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Overcoming Social Inequality in Mali: The Challenges Facing Graduates of Madrasas

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Abstract:

Overcoming Social Inequality in Mali: The Challenges Facing Graduates of Madrasas

Background

A report of the United Nations Development Programme (2009) described a 26.2% literacy rate in Mali, i.e., last among 180 countries. Public schooling continues to face numerous hurdles, e.g., low student achievement and high dropout rates. Private schools, such as madrasas, have become alternatives for many school-age children. An expansion of madrasas occurred in recent decades (Gutelius, 2007). The Cellule de Planification et Statistique (2007) reported that from 1990 to 2007, 1,992 madrasas were started enrolling 266,273 primary and middle school students and 8,862 madrasa teachers were employed. Madrasas now account for one-fourth of the children in primary schools and 46% are girls. This would appear to promote social change by helping the country achieve its Millennium Development Goal to provide equal access to primary education for a majority of children by 2015 (UNESCO, 2006), as well as the related “Education for All” (EFA) initiative (UNESCO, 2000).

Purpose

The study’s purpose was to provide a critical analysis of how madrasas, as privately-funded, Islamic teaching institutions, struggle to cope with issues of equity and social injustice despite the intent of successive Malian governments to provide education for all school-age children by the year 2015.

Critical Theory

The lens of critical theory was used to explore and interpret the study’s phenomenon. As a theoretical tradition, critical theory is concerned essentially with “issues of power and justice and the ways that the economy, matters of race, class, and gender, ideologies, discourses, education, religion, and other social institutions, and cultural dynamics interact to construct a social system” (Kincheloe & McLaren, 2003, p. 437). Critical theory calls for empowering marginalized people, is committed to social justice by combating domination or subjugation, and allows a better understanding of individuals’ lived experiences (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002).

Methods

This study used a qualitative approach to examine the challenges facing madrasas in Mali’s education context. Qualitative design fit well in the framework of naturalistic ontology because it emphasizes naturally occurring, ordinary events in natural settings (Patton, 2001) and thus provided an in-depth understanding of the role madrasas play in the context of Mali’s Education for All policy. Finally, this qualitative approach provided an effective framework for eliciting the context and meaning of the participants’ views (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998).

Data Collection & Analysis

Constituents and patrons of madrasas were interviewed in the context of semi-structured, focus group interviews (Merriam, 1998). A pre-designed interview guide was developed by the researchers. Prior to interviewing participants, the researchers submitted the interview guide to a panel of experts composed of four professors who were familiar with or specialized in issues related to focus group interview questions. This panel of experts was asked to assess the content of the interview guide as a whole. The changes suggested by the reviewers were incorporated into the final interview guide. Probes (Krueger, 1998) were also used and the interviews were audio recorded.

The data were analyzed using Miles’ and Huberman's (1994) as well as Strauss’ and Corbin's (1998) procedures. The first procedure consisted of audio-taping, transcribing, and codifying the field notes into specific terms, concepts, and categories to identify “the set that fits” (Miles & Huberman, 1994). The second was concerned with looking at the relationships among the different components overall. The focus was to highlight the overarching themes, trends, or patterns and identify areas of strengths and gaps. The third procedure was to cross-check the data by building a thematic matrix. Finally, the researchers provided a narrative description of the participants’ stories. Strauss’ and Corbin’s (1998) microscopic analysis technique was also used. This procedure involved a line-by-line analysis intended to generate “initial categories with their properties and dimensions and to suggest the relationships among categories; a combination of axial coding and open coding” (p. 57).

Conclusions & Implications

Many themes of social injustice emerged but the most egregious was the lack of job competitiveness of madrasas’ graduates compared to those of other institutions whether entering the job market after high school or after earning higher education credentials. Social justice-based discussions may be an effective approach for education policymakers to employ to address this issue. Stakeholders, including leaders, teachers, parents, students, and alumni, should form an advocacy association to lobby Mali’s Government for additional resources to support the career preparation of madrasa students. The study’s findings suggested two main implications for policy and practice: (a) offering equal employment opportunities to madrasa students; and (b) ensuring improved teacher preparation and professional development opportunities for madrasa faculty.
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MLA Citation:

Boncana, Mohomodou., Edwards, Michael. and Maiga, Assoumane. "Overcoming Social Inequality in Mali: The Challenges Facing Graduates of Madrasas" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Mar 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p707211_index.html>

