Teaching methods during Ramadan

⌚︎ 3 min.


Case study

Teaching methods during Ramadan

Kind of education

VET, for adults, certification 2-3 level EQF.

Definition of the learner

Adult domestic and foreign prisoners.

Description of the group

Group of approximately 12 students. The students, after having submitted an application to the prison, have been selected based on safety, attitudinal and motivational criteria.

They are domestic and foreign adult prisoners, with low to medium-degree education. Foreigners are almost all Muslims.

Their proficiency level in Italian is lower intermediate (A2).

Religious practice is valued highly by Muslim students, many are observant Muslims.

Definition of starting situation

We are in the Ramadan period that coincides with the final month of a training course for adult prisoners.

The practising Muslim students are struggling to follow lessons and in particular group exercises, blaming fatigue caused by their daytime fasting.

Some of them are considering quitting the course.

The situation worries the teachers of vocational technical subjects, who are concerned about the academic performance of this group of students, especially since preparations before the final examination are now close. In addition, this context creates a general atmosphere of opposition within the class group, particularly on behalf of the non-Muslim students, who perceive it as injustice and discrimination.

The course tutor decides to face the problem directly with the intention of finding a solution respectful of everyone involved and ensuring the overall success of the course.

Description of the course

Vocational training course for adult prisoners aimed at achieving a vocational qualification with a significant portion of practice.

Description of teaching team

The teaching team is composed of:

  • teachers specializing in different subjects,
  • a class tutor,
  • a teacher with background knowledge of equal opportunities.
Possible actions and impacts

Discussion between teachers, tutors and equal opportunities expert to investigate the problem.

Identify the extent of the conflict generated by the contrast between different opinions, the most extreme positions and the dynamics within the group. Identify possible actions of intervention and subsequently monitor the outcomes.

Discussion and debate within the class group in order to point out the problem, the different positions, the conflict dynamics between groups and individual students.

Students are willing to find a solution and are actively involved in the search for suggestions.

The equal opportunities expert delivers an in-depth lesson on Ramadan and provides a comparison of religions in general. At the same time he/she proposes an intervention to promote anti-discrimination, freedom of religion and freedom of thought, by presenting a series of case studies as examples of reconciliation between one's work/school/commitments and their religious practices.

Everybody involved ends up with an improved knowledge of religious practices and is more ready to understand the feelings of others.

The class tutor, in agreement with the teachers, urges all students to find a solution that respects the freedom of each individual. He/she reminds the students of their duties and commitments regarding their participation in the course (they have already signed a training agreement) and their academic achievement. He/she individually interviews learners who seem to display the strongest opinions, in order to approach and ultimately resolve potential conflicts.

Learners who have the most extreme opinions gradually begin to open and possibly change their mind.

It is suggested to arrange an alternative schedule, shifting practical exercises to the morning and theoretical lessons to the afternoon sessions. This is because Muslim students mostly complain about fatigue in the afternoons. In any case, the importance of participating with commitment and seriousness should be underlined. The official training agreement is reformulated in order to safeguard the right to diversity of each student and state the obligations required by the course. Another suggestion is to organize a party at the end of Ramadan; an open-type event for all participants in the course.

Learners feel integrated and keep their motivation for learning. Learners who are not Muslim also agree with this adaptation, welcoming the change and agreeing on moving those learning activities that require more physical energy to the morning time.

Inspired by the concrete situation, the entire organization of the course is reviewed: future plans include the scheduling of the course by taking into account the period of Ramadan. Considering a possible reduction of hours during a specific time frame, a renewed training agreement, adopting the principles of the right to diversity, is signed.

The learners understand the meaning of work and the organisation that it requires. They become aware of the rigidity or flexibility of certain religious preceptions and customs of the homeland culture.

Advice, remarks, conclusions

    The prison is a context control and security have the highest priority, nevertheless, it aims to re-educate and rehabilitate prisoners.

    The class context, where adult students of different origins and backgrounds are inserted, is particularly exposed to situations of misunderstanding or intercultural prejudices that can escalate into conflict situations.

    Among the causes for potentially conflicting situations, the following can be detected:

    • teachers of technical subjects, engaged in managing teaching, fail to detect risk factors that could lead to conflicts and intolerance in the class group;
    • in prison, foreign students develop a sense of injustice and deprivation of their rights, which makes them aggressive towards others and at risk of fundamentalist positions;
    • native students, exposed to the messages of mass media, often rely on stereotypes and prejudices;
    • prison life is a particularly fertile context for conflicts and oppositions.

    The awareness of the need to act at the organizational, methodological and teaching level is fundamental, in order to promote recognition of the common right to diversity. Consequently, a culture of integration and not of opposition should be promoted.

    It needs to be stressed that the actions at the organizational level must be previously agreed upon by the  prison management, in order to define the common rules that will apply to the specific context. These rules also need to be introduced to, i.e. disseminated among the foreigners who are part of the working activities within the institution.

    The following process can be followed:

    1. Survey and analysis of the problem.
    2. Coordination between teachers and equal opportunities expert.
    3. Opening the discussion in the group.
    4. Training for support.
    5. Mediation.
    6. Teaching reorganisation.
    7. Review of course structure.
    Teaching organization
    Individual identification