A New Challenge For Punjabi – SIKHCHIC

SikhChic/Gurtej Singh | Asia Samachar | 14 April 2015


“Today I am calling on all the Punjabi adults out there to have another look at your A level and university certificates. If Punjabi is not mentioned anywhere on those certificates let us prepare for and sit A level exams,” writes a concerned Sikh in an article to SikhChic.com.

Gurtej Singh, a strategic planning, policy and security consultant based in Wellington, New Zealand, shares his views on the state of the Punjabi language globally. We reproduce his piece below.


A New Challenge For Punjabi 

It did not surprise me when I read earlier this week about Punjabi being axed in the United Kingdom from some of its school curricula.

This is not a local issue or limited to the UK alone. Punjabi language is facing a similar challenge not only globally but right there in the very Land of The Five Rivers too.

However, what actually surprised me was the lack of any discussion about this news item on the sikhchic.com wesite. Is it some sort of fait accompli?

Apparently so, as even the Punjabi University, Patiala has turned its back on Punjabi language.

Mere claims like ‘Punjabi is the third largest spoken language in the UK after English and Polish’ won’t solve the problem. It is the laggard mentality that is hitting Punjabi below the belt. We Punjabis seem to have become very good at talking the talk, but do we always walk the walk?

In the aforementioned news item the blame game points towards children not opting for A level exams. Do we have any data about how many students opt for Punjabi at O level and how many are left at A level? Do we know if adults are contributing at all in this instance?

Yes, adults!

School education and future career planning can put a lot of pressure on children but what happens once you complete a degree and land a job? Did you ever try to hone your Punjabi language skills and ever thought of sitting the A level exam?

Surely you can sit for a Punjabi A level exam as a standalone effort.

Let me give you an example from New Zealand. Here, substantial funding is available towards “maintaining the mother tongue” initiative. This is for adults and has strings attached. This initiative is not about just attending classes and all the yarning about how rich and widely spoken your language is. For the purpose of audit the funding needs a key performance indicator. And that indicator is a “pass” at Cambridge A level in that language.

So no surprises here; no Punjabi language takers. Of course we adults are afraid of sitting A level Punjabi exam. Once Punjabi is precluded from A level in the UK it would automatically be no longer available globally under the Cambridge system. There is hardly an alternative available anywhere.

Is A level really that hard? Not really if I go by the local example. Hindi language classes are flourishing. And Hindi at A level is not going to go away anytime soon. There is another reason for it. Many private schools in India have opted for the Cambridge curriculum and examination system. So hundreds of students sit for Hindi A level exams in India.

Is it not possible to have at least five schools in Punjab under the aegis of the Cambridge system? Those sitting Punjabi A level in Punjab would keep the system alive globally.

But of course this doesn’t mean that Punjabis based in the UK and elsewhere around the globe should shy away from the A level exam. The proposal to have a few schools in Punjab with Cambridge system is just to ensure a lifeline.

Alternatively, the Punjab School Education Board needs to lift its game and provide a globally recognised education framework. With a recognised system will come the facility of cross-credits. But our best effort as a community is some sort of a Sunday Punjabi school where we never really go beyond the “paintee (35)” alphabet in the absence of real performance indicators.

In the modern mobile world, technology is another area where Punjabi has not even started yet. And they say that only five percent of the current languages of the world are going to survive in the era of technology. But that is a discussion for another day.

Today I am calling on all the Punjabi adults out there to have another look at your A level and university certificates. If Punjabi is not mentioned anywhere on those certificates let us prepare for and sit A level exams.

This will be our intellectual daswandh.

The author is a strategic planning, policy and security consultant based in Wellington, New Zealand. He has worked for the New Zealand public sector. Before migrating to New Zealand his work experience in India included journalism, university lectureship and security. In 2009 he completed his Master’s in Strategic Studies from the School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington.

The original article is available here.


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE! Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]



Giving voice to Punjabi language (Asia Samachar, 2 Apr 2015)

42 teams in 24th annual Punjabi language carnival (Asia Samachar, 2 Mar 2015)

60 teachers work on Punjabi lesson plans (Asia Samachar, 2 Feb 2015)

Kajang kirtan darbar to raise funds for Punjabi language (Asia Samachar, 23 Dec 2014)


  1. Punjabi is not the third but SECOND most popular spoken language.Polish comes third.The problem with Punjabi today is very complex.
    In Punjab, they are killing it to hindinize.The dasam granth protoganists arepart of this.Recently the Khalsa news intimated the lecturers speaking in to “legalise” the DG are all workers of Punjabi university Patiala, who paid generously to keep the propaganda up.

    In the diaspora, the shrinking Punjabi speaking population to do not lend hand to support the language, even though it is the 10 most widely spoken language in the world.

    Only a determined effort from both sides of the border can boost the language.The key word “SUPRESSION” operates .