for Press Trust of India on Dec. 17, 2007
London, England - Britain's first state-funded Hindu school has revised its admission policy in view of criticism of its efforts to define a 'practising Hindu', and has now made temple priests responsible for determining the status of a Hindu family applying for admission to the school.
The school, named Krishna-Avanti Primary School, is located in the London borough of Harrow, which has the highest concentration of Hindus in any council in Britain: 40,000. The school is promoted by a charity organisation called the I-Foundation.
The policy had earlier defined 'practising Hindus' as those who performed daily prayer and deity worship either at a temple or at home, and accepted and followed Vedic scriptures, in particular the Bhagavad Gita.
It also laid down that practising Hindus must be involved in at least weekly temple related voluntary work, attend temple programmes at least fortnightly and abstain from meat, including fish and eggs, alcohol, smoking and drugs.
Nitesh Gor, director of the I-Foundation said: "As the intention of the school's sponsors is to create a school open to all across the community, we have therefore decided to devolve responsibility for defining a practising Hindu to local temples, whatever branch of Hinduism they represent.
"This will give to the authorities at each individual temple the power to determine for themselves whether an individual is practising in line with the values and practices of their particular branch of Hinduism".
Gor said the organisation had consulted widely on the admission policy, but admitted that there was criticism of it being "too strict and exclusive". He added that the principle that underpinned the school was that its ethos and practice, developed under the guidance of its faith partner, would reflect and promote the tenets and spiritual values that were core to Hinduism.
Gor said: "The task of creating an admission policy for a cross-community Hindu school was never going to be straight forward, and because of the widely held expectation that the school will be oversubscribed it was inevitable that it would be subject to great scrutiny."
"Nevertheless, the principles behind the Krishna-Avanti school remain unchanged: to promote core Hindu values, while providing a first rate education".
Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the Hindu Council UK (HCUK), said of the new approach: "The Hindu faith has a long and commendable tradition of diversity and the admissions policy for the Krishna-Avanti school reflects this. This school is a significant venture for the UK Hindu community."
The admission process has started for the intake of the first batch of students in September 2008. Places are limited to 30 and are expected to be heavily over-subscribed. The official faith advisor to the school is International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) UK, which will advise on aspects of how the Hindu faith can be integrated and taught within the school.