Hindi language activists who have been working for decades to promote the language not only among the younger generations of the native Hindi speaking migrant communities but also other wider communities in NZ are enthralled with the opportunity to make a submission to a parliamentary Select Committee to include Hindi as one of ten priority second language to be taught in Kiwi schools.
Notably, over the last few weeks, those desiring to see a multilingual education system have been putting their cases to a Select Committee following their submissions on the "Education (Strengthening Second Language Learning in Primary and Intermediate Schools) Amendment Bill.
The Bill proposes the introduction of ten priority languages at the primary and intermediate levels.
Sunita Narayan of Wellington Hindi school said, "This is a dream come true for all of our Hindi language teachers and activists in New Zealand."
"We have been working towards this goal of bringing the Hindi language into NZ educational curriculum for decades," Narayan said.
In the past few months, Hindi language stakeholders have been working together behind the scenes to prepare a common submission highlighting the work being done across the length and breadth of the country – not only in educating Hindi language students – but also in augmenting Hindi language teaching skills within the community.
The office of the Indian High Commission in New Zealand has also been working concertedly with this group offering full logistical support in terms of supporting the development of a curriculum, the deployment of experts, teachers, and trainers for conducting teacher training and professional development, to lay the groundwork for the delivery of Hindi language in schools where students opt for learning the Hindi language.
The Bill, if passed by the parliament, would require the Ministry of Education to set at least ten national priority languages for schools following public consultation and require the Crown to support teaching these languages in primary and intermediate schools.
Every school board must, for each primary school it administers, prepare, adopt and maintain a priority language program, and will be required under the proposed Bill to not adopt or amend a priority language programme under section 60C without first — consulting with the school community, and having regard to the school community's views.
Key Hindi education providers and contributors to the work to date include Bhartiya Mandir, Bhartiya Samaj, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bharat Darshan, Bharatiya Bhasha evam Shodh Sansthan, Hamilton Hindi School, Hindi Language & Culture Trust, Papatoetoe High School, Pooja Cultural Centre, Ram Krishna Hindi School of Language and Culture, Sanatan Shivcharan Trust Sunday School, Southland Hindi School, Waitakere Hindi School and Wellington Hindi School.
Saten Sharma from Waitakere Hindi School and Kashmir Kaur and Arnav Singh from Wellington Hindi School outlined their schools’ success stories, that would be an assurance for any government when developing a languages policy, strategies and an education model.
Rohit Kumar "Happy," editor of Auckland based Bharat-Darshan - world's first Hindi publication on the web, said, "Coming from a diverse and multilingual country like India, I believe that learning more than one language has social, cultural and professional benefits. This Bill will provide an opportunity to learn your own language in schools is a commendable initiative."
"We informed the Select Committee that we had received the assurance from globally recognised Hindi language institutions like World Hindi Secretariat (Mauritius), Indian govt institutes like National Institute of Open Learning (NIOS), Institute of Ministry of Education, and Central Institute of Hindi to provide any logistical support for the development of Hindi language teaching capabilities in NZ," Rohit said.
Satya Dutta of Hindi Language Culture Trust said, "Migrant families often struggle to pass on their language to their children, leading to language loss within two generations on average. Evidence shows that migrant communities cannot maintain their languages without recognition and support from the government, including in education, but this support is currently not available for many community languages.
"Although Hindi is the fourth most spoken language nationally, there is currently no curriculum guideline and no NCEA credits to enable young New Zealanders from Hindi-speaking backgrounds to maintain and strengthen their language skills. Language loss in communities can lead to cultural and social dislocation and the subsequent social cost, not to mention the loss of potential economic benefits of cultural and linguistic competence for international trade," Satya Dutta said.
Dr Pushpa Wood of Bharatiya Bhasha evam Shodh Sansthan said, "I believe that teaching Hindi in schools in Aotearoa will neither affect the place/status and importance of Te Reo Maori nor is Hindi participating as a competitor along with any other language.
"Our aim is to further strengthen the languages, culture, and economic potential of our small white cloud country through our presentation. If we are serious about building the community resilience, equipping our children with multilingual, multicultural skills and help them to become true global citizens," Dr Wood said.