A study by the counter-terrorism think tank Henry Jackson Society (HJS), examining the prevalence of discrimination against pupils in schools across the UK, found serious concerns around anti-Hindu fate.
The findings of ‘Anti-Hindu Hate in Schools’ were presented by a three-member panel consisting of the lead author of the report and HJS Research Fellow, Charlotte Littlewood, educationist Dr Rishi Handa and British Indian House of Lords peer Baroness Sandy Verma.
The first-of-its-kind study looked into discrimination facing Hindu youth in the UK and aims to understand what anti-Hindu hate looks like and the extent to which it is manifesting in the country by looking at the prevalence of discrimination against Hindu pupils in schools.
The key findings from the study as stated in the report are:
51 per cent of parents of Hindu pupils surveyed report that their child has experienced anti-Hindu hate in schools, whilst fewer than 1 per cent of schools with Indian pupils queried by FOI reported any anti-Hindu-related incidents in the last five years.
Teaching on Hinduism has been reported by some participants of this study as fostering religious discrimination towards Hindu pupils.
19% of Hindu parents surveyed believe schools are able to identify anti-Hindu hate.
15% of Hindu parents surveyed believe schools adequately address anti-Hindu-related incidents.
“One female Hindu pupil had beef thrown on her, a male student was reported to have to change east London schools three times on account of anti-Hindu bullying and concerns have arisen around a problematic approach to teaching Hinduism that is directly leading to bullying in the classroom,” said Littlewood, citing a few incidences mentioned in parent responses.
Among the examples in the report, were also instances of Hindu pupils being told to convert to make their bullying stop and misplaced notions of Hindu worship of deities. The quality of teaching on Hinduism was raised as a key concern by the surveyed parents. Concerns centre around Hinduism being taught through an Abrahamic faith lens, affording inappropriate weight to ‘Gods’ and misunderstanding the key concepts. The misconceptions are said to be a direct cause of bullying in the classroom. HJS said that while a deep analysis of teaching on Hinduism is beyond the scope of its report, the findings point to a distinct need for enquiry and consultation.
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“As we continue to grow in diversity and as we continue to be a multicultural, multifaceted Britain, we really need to get a grip on the types of hate manifesting in our classroom, because that is where we are best placed to tackle it and that is where we are best placed to create a cohesive and equal Britain moving forward,” said Littlewood.
Littlewood also explains that one of the key changes they are calling for is a renewal in bullying policy and upskilling of teaching on the types of hate that's manifesting in their classroom.
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“Teachers need to understand that Christianity, and particularly Protestant Christianity, is not the yardstick by which we need to start judging other religions. The word ‘religion’ itself is something that has come out of the Western discourse,” Dr Handa expanded.
“No child should ever feel that school is going to be a place of fear or a place where they cannot go and be themselves,” emphasised Baroness Verma.
“I am hoping this report will be taken up by the current education secretary, who I know is very mindful of issues particularly around the safety and the happiness and wellbeing of children in schools. I am hoping that they will take a very hard look at the recommendations within this report,” she said.
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The HJS warns that failure to record bullying incidents in detail and address patterns that may be emerging could result in missed opportunities to build a safe and equal society, not just for the Hindu community but for the safety and well-being of minority communities more broadly. Schools have a special responsibility as a point of contact where young people of all backgrounds may come together and need help in negotiating their differences with sensitivity and understanding. As a first step to uncovering the scale of the problem, the UK government should reconsider its 2012 and 2017 guidance, and introduce new reporting standards for schools that cover both race and faith-targeted hate incidents, the report concludes.
*Info: ‘Anti-Hindu Hate in Schools’