As the weekend comes around, some 2,000 students nationwide make their way to the 50-odd Punjabi Education Centres (PECs), many of them housed within gurdwara compounds. The learning of the mother tongue is earnestly at work.
Now, there is an effort to bump up the efforts, a push to get more students to take up the study of the Punjabi language.
Khalsa Diwan Malaysia (KDM), an Ipoh-headquartered national Sikh organisation that has been spearheading the task through its education wing Punjabi Education Trust Malaysia (PETM), is embarking on a campaign themed ‘My Language, My Identity’.
Set to be launched in early February, the campaign aims to promote the widespread use of Punjabi language and bump up PEC student enrolment.
“The success of this campaign is vital to meet the target requirement set by SEDIC,” PETM secretary Jaginder Singh Rahpatti tells Asia Samachar in a note on the campaign.
SEDIC is the Socio-Economic Development of the Indian Community (SEDIC), a special unit formed under the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The unit manages a Federal government budget meant for Indian-based organisations to fund projects that will improve the position of the bottom half of the Indian community in Malaysia.
In November 2015, for example, four Sikh NGOs received a total of RM945,000 Federal funding for projects to improve the position of the bottom half of the Indian community in Malaysia. KDN received the lion’s share of RM600,000.
“Thus far, KDM has done a good job in promoting the use of Punjabi Language but more needs to be done… [It] needs further expansion, in terms of number of PECs and student enrolment,” Jaginder added.
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The Punjabi Language programme is officially known as Program Pembangunan dan Perkembangan Bahasa Punjabi Dalam Sistem Pendidikan Malaysia
For 2018, SEDIC has set a target of 2,500 students for the programme. PETM records show that there were 2,136 students enrolled in almost 50 centres throughout Malaysia in 2017.
What is the end-result of the PETM efforts?
“The effort has produced the desired results. Over the years, the number of PECs and the number of students have steadily grown,” he said.
One yardstick is the number of students sitting for Government board examinations PT3 for students in year nine and SPM ()-level equivalent) for students in year 11.
“The number of candidates sitting for Punjabi Language paper for PT3 and SPM has also been encouraging lately, unlike the scenario in the late nineties when the number was so small that the Punjabi Language paper was in danger of being scrapped,” he said.
The funding received goes towards paying the part-time teachers and running of the centres. In the past, most of the funding came directly from the gurdwaras supporting each individual centres. Even today, many of the centres have to fork out funding over and above what is received from the PETM.
In the note, Jaginder said: “In terms of funding for this programme, although faced with numerous challenges and obstacles, with Waheguruji’s Grace, it has been well-managed.
“From heavy dependency on funds from KDM and well-wishers in the earlier years, of late KDM has been receiving grants from the Government through SEDIC, a unit in the Prime Minister’s Department which partly funds and fully supports the implementation of this programme. Today, we are able to help PECs by giving financial aid in the form of Per Capita Grant based on the number of students enrolled in each centre.”
Among others, PECs receive financial aid, curriculum/syllabus/scheme of work, textbooks / workbooks/ Sikhi books/ reading materials, continuous professional development courses for teachers, upgrading of teachers from non-diploma to diploma level and centralised exam papers.
They also receive past year exam papers for PT3 and SPM, report cards, educational and motivational seminars, an annual magazine Awaaz, calendars and specific financial aid upon written request.
On its part, KDM intends to use all avenues possible, including Gurdwara functions, Punjabi seminars and youth camps, to address the Sikh community on the importance of learning and speaking Punjabi.
“We have produced and sent bookmarks, flyers and posters for distribution and display in all Gurdwaras and PECs. We seek the cooperation and support of the administrators to meet people, make announcements, display posters and distribute flyers in the Gurdwaras and the PECs to encourage people to enrol their children in the nearest centre,” he said.
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