Desis in UK want 10 Indian languages in school curriculum

LONDON: Community leaders from the Indian diaspora in Britain have handed over a memorandum addressed to education secretary Gillian Keegan calling for 10 Indian languages to be added to the national curriculum in England. The memorandum was handed over to a representative from the department of education at the Indian high Commission in London on Tuesday.
“As a vibrant and inclusive society, it is high time that students of the UK learn these languages as part of their school curriculum,” the letter from Harmeet Singh Bhakna, director of the Punjabi Language Awareness Board UK, states. It is calling for Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Tamil, Nepali, Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu and Marathi to be added to the national curriculum that all local-authority maintained schools in England have to follow. These languages, in this order, are the top 10 South Asian languages spoken as a main language in England, according to the 2021 census. Although the government does not prescribe which languages are taught, schools generally only teach French, German and Spanish.
Bhakna said: “I have requested many times for Punjabi to be added to the curriculum, but they always said because of the Equality Act they could not add it, so now we have requested 10 languages to be added to the curriculum and get the same treatment as French. We are waiting for a response and they can’t say the Equality Act is preventing this. ”
At present if students request to learn another language, the school generally says it has no budget and refuses, and the children have to learn it outside school and pay for it out of their own pockets. Many British Indian children are learning Punjabi outside school, in gurdwaras.
Bhakna, and C K Naidu, who represents Sanathan Sanstha UK, who are behind the campaign, want South Asian languages to be taught at every school in England so that Britain can make the most of its Brexit dividend. They do notjust want the languages taught in areas where there are high concentrations of South Asian heritage pupils. “The main thing is to skill the UK nation and build stronger relations with South Asian countries,” Bhakna said.
“The teaching of these languages would help the integration of the South Asian community with the English community and within the South Asian community. You saw the clashes in Leicester,” he said. “When you talk to someone in their own language, business flourishes and you understand the other person’s culture,” Naidu said, pointing out the importance of Indian languages now that UK-India business ties are growing.

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