More schools and universities in British Columbia introduce Punjabi classes

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VANCOUVER: The Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been promoting Punjabi for more than 23 years. In addition to its board of directors, a large number of well-wishers of this language, including the media, have been actively involved in this process. PLEA is always very thankful to our electronic and print media for conveying its message to the community.

However, we don’t thank our individual supporters often enough. With this objective in mind, we brought together a number of its well-wishers and supporters on July 6 for the PLEA Appreciation Dinner at Shahi Catering in Surrey.

Sadhu Binning and I had the honour of giving an updateon the current situation of Punjabi in British Columbia. It is gratifying to note that Punjabi is now being taught in seven secondary and four elementary schools in Surrey. Another secondary school – Sullivan Heights – is expected to offer Punjabi in September.

The Surrey School District has established a Second Language Working Group under Director of Instruction Neder Dhillon’s leadership. This group has PLEA representative Ranbir Johal on it. We are hopeful that this working group will facilitate introduction of Punjabi in as many elementary and secondary schools as possible. Surrey is now the largest school district in the province with more than 71,000 students. Out of this, more than 15,500 students are from Punjabi families. Thus, PLEA is very keen to see a lot more schools in Surrey offering Punjabi.

In addition to Surrey, Punjabi classes are under way in North Delta Secondary School, Burnaby South Secondary, two New Westminster schools – N.W. Secondary and Queensborough Middle School. Walter Moberly Elementary School in Vancouver has been offering Punjabi for a number of years. Well-wishers of Punjabi in Abbotsford must be commended for getting Punjabi classes under way in a number of elementary middle schools and a secondary school there.

In addition to that, Punjabi classes have been under way at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and University of the Fraser Valley and Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

The Indo-Canadian community in general and Punjabis in particular have made huge strides in Canada since our ancestors arrived here some 125 years ago. Today, Punjabis are in the forefront everywhere, be it politics, media, sports, education, business and technology. As a matter of fact, the high profile Punjabis have achieved in this country is unprecedented.

Punjabi is now the third most spoken language in Canada behind English and French. It is also the third most spoken language in Metro Vancouver. In cities like Surrey, Abbotsford, Brampton and Mississauga, Punjabi is now the second most spoken language behind English.

In many communities, Punjabi has now become the language of employment. Signs stating: “We speak Punjabi” are quite common around Metro Vancouver. This era can be rightly called the golden era for Punjabis in Canada. However, despite these successes there are still a number of challenges.

Encouraging parents and students to take pride in their mother tongue and enroll for Punjabi classes in schools and post-secondary institutions should go a long way in promoting Punjabi. Getting children interested in the richness of this language and appreciate Punjabi language and literature is another challenge.

For quite some time PLEA has been in discussion with the SFU administration to set up a sustainable chair or something like that to recognize Punjabi language, literature and heritage etc. in some form.

On behalf of PLEA, I am very thankful to the Indo-Canadian Business Association for its financial commitment and support in getting Punjabi classes under way at the SFU Surrey campus. I hope we can count on its continued support. We need to continue to work together in creating more pride in our mother tongue.

(Honoured with the Order of British Columbia, Balwant Sanghera is the president of the Punjabi Language Education Association)

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