Whether it’s learning your parents’ first language, or a path to an international career, the inclusion of Punjabi language studies in the West Australian school curriculum is a welcome way for young people to connect to a new culture.
WA Education Minister Sue Ellery announced last week that the language from the Punjab region of India and Pakistan would become an option for K-12 children in 2024.
Deepak Sharma, secretary of the Indian Society of WA, said it was a great way for children from these backgrounds to see their peers learning the language.
“I think it helps in terms of multiculturalism in Australia,” Mr Sharma told ABC Radio Perth presenter Dominique Bayens.
“And it strengthens cultural roots within the community and the wider Australian community.”
According to 2021 census data, Punjabi was the fastest growing language in Australia, with more than 239,000 people speaking the language at home.
The teaching of Hindi and Tamil languages announced earlier this year will also begin in WA schools in 2023.
Allan Blagaich, executive director of the WA School Curriculum and Standards Authority, says language is compulsory for WA children in Years 3 to 8.
“We hope that if we offer additional options in languages we will see it grow and that students will have a choice from Year 9 to Year 12,” he said.
Mr Blagaich said the WA curriculum for the Punjabi language was written in consultation with members of the local Sikh community.
In years 11 and 12, students can choose between two versions of the course.
One is for students who have been learning the language at school, and the other is for students who have prior exposure to the language through their families.
“We also know that for children who understand how to learn a language other than English, it also strengthens their understanding of English,” Mr. Blagaich said.
“Because you probably understand more about grammar and language construction when you speak naturally.”