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Children should also learn their own faith: British Hindus campaign for GCSE Hinduism option in schools

Children should also learn their own faith: British Hindus campaign for GCSE Hinduism option in schools
Courtesy: Chris Radburn - PA Images / Contributor | PA Images Via Getty Images

Parents from the British Indian diaspora in Greater Manchester recently campaigned for their GCSE-level children to be allowed to study the Dharmic faiths and obtain GCSE qualification in their chosen faiths.

The conflict came after parents from areas across the region realised that most high schools do not offer Dharmic faiths – namely, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism – as an option for GCSE Religious Education, despite these religions being available on several exam boards’ syllabi. The reason cited for this is a dearth of teachers who are qualified to teach these subjects at GCSE level.

The campaign saw the Hindu diaspora engage with respective schools of their children, explaining their concerns and drafting a template letter which they sent to schools.

Religious Education is statutory for all pupils at key stage 4 – which covers years 10 and 11 – unless withdrawn by their parents.

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“We would like for our kids to study RE and we don’t want to withdraw them. However, we want them to be able to study and learn about their own faith. And for this, we have organisations which continue to provide private tutoring,” commented Rajni (name changed), mother of a Year 10 pupil.

Diaspora organisations such as the Vedic Organisation for Indian Culture and Education (VOICE) have been teaching GCSE Hinduism to pupils for many years now. Following the syllabus offered by the Pearson Edexcel exam board, pupils study Hinduism as well as Sikhism, which together make up the qualification.

“Already, students in other schools [around the UK] wishing to study Dharmic faiths (Hinduism and Sikhism) have obtained full GCSE with this option. All the school needs to do is to enter them for the GCSE exams to be held on 9th May and 7th June 2024,” reads the letter drafted by diaspora members, including Prof. Nawal Prinja, who teaches Hinduism at VOICE.

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“We will very much appreciate if the school makes the provision to enter our children for the GCSE exams in the religion of their choice. This will be seen as a positive step towards inclusivity and in providing more balanced religious education,” the statement adds.

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