Papatoetoe North School in South Auckland has become the first school in New Zealand to start a “Hindi bilingual class” whereby offering an opportunity for young children to acquire learning in school in the Hindi language medium.

This was announced today in an official ceremony held at the school premises in South Auckland with Hon Consul of India Bhav Dhillon as the Chief Guest and several key community leaders, including Satya Dutt, a leading Hindi language activist from Hindi Language Culture Trust of New Zealand, Kanwaljit Bakshi, Former National Party MP, Lata Singh of New Zealand Sanatan Naari Sabha among others.

A historic milestone

Welcoming the opening of the bilingual Hindi classes, Bhav Dhillon said, “This is a great milestone in the growth and acceptance of the Hindi language in Aotearoa New Zealand as a mode of communication.”

“It will remove the barrier in learning for many children who comes from households where Hindi is a primary language of communication.”

“The classes in this primary school will give an opportunity to young children to learn Hindi as an additional language, which research shows enhance the overall academic competence of students in today’s increasingly multicultural world,” Mr Dhillon added.

Inspired by Maori bilingual classes

Concurring with these sentiments, the principal of the school, Stan Tiatia said, “We are extremely proud to be able to open the first Hindi bilingual class. This is an initiative driven by research about bilingual learning as well as from the aspirations of parents. Heritage languages are important to us, and having 30 per cent of students from homes that have Hindi spoken in, we feel that our school needs to reflect the community we live in. We have been overwhelmed by the community support, and we are looking forward to developing the provision further in the future.

“The roadmap to establishing the bilingual Hindi class was developed by our bilingual Maori classes ‘Te Whanau Tupuranga’, and we have been developing language learning progressions in Hindi Samoan and Te reo Maori.”

“We have a committed management team and passionate classroom teachers, like Mrs Sheetal Singh, who have made this inaugural initiative possible,” Mr Tiatia said.

Sheetal Singh is the teacher coordinator running this bilingual class who told the Indian Weekender that the classes had been operational from the beginning of this term in February; however, the official opening ceremony was delayed due to Covid related lockdown and restrictions.

Explaining the rationale behind starting Hindi bilingual classes, Mrs Singh said, “We were noting that many of our young student’s learning was being affected due to language barrier and therefore we have worked together to remove that barrier.”

“This bilingual class is different than any other Hindi language learning in NZ school as in those schools Hindi is taught as a subject, while in this bilingual class Hindi is a medium of communication where all other subjects are also taught in Hindi medium along with English medium,” Mr s Singh added.