'Punjabi tops list of languages in UK' | india | Hindustan Times
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'Punjabi tops list of languages in UK'

Punjabi tops the list of 240 languages spoken in British schools with it being the first language of 102,570 of the pupils, followed by Urdu for 82,250 students. Vijay Dutt reports.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2008 22:50 IST
Vijay Dutt

Punjabi tops the list of 240 languages spoken in British schools with it being the first language of 102,570 (1.6 per cent) of the pupils, followed by Urdu for 82,250 ( 1.3 per cent) students. Bengali is the third language in the table, with 70,320 ( 1.1 per cent) pupils speaking it and Gujarati comes fourth.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families report said one in eight schoolchildren does not speak English as their first language.

In some areas of London over 70 per cent of pupils did not have English as their first language.

A teacher said the figures reflected a state of a disunited nation in class rooms. Teachers often find it difficult to cope with the increasing number of pupils who do not understand or speak English.

The fact that Punjabi tops the list is not surprising as there are over 600,000 Punjabis from India and over 300,000 from Pakistan.

Urdu is spoken by most Pakistanis, who are in total about 1.2 million. Bengali, which holds the third position is spoken largely by the Bangladeshi population, rather than Bengalis from India.

According to the Department for Children, Schools and Families statistics 815,450 schoolchildren — or 12.5 per cent —
did not speak English as their first language as of January this year.

For primary schools, the proportion was 14.3 per cent, or one in seven, compared with 10.5 per cent in 2004, the year before the European Union expansion. In secondary schools 10.6 per cent of pupils, or about 450,000, have English as a second language.

Children with English as a second language are a minority in around 1,300 of the country’s 21,000 primaries and secondaries.

As a result of the variety of languages, a few schools have launched drives to recruit bilingual teaching assistants to help out.

But to the warning that classes look like disunited nations, Schools Minister Jim Knight said, “It is fatuous and completely out of touch to claim that this is causing rifts in classrooms.

“Schools will always have and always will teach in English. There is record investment going into schools, so every child gets up to speed quickly in reading, writing and speaking.”