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Blair's support to faith schools is misplaced: Amartya Sen

Sen said Muslim, Hindu and Sikh schools reduce reach of reason and threaten attainment levels.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2003 21:34 IST

Nobel Prize winner Dr Amartya Sen criticised the support to faith schools by Prime Minister Tony Blair while delivering a keynote speech at the Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Edinburgh.

He also criticised the Scottish Executive’s stance on denominational schools, claiming single-faith establishments damage educational attainment. He said: "I personally believe that even the UK government makes a mistake in expanding, rather than reducing, faith-based schools, adding, for example, Muslim schools, Hindu schools and Sikh schools to pre-existing Christian ones."

Dr Sen further stressed "the importance of non-sectarian and non-parochial curricula that expand, rather than reduce, the reach of reason", claiming that faith schools reduced individuality and threatened attainment levels.

Jack McConnell, the Scottish First Minister, had way back in 2001 described Catholic schools as offering "a positive choice and a solid record of achievement to parents and pupils".

A spokeswoman for the Executive said: "We believe that denominational schools provide an important strand in parental choice in education and make a positive contribution to raising achievement and attainment. We value this and would expect to see them continue."

But a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland defended the status quo: "All parents have the right to have their children educated according to their own beliefs. Many non-Christian families choose a Catholic education owing to its adherence to a moral code."

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST