Anti-Hindu hate in schools

Think tank: The Henry Jackson Society

Author(s): Charlotte Littlewood

April 19, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Henry Jackson Society looks at the prevalence of discrimination against Hindu pupils in schools in the UK.

This study examined the prevalence of discrimination against Hindu pupils in schools in the UK and found that it is present in the classroom. Incidents, in the main, emanate from peers but there have been concerns that some schools’ approaches to teaching Hinduism are fostering prejudice. Whilst bullying has the potential to affect students of all ethnic and religious backgrounds, this study investigates a form of hate that is under researched. This is the first dedicated report investigating discrimination against Hindus in UK schools. It highlights the extent to which schools are seemingly ill-equipped to identify and prevent anti-Hindu hate. More widely, the findings of this report suggest that, by extension, schoolchildren from other religious minorities in Britain may also be experiencing alienation and bullying that escapes official notice.

This study follows previous work by the Henry Jackson Society looking into antisemitism in schools which found that issue was also poorly understood and inconsistently reported. The school experience of all religious minority students in the UK deserves further urgent study. The lack of national reporting requirements on race or faith-targeted hate incidents in schools has been a matter of growing concern. This study adds to the evidence that such incidents are more widespread than thought, cause deep distress and may undermine community cohesion. The study highlights the urgent need for schools to take a more proactive approach towards how they understand, record and tackle the particular types of prejudice manifesting in their classrooms. 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 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 quality of teaching on Hinduism has been 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. A deep analysis of teaching on Hinduism is beyond the scope of this report but the findings point to a distinct need for enquiry and consultation. The findings of this study add weight to the recommendations made by the Commission on Religious Education that there should be a statutory, national approach to teaching religious education subject to inspection. The Commission also recommended a wider lens on the subject that avoids a purely Abrahamic framework and access to national resources that can support all schools in teaching the complex and sensitive issues that arise. Shifting onus away from the present decentralised system of local SACREs (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) would increase quality assurance and provide a more standardised approach for all students.