Sikhs in Canada differ over school policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Jul 5 14:07:00 UTC 2008

Sikhs in Canada differ over school policy

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

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.

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