Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


This study sought to uncover the perceptions of self-efficacy and personal identity of Australian Muslim girls in private Islamic schools and those in public schools. It aimed to explore how the social and cultural contexts of the girls have influenced their experiences using their own voices. Insight into the self-efficacy and identity of Muslim girls in Saudi Arabia gave the study a distinctive and worthy addition. The external context of education has changed and with global events creating an environment for Muslim children that is both threatening and challenging to their sense of place, it was appropriate at the time to investigate how children described their identity and self-efficacy.

The pertinent theories to this study of identity, hybridity, and self-efficacy were explored portraying the importance of understanding how children are continuously negotiating their possible identities within various experiences and contexts. This study employed the interpretive paradigm, which underlies qualitative methods to illuminate the central questions asked about the identity and self-efficacy of Muslim primary school girls. A mixed method case study research approach was considered a suitable methodological framework for this study as it united the qualitative exploration of the girls own spoken narratives in their natural setting with the quantitative use of pre-structured data.

The data collected during this study included student questionnaires, student interviews, teacher focus groups and teacher questionnaires. This study was undertaken in seven primary school settings where 125 students from Years 5 and 6 from schools in Australia and Saudi Arabia participated. Of these students, 74 were from two public schools and three private Islamic schools in Australia. From among these students, eight girls from the private schools and 13 girls from the public schools participated in the interviews. In addition, 51 students from both a private international school and a public school in Saudi Arabia completed the survey. Ten teachers also took part in the focus groups and questionnaires. The data gathered from this research were analysed by applying a coding system, set out by Strauss and Corbin (1998), which includes open, axial and selective coding.

A number of salient concepts have been raised in this study underlying theoretical concerns of identity formation and self-efficacy that can help illuminate the sense of place and sense of self of pre-adolescent Muslim girls. Emerging themes of significance to this study revolved around theories of multiple identities, Islamic identity and hybridity. The primary idea of ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’ was a recurring theme. The concept of Islamic identity raised issues of cultural capital, shared cultural codes, separateness, and stereotypical views of ‘other’ and ‘visibility’ of Muslim girls. The investigation of self-efficacy accentuated the researchers aim to consider how these young Muslim girls perceived themselves as individuals and in relation to their home, school and community contexts in the current, often hostile, global environment.

The thesis concludes with recommendations and important implications for providing new avenues for researchers, teachers and leaders of schools to develop insightful, relevant and appropriate policies and programs that will assist pre-adolescent Muslims in developing a positive self-identity and higher levels of perceived self-efficacy. The need for a concept such as ‘interculturality’ is highlighted as a possible solution for both minority and mainstream students.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.