Earlier this week, the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution that would make Punjabi a compulsory first language in all schools from class 1 through to class 10.
As of 2008, government run schools have been providing compulsory Punjabi lessons. This new resolution, will now make these same lessons compulsory for private schools too. In the past, private schools that operated under the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) were allowed to offer students a choice between Hindi or Punjabi classes.
The resolution, which was moved by Technical Education Minister, Charanjit Singh Channi was welcomed by many within the Punjab community. With more and more technological advancements bringing the world together, there was a fear that the Punjabi language would be forgotten in favour of more globally accessible languages. Unfortunately, there are currently over 2000 languages on the verge of extinction, and Punjabi is very much on that list.
The resolution passed this week, seeks to preserve the Punjabi language. Additionally, it is set to deter those within India and Pakistan who have been accused of actively working against the Punjabi language.
Shamandeep Singh, Founder and CEO of Sikhi Awareness Foundation (SAF) International has witnessed first hand the oppression of the Punjabi language in schools. “Working in the education sector, I’ve come across many cases where children were asked to speak either Hindi or English in school. If they couldn’t or refused, they were told to stay home. As somebody who champions early childhood development and the preservation of the Punjabi language, I applaud this belated decision by the Punjab Government and Mr. Channi for putting forward this resolution.”
Shamandeep Singh, like many Sikhs, believes that teaching the Punjabi language is vital to the preservation of Sikh history and culture. On top of that, it is pivotal in communicating with elders within the community for whom Punjabi is the only language they know.
The fight to preserve the Punjabi language does not solely exist in India and Pakistan. For many immigrants that leave India, there is a pressure to speak their new country’s native tongue. This often leads their children to develop a new foreign language in favour of their family’s mother tongue.
A resident of British Columbia, Canada, whose parents immigrated from Punjab, states that as a child she could speak, read, and write Punjabi and regularly attended Punjabi school. However, as she grew older and integrated into Canadian society, she felt no need to practice this skill set. As a result, she lost the ability to read and write Punjabi. This is something that she now regrets because it has limited her communication with family back in India.
In conclusion, it is clear to see that steps are being taken to preserve the Punjabi language. If they were not, the fears of a generation may come to pass, a language may be lost, and with it decades of history, culture, and community.