Britain to get its first state-funded Hindu school: report

AFP/December 25, 2006

Britain is in line for its first state-funded Hindu school, backed by 10 million pounds (15 million euros, 19.5 million dollars) in aid and advised by the Hare Krishna movement, The Observer said.

The newspaper said the Krishna-Avanti primary school would be based in the northwest London suburb of Harrow, which is home to nearly 40,000 Hindus, and a planning application will be submitted to local authorities next month.

With space for 240 children, plus further 26 at nursery level, it will cost 12 million pounds to build, with 10 million pounds coming from taxpayers. The remaining money will come from private donations.

Pupils will study the national curriculum but there will be a strong emphasis on Hindu ethos and worship.

Iskcon -- the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which is better known as the Hare Krishna movement -- will advise the school's directors on educational issues.

There are already two privately-funded Hindu schools in Britain but this is the first time that government money will be used.

Its creation comes at a time of debate about the merits of religious schools in Britain and the extent of integration of the country's ethnic and religious communities.

Critics, such as the National Secular Society, argue that faith schools -- whether state-funded or private -- do not encourage integration and can foster suspicion and prejudice of other cultures.

But The Observer said Britain's 600,000-strong Hindu community sees the development as a breakthrough because the faith's leaders have felt their educational needs have been sidelined.

Hinduism is the only one of the world's major religions not to have a state-funded school in Britain.

"There is enormous political will for this to happen; every major Hindu organisation is backing this application," said one of the school's directors, Nitesh Gor.

About 7,000 schools in Britain are deemed to be faith schools and receive a degree of state funding: the majority are Church of England followed by Roman Catholic.

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