Punjabi in Australian Schools

 By Bawa Jagdev

Gurmeet Kaur, entrepreneurial Assistant Secretary National Sikh Council of Australia, has been actively involved in the teaching of Punjabi in New South Wales Australia (NSW) for the past 18 years. She was instrumenta in the development of the first Kindergarten to Year 10 Punjabi Syllabus in NSW, in the teaching of the language in community based schools and finally in the development of the language and teaching materials for Years 7 to 10.

She has now set a new record by starting the very first Punjabi class in a NSW secondary school achieving this through ongoing consultation with her school Principal over the past few years. This is the first class of its kind in Australia ”“ teaching Punjabi language as a mainstream subject to multicultural Australian students.  

She teaches Punjabi to 20 students at Sir Joseph Banks High School Revesby where she has been a mathematics teacher for the past 16 years. The students in her class are from varying cultural backgrounds; Fijian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Samoan, Anglo Saxon, Italian and Tongan but none from a Punjabi background.

Punjabi is taught as part of the school curriculum. Students are taught 5 hours per fortnight. They learn not only the language but also culture, history, beliefs and foods for the  whole year through activities such as cooking and excursions to Gurudwaras and restaurants. The students are really enjoying learning experiences which include alphabets, muharnees, counting, culture, traditions, religious beliefs and about Punjab – the land of five rivers. As part of their assessment they have to design and publish a travel brochure to promote Punjab in Australia and plan a menu for their Punjabi Restaurant – The Dhaba.

Mr Kitteringham, the school Principal, said, about Gurmeet, “Mrs Kaur has worked hard to incorporate the vital aspects of learning Punjabi to fit into the NSW syllabus for 2017. The NSW syllabus outcome of  ”˜moving between cultures’ brings awareness of cultural diversity and helps our students identify cultural practices in neighbouring Punjabi-speaking communities. Also, the syllabus  outcome of  ”˜making linguistic connections’ helps  students recognise the diversity of language systems and explore ways in which meaning is conveyed in Punjabi.”

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