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 In January 2008, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK, began formal classes for 33 children to be awarded the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in Hinduism. The course, comprising two units – Unit M on ‘Hinduism’ and Unit F on ‘Religion and life based on a study of Hinduism’ – with five sections in each unit, is accredited by Edexcel, the UK’s largest awarding body offering academic and vocational qualifications to learning centres in the UK and internationally.

The classes firstly concentrated on Unit M with the exam being taken in June of this year. These classes were held every Saturday at The Swaminarayan Independent School in Neasden, London, with some children travelling from as far as Milton Keynes, Luton and Wellingborough. The course tutor, Mr Lalji Ladwa, is a full-time Religious Studies and Gujarati teacher at the School. Special revision classes during the Easter and May Bank Holidays complemented the classroom lessons, and valuable support and encouragement from the parents helped the children prepare thoroughly.

We were delighted that a full 100% of all students who sat the exam achieved grades ranging from A* to C (the GCSE board considers grades D and E as passes, too), compared to 73% nationally. Of these, almost half (48.5%) were in the top A* and A band, whereas only one-third (33%) of students achieved the same standard in the subject nationally.

Special congratulations go to Elissa Patel (14) who scored a perfect 100% in her exam, coming among the top ten of 94,361 candidates nationwide who took GCSE Religious Studies. The School received a letter of commendation from the Managing Director of Edexcel congratulating her on this outstanding achievement.

We are very pleased for all our young students and their parents, especially considering the average age of the children was under 14 – compared to the usual age of 16.

Earlier this academic year, these children began their classes for Unit F. In parallel, another group of 34 new students has started Unit M classes in preparation for their exam in June 2009. With the help of 11 dedicated support-teachers, we are thus currently catering for 67 children studying towards a GCSE in Hinduism.

Most importantly, the children themselves are finding the classes very rewarding and enjoyable. Here are a few of their comments:

“Learning about Hinduism is very important to me because there is no point in following a religion if you don’t know what it is about. It’s also very interesting and now I can answer all those questions my friends have been asking me in a proper way!”
– Hershini Soneji (12)

“It has made me understand more about my own religion and also helped me to respect other people’s points of view.”
– Shraddha Patel (14)

“Hinduism is a really interesting topic to be studying. The teachers here are really nice and they make sure you understand everything. I don’t know much about my own culture, so if people asked me a question about my religion I wouldn’t have a proper answer but after coming here I can give a proper answer about my religion.”
– Priyanka Depala (14)

“At first I thought that Hinduism would be a little hard, but then I realised that it really helped me understand my religion.”
– Araddhna Patel (12)

“I think that this course is very interesting and very good as I found it fun and very resourceful. Our teacher Laljibhai is excellent!”
– Nikhil Patel (13)

“I benefitted from this course because it brought me closer to the roots and traditions of my religion.”
– Parul Pujara (14)

“The Hinduism classes have been very helpful and have increased my knowledge about Hinduism. I have really enjoyed it as I have made many new friends as well.”
– Shivani Patel (14)

“I have learnt so much more about my culture and the Hindu way of life. Now, I am always ahead in RE lessons at school.”
– Danvi Morjaria (14)

“I love to go to Hinduism classes because you can learn the background of the religion that you follow and are proud of. It’s a great chance to answer questions your friends will ask and answer them confidently.”
– Krupa Dodhia (12)

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