Ottawa university breaks new grounds with Sikhism, Punjabi courses. Another first in Canada!

The introduction of the courses has an interesting backstory. The idea was mooted by social science undergraduate student Prabhroop Chawla

Prabhroop Chawla

University of Ottawa breaks new grounds with the introduction of Sikhism and Punjabi courses starting January 2019. The Sikhism courses are probably among the first across Canada.

The introduction of the two courses has an interesting backstory. Sometime last year, social science undergraduate student Prabhroop Chawla took the initiative to propose the introduction of the courses, partly because she wanted to take them, as well.

After some months, the university’s Faculty of Arts introduced two new interdisciplinary electives for the winter 2019 trimester.

“When I initially moved (to Ottawa), I noticed that the (Sikh) community was definitely smaller … than it is in Vancouver or in places like Toronto, but I immediately got involved and got to know people in my first year,” she told The Fulcrum, an independent English-language student newspaper at the university.

“I’ve always been really passionate about learning about my heritage and my religion, my language, culture … and I thought well, why not share that with others?”

The Introduction to Punjabi and Sikhism Studies (AHL2100) is an introduction to Punjabi with a focus on oral, written, and reading comprehension, with added lessons offering cultural context to the language through poetry, and literature.

The second programme, the Sikh Diaspora InCanada (AHL3100), will look at the history of the Sikh faith and Punjabi culture, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions and leadership of the Sikh community in Canada.

Both courses, available to students as of January 2019, are also open to community members and students from other institutions.

In August 2018, US-based Harvard University introduced the ‘Sikhism Through Its Scriptures’. The free, four-week course examines the Sikh scripture from a doctrinal and historical perspective by providing an overview of Sikh teachings as well as the historical context within which the scripture evolved and became canonised.

The Harvard course was handled by Harpreet Singh, a scholar of Sikhism and South Asian Religions Traditions at Harvard, and teaching assistants Damanpreet Singh and Ravinder Singh.


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