TO THE SURREY SCHOOL BOARD:
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LANGUAGE EDUCATION POLICY IN SURREY’S ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ਲੈਂਗੂਏਜ ਐਜੂਕੇਸ਼ਨ ਐਸੋਸੀਏਸ਼ਨ
PUNJABI LANGUAGE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
Balwant Sanghera , President – 275-8977 Sadhu Binning, Vice President – 437-9014
May 31, 2001
Punjabi is a major language of Indo-European Language Family spoken in Northern India and Pakistan by more than 130 million people. It ranks number 13 among 6000 languages of the world.
PUNJABI LANGUAGE IN SURREY, BC, CANADA
Punjabi has been spoken in Canada for more than one hundred years. According to 1996 figures Punjabi is number 7 among non-official languages spoken in Canada.
In British Columbia Punjabi is number 3.
In Surrey it is very likely to be number 2.
IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING PUNJABI TO OUR CHILDREN
Punjabi parents, like other parents, feel the strong need to teach children their mother tongue. It is not only important for more obvious cultural reasons, it is also important for the proper development of our children as equal and proud citizens of Canada. The research also supports the idea of teaching mother tongue to children. According to Marcel Danesi:
“… the formalized learning of the mother tongue enhances not only the global verbal skills of the minority-language child, but also the child’s cognitive, socioaffective and academic development.”
LANGUAGE EDUCATION IN BC SCHOOLS
The Education Ministry of BC brought in a new language policy in 1994 to reflect the changing demographic realties of our society. Punjabi being the third largest language spoken in BC was chosen as one of the six languages to be taught as second language in public schools. In this new policy, learning of a second language was made mandatory for students in grades 5 through 8, while students may continue to learn a second language in grades 9 through 12 as well.
THE SITUATION IN SURREY
Along with other communities, Punjabi parents had high hopes that their children will be able to learn their mother tongue both at the Elementary and Secondary levels. However, the last seven years have been rather disappointing. Punjabi Language Education Association would like to commend Surrey School Board for making a sincere effort at the secondary level. We are pleased that at present four secondary schools in Surrey are offering classes in Punjabi.
Only a couple of Surrey schools have chosen to offer Punjabi at the Secondary level as an elective course. No attempt has been made at the elementary level where some schools have over 80% student population coming from Punjabi background.
COMPLICATIONS IN IMPLEMENTING THE LANGUAGE POLICY
We in the Punjabi Language Education Association fully understand the difficulties involved in implementing the language policy in schools. There are numerous problems such as finding the appropriate teaching resources and trained teachers. However, we feel that problems can only be solved by addressing them. The Punjabi Language Education Association, on behalf of the Punjabi community, is willing to work with the Surrey School Board in finding the solutions to problems faced in the implementation of the Language Policy in Surrey Schools
ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM
The Punjabi Language Education Association would like to see Punjabi offered in the Surrey School District both at the Elementary and Secondary levels.
Our position regarding the implementation of the Languages Education Policy of the Ministry of Education is as follows:
1. Punjabi Language Education is made available to students from grades 5 through 12 as the Language Policy permits.
2. Punjabi Language Education is made available to students during the regular school day.
3. Punjabi Language Education is made available to both Heritage Language and Second Language learners.
4. A District Committee, with representation from the Punjabi Community, is established to monitor the implementation of Punjabi Language Education.