First Hindu faith school state funded in Europe

In London a new primary school has opened – the Krishna-Avanti primary school.  At present just taking 30 children the plan is by 2014 it will have 236 pupils and a nursery; by next year the school will be in its new £10 million site.

Part of the curriculum is appreciation for the divine and holistic health

Part of the curriculum is appreciation for the divine and holistic health

The school charter is based on the Hare Krishna movement, funded by the taxpayer, and located in Harrow where a quarter of the population that is Hindu live. Whether they will be teaching their sales technique for  raising money is unclear.  My concern for a faith school is the selective nature of education, and that it reinforces segregation in society.

 

Not least when you consider the broad mission statement:

 

The Krishna-Avanti School helps children realise their spiritual, moral and academic potential in a welcoming, secure and supportive environment centred about loving service to Lord Krishna. The school enables pupils to enjoy learning, to develop character and competence, and to prepare for secondary education and the responsibilities of adult life in contemporary Britain.

 

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain of Accord Colaition said:

 

Some parents will feel reassured by a school that shares their faith and cultural background, but everybody should be aware of the impact this may have – limiting their children from other cultures, and also depriving other community schools of Hindu participation.

 

Categorically the children are being classed as Hindu. While a poll suggested that Hinduism has the highest retention rate in the US from childhood to adulthood (over 80%), considering children’s identities as based on the faith of their parents is worrying because the child should be able to develop that identity for themselves.

 

That concern is followed by what the chair of governors at the school said:

 

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.

 

Which really means encouraging Hare Krishna faith so that it thrives in the community. This is not coincidental when clearly the purpose of the school existing is to educate children within a particular religious ethos.

 

Parents want schools that instil discipline, and give a good education. No loving parent would want less. However, separating children on the basis of parent’s faith is encouraging people developing in their own corner of the community. This is called multiculturalism – that with respect for people developing from cradle to grave in their own sub cultural diversity is enhanced, racial relations improved, respect and understanding are enhanced.

 

We cannot afford to take this myth at face value – it has not played out that well. Children growing up in their own neighbourhood, cut off from daily interactions with people that are different, do not aid social cohesion. Rather it builds entrenchment, people do not understand one another because they do not interact or grow up with each other. Without understanding people have misgivings on one another. It is a part of our human nature; the insider outsiders divide. It does not improve human relations in the long run – and if we value our kid’s futures encouraging segregation is not in their interests.

 

Comparative religious education, teaching children about humanity – it would be great to think all schools do these things well. Yet if we have learnt anything, categorising people on faith or ethnicity is not a recipe for making society harmonise or encouraging good race relations.

 

Comprehensive school means being in classes with children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, catholic and protestant children. Those interactions allowed me in time to compare my own culture and belief system.  Everyone else seemed so sure of their faith and on the same level of reasoning that this was true – and that others were not only wrong but heading for damnation.  It also encouraged me to learn firsthand about other people’s cultural backgrounds. It allowed me to question the views of people my parents age that had never gone school with children from that background.

 

Parents want the best. They think an education within a religious school will help their kids become moral upstanding members of their community.  With a good education behind them, and encouraged to be involved with the community. Yet they have been brought up to think that community is with people of their own faith and ethnicity. That their self indentify is separate from people outside their own background.

 

The world is bigger than the background of faith – and failure to recognise and understand that is one reason where religion is one of those labels by which people ignore our common humanity. Whenever they can separate one another, demarcate one another. Growing up separate does not make people more homogenise. It makes the world smaller, the focus narrower – and the world’s problems that little bit bigger. As a taxpayer I do not want to finance an experiment that will narrow participation in the school system and legitimise segregation for children in the school system.   

 

An education system that actually gives children a decent education no matter what their parents background or the location. State financed faith schools are not the answer to this problem – properly funded schools are. Deepening the social divisions in this country further with a widening religious divide in education is going to fracture society further. We need less, not more faith schools.

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6 Comments

Filed under politics, Religion

6 responses to “First Hindu faith school state funded in Europe

  1. I welcome this and other schools that inspire to vegetarism and higher spirutual values. And when it comes to the schoolchildrens parents, I can only express my greatest congratulations. Your kids are truly blissed! 🙂

    Hare Krishna

    / Jonas

  2. Thing is, the education has to be for the children, not the parents. If what you want is a more harmonize, integrated society then faith schools are not the way to go.

    If on the other hand you want a a cultural bubble, reinforced by using selective education that actually reduces contact from people outside your background, and your kids to adhere to your traditions – this is what you would choose.

    It would be even better for schools to educate children and give them the skills to come up with their own self identity.

  3. “skills to come up with their own self identity”

    This is the thing, what IS self identity? Personally I prefer putting my faith and heart into humans that base their knowledge on the Vedabooks. I know persons who were raised within HareKrishna communities, who today is’nt “brainwashed devotees”, just very humble, freethinking and harmonious persons, working in the society with more or less ordinary professions. So I think this a bit “paranoid” fear that schools like this should create an isolated elite is exaggerated.

  4. I am not convinced that separating children at school on the basis of their religion will help social cohesion. Segregation based on faith is not acceptable, and I would apply that to housing, jobs as well as schools.

    I am also concerned that comparative religion, evaluation of different cultures and inter reactions with people from different backgrounds cannot happen inside such an environment. That is crucial at a young age in their development, forming relationships beyond within a wide circle.

    Self identity can be difficult when you are taught what the answers are, rather than given the skills and knowledge to find out for themselves. The religious background of your parents are a part of that – but they should not be the mainstay of how you should be educated.

    Unless we say that being born into a faith denies you choice, because your parents and community know this exclusion from others is somehow for your own good – sadly religions practice separating people while espousing universal harmony. What part of freethinking is there in a school created, devoted and advocating one faith as true, with a curriculum designed to reinforce that with spiritual practice with a set diet and holistic approach.

    Freethinking is teaching a child about your faith, but giving them the skills and knowledge to make that decision for themselves when they can. Their self identity is one under those circumstances to celebrate.

    Schools with a religious agenda are not part of a harmonized world. They immediately label a child as being religious, and reinforce one set of dogma over all others, and exclude non believers from their daily school experience. That should not be part of the education process, nor should that be done with tax payers money. Religious instruction is for parents, on their watch and if they have respect for their child as an individual they would teach them about other faiths too.

    There is a difference between being raised a child of religious parents and being educated in faith schools because of the reasons I mentioned. Meeting people form different backgrounds at school is itself a wonderful lesson for children to learn. Because much of the problems of the world happen when we can separate ourselves from one another.

  5. Would you really call schools (as most of schools) that are based on the “religion” materalism a base for freethinking? You and I have diffrent perspective here, and I can’t see any signs that schools teaching children to be greedy and egocentric creates a better world at all. Do you?

    My personal expierence with the HareKrishna movement is that they often talks about other religions, comparing and discussing, becase they are interested in what unite them. So I should be a bit careful if I were you, to bundle this beautiful practical philosofi together with other more intolarant ones.

  6. After reading this article, I just feel that I need more information on the topic. Could you share some more resources ?

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