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Canada Sikhs differ over school policy

Sikhs in Canada say the policy of teaching boys and girls without mixing them up with others in the society will only isolate them.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2006 16:13 IST

A Sikh school's plans to expand has divided the community, with some saying that segregating the boys and girls from the larger Canadian society will only harm the students. Not everyone agrees.

The Khalsa School at Mississaugahas in Greater Toronto Area opened in 1995 with only 68 students. It now has 400 pupils. The school offers a means of holding on to the Sikh tradition.

The school recently acquired five hectares of land and is drawing up big plans to expand its curriculum.

Now some parents and others in the Sikh community believe that the policy of teaching the boys and girls without mixing them up with others in the Canadian society in the classroom is only isolating them.

The Globe and Mail newspaper quoted Kaylene Brar, a teacher from another school, as saying: "Canada's USP is its multi-ethnicity. Kids, at not just the Sikh school but other religious schools, miss out on cultural assimilation that starts at the school level."

In her view, children must learn about different cultures and mix with other children.

But Deepinder Gill, whose two daughters study in the Sikh school, does not agree. "It keeps them closer to their faith and their culture," he argued, in supporting of maintaining the school's Sikh identity.

"I don't have to worry that they won't know anything about Sikhism. They are doing well academically," he said.

At the school, students and teachers have their heads covered by turbans or scarves.

"We offer Sikh families a choice," said Harman Ahluwalia, vice-principal of the school.

The school follows the Ontario school curriculum besides teaching 'kirtan', Sikh theology, Punjabi language and Sikh heritage.

"People have different priorities, we give them a chance to exercise their choice," Ahluwalia said.

The Sikh population in Greater Toronto Area, now 150,000, is growing and the high school is expanding at the right time, said Roma Kaur, who edits a women's magazine.

"The school's doing a good job of preserving the Sikh heritage, but it is time to upgrade it. I know there's been a demand for it," she said.