Teaching Punjabi in Surrey Schools
THERE are 101 elementary schools in Surrey. The reasons behind the fact that in Surrey only four elementary schools are offering Punjabi classes (a total of about 100 students) could be attributed to the following factors:
- Not enough students are choosing Punjabi as their second language. Many parents don’t urge their kids to choose Punjabi. I am convinced that our kids will be better off taking Punjabi instead of French. Knowledge of Punjabi gained from grade 5 to grade 8 and possibly from grade 5 to grade 12, will give them confidence to talk to other members of our community. If they take Punjabi as a second language, they can use their knowledge each and every day of their lives. It will also help them keep their identity and maintain their culture. French may help only if one chooses to seek a federal government job or moves to Quebec. I think 90% or so people born in BC are likely to live and work in BC.
- Schools do not want to take trouble to hire Punjabi teachers. I am sure a large number of qualified teachers from Punjab are living in Surrey and are available to take up Punjabi teaching positions.
- Schools might say that they don’t have resources. I don’t agree with that. The same resources which are available for French could be used for Punjabi. As far as the curriculum is concerned, there is already a set curriculum prepared by the Education Department.
- Schools might say that they have a choice as to which language they offer. If that is so, what is the meaning of legislation which says in BC students have a choice of Punjabi, Mandarin, French, Japanese, Spanish or German as a second language. My contention is that if a sufficient number of students choose Punjabi as their second language, the schools should offer Punjabi as a second language.
- I think our community has not really convinced Punjabi parents to ask their kids to choose Punjabi. It is also possible that the schools gave them reason to choose French instead of Punjabi.
Leaders of the Punjabi community have to work hard to convince Punjabi parents to ask their kids to choose Punjabi and only Punjabi as their second language. After we have students, community leaders have to step in and assert our right to get Punjabi classes started. Surrey has so many Punjabi students. I think Punjabi classes should be held in 50 or more schools, not only four schools. Punjabi media has to play a big role in this matter. Thousands of Punjabi students should learn Punjabi instead of French in the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in BC. This matter is challenging and hugely rewarding for our community.