignement des langues à l’école publique au Maroc : construction des savoirs, identités et citoyenneté, thèse de doctorat soutenue en novembre 2019, CNRS-LAMES, Aix-Marseille Université (AMU), France

Seri-Hersch Iris, 2017, « Et si la rupture didactique précédait l’indépendance politique ? Revisiter la chronologie du Soudan contemporain au prisme de l’histoire enseignée à ses écoliers (1900-1970) », in Verdeil C. (dir.), Histoire de l’éducation [En ligne], 148 | 2017 http://journals.openedition.org/histoire-education/3597  

Starrett Gregory, 1998, Putting Islam to work. Education, politics and religious transformation in Egypt, Berkeley, University of California Press.

Taine-Cheikh Catherine, 2000, « Langues, savoirs et pouvoirs en milieu maure » In Bonte, P., & Claudot-Hawad, H. (Eds.), Élites du monde nomade touareg et maure. Institut de recherches et d’études sur les mondes arabes et musulmans. doi :10.4000/books.iremam.2671

Thobani Shiraz, 2007, “The Dilemma of Islam as School Knowledge in Muslim Education”, in Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 27:1, 11-25, DOI: 10.1080/02188790601145382

Verdeil Chantal, 2017, « Histoire contemporaine de l’éducation au Moyen-Orient (XIXe-XXe siècle). Essai de synthèse historiographique », Histoire de l’éducation [En ligne], 148 | 2017, mis en ligne le 31 décembre 2017, http://journals.openedition.org/histoire-education/3361

Vermeren Pierre, 2011, Maghreb : les origines de la révolution démocratique, Fayard, coll. Pluriel, Paris


  • Wednesday, September 15, 2021


  • éducation, ethnographies scolaires, savoirs et identités, mondes arabes et musulmans


  • Chloé Pellegrini
    courriel : chloepellegrini [dot] maroc [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Chloé Pellegrini
    courriel : chloepellegrini [dot] maroc [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« From the school door to the classroom », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, June 18, 2021, https://doi.org/10.58079/16t4

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search