The Engagement of Muslim Children in School Music: An English Case Study

Marina Gall, Fleur Schellekens

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review


Music is contentious in the Muslim world (Ibsen al Faruqi, 1985; Baily, 1995) and educationists and researchers are aware of parental sensitivities regarding school music as a subject (Halstead, 1994). In 2002 and 2006 Diana Harris wrote extensively on music education and Islam, from an English education perspective, but there is a dearth of research since this time in any European country.

This paper reports on research carried out in one inner city school in England during the academic year 2014/2015. At the time, staff in the music department felt that Muslim students engaged relatively little in music activities; staff wanted to find the reasons for this to inform future modifications to their curriculum, and learning and teaching methods.

A mixed method approach was used: questionnaires were completed by 171 students of all cultures, of ages 11-18. This was followed by interviews with 6 Muslim students of differing ages. 4 classroom music teachers from the school were also interviewed.

i) A majority of the Muslim students listened to a range of music at home.
ii) Many students would like classroom music work for 11-14 year olds, to include a wider variety of cultures; Muslim students indicated that they would feel more engaged if music from their culture formed a part of this. (One Muslim student was concerned to point out that Islamic music from different Muslim countries varies).
iii) Muslim children also thought that a broader range of extra- curricular activities would be attractive to Muslim students.
iv) Students felt that it was important for the music curriculum to reflect all cultures in the school community.
v) Staff agreed that offering a unit of work focussed on one or more types of Islamic music, and/or using Muslim poetry as a choice of starting point for composition work, would enrich the curriculum and, hopefully, support a deeper engagement in music by Muslim children.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016
Event24th EAS/International Society of Music Education (ISME) / European Regional Conference: Looking for the Unexpected - Lithuanian Academy of Music and Drama, Vilnius, Lithuania
Duration: 16 Mar 201619 Mar 2016


Conference24th EAS/International Society of Music Education (ISME) / European Regional Conference
Internet address


  • Muslim
  • Islam
  • School Music
  • Culture
  • Inclusion


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