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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Explained: How Punjab plans to roll out foreign language learning in govt schools

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has reiterated his wish to see foreign languages as optional subjects for students of government schools and directed the Education Department to explore all possibilities to make it a reality.

Written by Divya Goyal |
June 12, 2021 9:21:17 am
Many students from the region pursue foreign languages before applying to study abroad. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

Soon after Punjab topped the National Performance Grading Index in school education for 2019-20, as released by the Centre, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh reiterated his wish to see foreign languages as optional subjects for students of government schools and directed the Education Department to explore all possibilities to make it a reality. The Indian Express explains why the project is important for the state where majority of youths live with NRI dreams.

Is it for the first time that Punjab has proposed to offer foreign languages in government schools?

No, it is for the second time that Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has talked of offering foreign languages as an option for government school students who want to learn them. Earlier in 2018, Amarinder had said that Mandarin Chinese would be offered to senior secondary classes in government schools as “China was emerging as the most significant neighbor” and it was “need of the hour to learn their language”. However, the project could not take off even as Education Department started looking for the qualified instructors.

What are the languages likely to be offered in Punjab government schools?

CM Amarinder Singh has directed the Education Department to explore all possibilities to offer languages such as ‘French, Chinese, Arabic’ to the students. In his statement, he also said that once he saw a placard while travelling in rural areas of district Kapurthala which pointed towards a location where Italian was being taught. This, he said, indicated that youth of Punjab was “keen to learn foreign languages to settle abroad”.

Why is the Punjab government keen on the idea?

Most students in Punjab government schools come from rural background and wish to fly abroad after Class 10 or 12. They mostly move to countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand among others. They also face difficulty in speaking and writing English language due to weak basic skills acquired at primary level. Later, clearing the IELTS exam becomes a challenge, which is mandatory for moving to countries such as Canada. Coming from financially weak families, government school students are mostly not in position to afford private tuition/coaching facilities to learn other languages or even English. Amarinder said that if students will learn at least one foreign language, it would improve chances of their employability across the globe and would help them in excelling in their career.

Have government teachers of Punjab ever undergone any foreign language training?

Yes, a batch of at least 15 government school teachers from Punjab is currently undergoing training in Japanese language. However, they are being trained under state’s Skill Development Mission to create taskforce that can be eligible for jobs being offered by Japanese firms under ‘Invest Punjab’ programme. These teachers are being trained as ‘master trainers’, and would further train those candidates in Japanese, who want to apply for jobs with Japanese companies that are expected to invest in Punjab.

How does Punjab plan to roll out foreign language courses in government schools?

School Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla said that the plan is to start online classes after tying up institutes/coaching centers. Students can “opt whichever language they want such as German, Chinese, and French etc.” and it “will be optional, not compulsory”.

“We just do not want our students to face any difficulty while moving abroad, applying for jobs across the globe or anything that hampers their career prospects because of language barrier,” said Singla.

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