UK: How could the teaching of Sikhism be improved in schools?

UK Sikh children at school

An ideal lesson plan on Sikhism might scope to creating small groups, allocating one or another aspect of Sikhism and setting off to research their topic in relation to Sikhism. They may be researching Sikh practices, Sikh language, Sikh culture, etc. They may use the internet, encyclopedias, and other books to supplement their research. The outcomes might be presented as write a song, a poster, a PowerPoint presentation, ‘teach’ the class in a mini-lesson, write a short play, etc. How do we inspire teachers to be confident “out of the box”?

As a practising Sikh and a successful VAT Accountant, I decided to take a year out to enjoy my daughters introduction years to schooling, leading to much self-realisation and satisfaction in hosting school visits to the local Gurdwara.

The experience and uptake was overwhelming with well over 50% of local schools taking advantage of the opportunity. Curiosity led me to join the local SACRE and learn about the guidance that was provided to the schools…..and this is when I noticed a gap.

On speaking with many of the non-specialist teachers who came with the school children, it became apparent that many (through no fault of there own necessarily) had in fact simply been fitting the teaching of Sikhism into standard topic boxes ;

  • Places Of Worship = Gurdwara
  • Religious leaders = 10 Gurus
  • Symbols = 5k’s
  • Festivals = Vaisakhi

This quickly led to a teacher training session again at the Gurdwara, which allowed me, in just a short time, cover the whole syllabus, providing teachers the confidence to present everything with an “Outside of the Box” approach.

Teachers got so much from this, that even today, are emailing me with more detailed questions, and saying how much they love teaching Sikhism. I am now being invited into schools to lead workshops and assemblies, in a fun, friendly and interactive manner. Some teachers who have moved outside of the county have introduced me to there local SACRE and new schools, where the momentum of school visit requests has increased to literally spanning the whole of the UK.

Just through enhancing the confidence in teachers and working with the children, in a simple let lively manner, I think that many teachers are seeing that Sikhism is perhaps not just another religion, but understanding “Sikhi” more as a Way of Life that does fit inside the box but also lives outside it !

Harkirat Singh
Sikh Education Officer
Feedback from school visits
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Sikh childen at school

Sikh childen at school in the public school system in the UK

Source: The London RE Hub