Whether it is learning their parents’ first language, or the pathway to an international career, the introduction of Punjabi language studies to the West Australian school curriculum is being welcomed as a way for young people to connect to a new culture.
WA Education Minister Sue Ellery announced last week that the language, of the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, would become an option for children from pre-primary to year 12 in 2024.
Deepak Sharma, the secretary of the Indian Society of WA, said it was a great form of bonding for children from those backgrounds to see their peers learning the language.
“I think it helps in terms of Australia’s multicultural policy that we have,” Mr Sharma told ABC Radio Perth host Dominique Bayens.
“And it just strengthens the cultural roots within the community as well as within the Australian wider community.”
According to Census 2021 figures, Punjabi was the fastest-growing language in Australia, with more than 239,000 people speaking the language at home.
Teaching of Hindi and Tamil languages, announced earlier this year, will also begin at WA schools in 2023.
Executive director of the WA School Curriculum and Standards Authority Allan Blagaich says language is a compulsory part of study for WA children in years 3 to 8.
“We’re hoping that by providing additional choice in languages that we will see that grow and have students opting to take it in years 9 through 12,” he said.
Mr Blagaich said the WA curriculum for Punjabi language was written in consultation with members of the local Sikh community.
In years 11 and 12, students will be able to choose between two versions of the course.
One is for students who have been learning the language at school, while the other is for students with some prior exposure to the language through their families.
“We also know that for kids who are understanding how to learn a language other than English, it also strengthens their understanding of English language,” Mr Blagaich said.
“Because you get to understand grammar and the construction of language probably more so that when you just speak it naturally.”