First Indian community language conference in Sydney

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Dr. Meenakshi Srinivasan of  The School of Vedic Sciences (Aust) Inc. with  Gopal Subramaniam at Parravilla Function Centre

“Celebrating our language, our culture in our multicultural Australia”, is the first ever Indian Community Languages Schools Parents & Teachers Conference in Australia held on June 19, 2016. The aim was to create synergy among the Indian communities to work together and contribute towards sustenance of Indian Languages learning in Australia.

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“Teachers and parents from Sanskrit, IABBV-Hindi School, Green Valley Languages and Arts School, Balar Malar Tamil School, Tamil Study Centre ”“ Homebush, Green Valley Hindi School, Guru Nanak Punjabi School, National Sikh Council of Australia, Revesby Punjabi School, Australian Marathi Vidyalaya, Telugu Association Inc, Balakairali Malayalee kids associates and Urdu schools attended the conference to share their knowledge, expertise through structured presentations and workshops,” said Karthik Subramanian, President Sydney Sanskrit School.

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Initiated by The School of Vedic Sciences (Aust) Inc. the event was supported by Community Languages Schools Program, Department of Education under the ”˜Communities United through Language’ reform initiative of the NSW Government and NSW Federation of Community Languages. The program supports over 55 languages and 250 Community Language organizations in NSW.

India has the highest representation of Community Languages by virtue of its diversity. The program was presided over by Mr. Geoff Lee, NSW State Member of Parramatta, Dr. Vinod Bahade, Deputy Consulate General of India, Mr. Raj Datta, Councillor Strathfield Council, Prof Nihal Agar, President Hindu Council of Australia, Mr. Albert Vella, President FCLS, Mrs. Mala Mehta, Founder IABBAV-Hindi School and Mr. Anaghan Babu, Former President Balar Malar Tamil School.

The Conference Souvenir magazine “Sulekhasangraha” (Compendium of articles) was released and distributed to the participants and guests. Lauding the initiative, all guests spoke eloquently of the importance of one’s identity and culture to their self-belief and that Community Language schools are seen as significant enablers. It was also agreed that Community Language schools work with meagre resources, usually run by volunteers, are saddled with bureaucratic compliance requirements and need to develop appropriate learning aides.

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The need for greater funding from the NSW government was lobbied by Mr. Albert Vella so also the need for support from the Indian government was highlighted by the participating school teachers. Experts in Education, participating school teachers, and parents with academic expertise were chosen to share their teaching methodologies and experiences through a series of lectures and hands-on workshops.

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The 75 participants consisted of 56 teachers from Community Language schools from Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Marathi, Telugu, Malayalam and Urdu. It was evident that the schools shared common issues such as the retention of children in Second Language learning, developing study materials with scarce resources and relied heavily on volunteers and goodwill.

Most of them had developed ingenuous methods of making classes interesting and effective considering they teach only few hours a week allotted to their specific Community Language learning. The blossoming feeling of oneness, shared concern about difficulties in retaining second language, request for conducting this Conference every year and the enthusiasm for lobbying Australian Federal and State governments and the Indian Government for grants and resources marked the success of this historic event.

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