A Matter of Great Pride for Punjabis
It is great news for well- wishers of Punjabi that this language has gained a place of prominence at the international level.
According to available information, Punjabi ranks 9th or 10th from top out of a total of 6,000 languages recognized internationally by the United Nations. It has been reported that close to 150 million Punjabi speakers are spread out in about 125 countries around the globe.
Nationally, Punjabi stands as the sixth or seventh most spoken language in Canada. Here, in the Metro Vancouver area, Punjabi is the third most spoken language after English and Chinese. Most likely, it will also be the case in Metro Toronto where places like Brampton, Springdale and Mississauga have substantially large Punjabi speaking residents. In British Columbia’s cities like Surrey and Abbotsford, Punjabi is second only to English as the most spoken language.
It is a matter of great pride for the Punjabi community that there are eight Punjabi speaking members of parliament in Ottawa and seven in the British Columbia legislature. PLEA is very encouraged to note that some elected non Indo-Canadians like Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, Surrey MLAs Bruce Ralston and Sue Hammel are also learning Punjabi.
Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) is very pleased that Punjabi language classes have been progressing very well in a number of public schools and post-secondary institutions in B.C.
Surrey continues to be a great model for others. Punjabi classes have been under way for many years, in the Surrey School District for grades 5, 6 and 7 in three elementary schools. These are: Newton, Strawberry Hill and Beaver Creek. In addition to that, six high schools have Punjabi classes going on at different levels. It is likely that another high school, Frank Hurt, will also be added to this list shortly.
In addition to Surrey, Punjabi is being taught at Queensborough Middle and New West Secondary in New Westminster and Walter Moberly Elementary in Vancouver. Up until June of this year ,Punjabi was also taught at Cambie Secondary in Richmond. Due to staff changes, it may be hard for the school to offer it unless a suitable Punjabi teacher is available. PLEA has been working with the school district officials to ensure that students who want to take Punjabi can continue to do so.
Punjabi supporters, teachers and administration in Abbotsford must be commended for their efforts there. At this time, three elementary and one secondary school in Abbotsford are offering Punjabi classes. Abbotsford has also made provision for a part-time Punjabi language-helping teacher for the district. This is a great development.
At the post-secondary level, a number of Punjabi classes were being offered at the Surrey and Richmond campuses of Kwantlen University College. Hopefully, there will be enough students for the continuation of these programs. Also, Punjabi classes are available at University College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford. University of British Columbia has been successfully offering first, second and third year Punjabi courses for the past several years.
Efforts are underway to have Punjabi available in several more schools in Surrey, Vancouver, Burnaby and elsewhere. PLEA hopes to have Punjabi in at least three more schools in Surrey. They include Cougar Creek, Cindrich and Creekside.Similarly; we have approached Vancouver School District officials to consider offering Punjabi at Trudeau, Sexsmith and Henderson Elementary and John Oliver Secondary. Burnaby School District has also been requested to offer Punjabi at a couple of its elementary schools and Burnaby South Secondary.
I would like to request parents at all of these schools to get together and approach the principal of the school that their children attend and urge them to offer Punjabi language classes in their schools. PLEA would be pleased to assist them in any way it can. However, the initiative has to come from the parents and the community.
PLEA finds that there are a number of problems with the province’s current language policy. These have been brought to the attention of the minister of education, Shirley Bond. Hopefully, the minister will look favorably at our recommendations.
On behalf of PLEA, I would like to thank all of our supporters, Indo-Canadian media and the community for their continued support.
Punjabi Language Education Association