APA Citation:

Boncana, M. , Edwards, M. C. and Maiga, A. , 2014-03-10 "Overcoming Social Inequality in Mali: The Challenges Facing Graduates of Madrasas" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p707211_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Overcoming Social Inequality in Mali: The Challenges Facing Graduates of Madrasas

Background

A report of the United Nations Development Programme (2009) described a 26.2% literacy rate in Mali, i.e., last among 180 countries. Public schooling continues to face numerous hurdles, e.g., low student achievement and high dropout rates. Private schools, such as madrasas, have become alternatives for many school-age children. An expansion of madrasas occurred in recent decades (Gutelius, 2007). The Cellule de Planification et Statistique (2007) reported that from 1990 to 2007, 1,992 madrasas were started enrolling 266,273 primary and middle school students and 8,862 madrasa teachers were employed. Madrasas now account for one-fourth of the children in primary schools and 46% are girls. This would appear to promote social change by helping the country achieve its Millennium Development Goal to provide equal access to primary education for a majority of children by 2015 (UNESCO, 2006), as well as the related “Education for All” (EFA) initiative (UNESCO, 2000).

Purpose

The study’s purpose was to provide a critical analysis of how madrasas, as privately-funded, Islamic teaching institutions, struggle to cope with issues of equity and social injustice despite the intent of successive Malian governments to provide education for all school-age children by the year 2015.

Critical Theory

The lens of critical theory was used to explore and interpret the study’s phenomenon. As a theoretical tradition, critical theory is concerned essentially with “issues of power and justice and the ways that the economy, matters of race, class, and gender, ideologies, discourses, education, religion, and other social institutions, and cultural dynamics interact to construct a social system” (Kincheloe & McLaren, 2003, p. 437). Critical theory calls for empowering marginalized people, is committed to social justice by combating domination or subjugation, and allows a better understanding of individuals’ lived experiences (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002).

Methods

This study used a qualitative approach to examine the challenges facing madrasas in Mali’s education context. Qualitative design fit well in the framework of naturalistic ontology because it emphasizes naturally occurring, ordinary events in natural settings (Patton, 2001) and thus provided an in-depth understanding of the role madrasas play in the context of Mali’s Education for All policy. Finally, this qualitative approach provided an effective framework for eliciting the context and meaning of the participants’ views (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998).

Data Collection & Analysis

Constituents and patrons of madrasas were interviewed in the context of semi-structured, focus group interviews (Merriam, 1998). A pre-designed interview guide was developed by the researchers. Prior to interviewing participants, the researchers submitted the interview guide to a panel of experts composed of four professors who were familiar with or specialized in issues related to focus group interview questions. This panel of experts was asked to assess the content of the interview guide as a whole. The changes suggested by the reviewers were incorporated into the final interview guide. Probes (Krueger, 1998) were also used and the interviews were audio recorded.

The data were analyzed using Miles’ and Huberman's (1994) as well as Strauss’ and Corbin's (1998) procedures. The first procedure consisted of audio-taping, transcribing, and codifying the field notes into specific terms, concepts, and categories to identify “the set that fits” (Miles & Huberman, 1994). The second was concerned with looking at the relationships among the different components overall. The focus was to highlight the overarching themes, trends, or patterns and identify areas of strengths and gaps. The third procedure was to cross-check the data by building a thematic matrix. Finally, the researchers provided a narrative description of the participants’ stories. Strauss’ and Corbin’s (1998) microscopic analysis technique was also used. This procedure involved a line-by-line analysis intended to generate “initial categories with their properties and dimensions and to suggest the relationships among categories; a combination of axial coding and open coding” (p. 57).

Conclusions & Implications

Many themes of social injustice emerged but the most egregious was the lack of job competitiveness of madrasas’ graduates compared to those of other institutions whether entering the job market after high school or after earning higher education credentials. Social justice-based discussions may be an effective approach for education policymakers to employ to address this issue. Stakeholders, including leaders, teachers, parents, students, and alumni, should form an advocacy association to lobby Mali’s Government for additional resources to support the career preparation of madrasa students. The study’s findings suggested two main implications for policy and practice: (a) offering equal employment opportunities to madrasa students; and (b) ensuring improved teacher preparation and professional development opportunities for madrasa faculty.


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