Britain's first Hindu school to begin term
15th September 2008
Britain's first Hindu school, which receives its spiritual guidance from the Hare Krishna movement, opens in London on Monday with a batch of 30 students.
The 'bhumi puja' (ground breaking ceremony) of the Krishna Avanti Voluntary Aided Primary School in Edgeware, north London - the area with the largest concentration of Hindus in Britain - was performed in June.
The first batch is being housed in a temporary accommodation nearby, while the new school building is completed. The eventual strength will be 240.
Headteacher Naina Parmar told The Guardian it was a "huge step forward for Britain's one million Hindus" before adding: "I want our school to be a haven of peace. Hinduism is a very inclusive faith, which naturally promotes a calm, caring and cooperative learning environment. This will be reflected not only in the curriculum but also in the school's ethos and environment."
The school will follow the national curriculum, but offer education based on Hindu values. Concepts of inclusivity and equality of all human beings, meditation, yoga and a strict vegetarian diet will reflect some of them.
Rasamanbla Das of the Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies, who helped with the integration of Hindu values in the school curriculum, told BBC News: "We have tried to enhance the syllabus by looking at what Hinduism can add, such as inclusivity and the equality of all living beings. It recognises the agency of the individual. It's very much an interactive and experiential approach to education."
Organisations such as the Hindu Council and Accord - a secular front of multiple faiths - are sceptical about faith schools, saying there is a danger of such schools eventually focusing on a single faith, turning it into a "religious ghetto".
However, Bharat Pandya of the Hindu Forum of Britain said the school was the result of a demand from Hindu parents to impart faith education to their children. The school has said it will spend as much time studying other religions as its own.
Nitesh Gor, chair of governors at Krishna-Avanti, rejected suggestions that the school would foster segregation and insularity. "Faith schools have an excellent record of providing high-quality education. By helping children to develop strong self-identities, the best faith schools also give children the confidence to play a full part in the wider community."