Students at select schools in Metro Vancouver may have another option to choose as a second-language course as soon as next year.
A grassroots campaign advocating for Farsi, also known as Persian, is hoping that the language will come to B.C. schools as soon as September 2020.
Amir Bajehkian, president of Farsi Dar B.C. campaign, says that the initiative to add Farsi as a second-language has gained a lot of support from Persian-speaking families across Metro Vancouver.
“Our hope is that by September 2020, we would have at least one Farsi program at a school, if more, even better,” Bajehkian tells the Georgia Straight.” Our focus is not on a specific location. We focus on North Vancouver, West Vancouver, and the Tri-Cities area, as well as Surrey and Burnaby where the Afghan community has a larger presence.”
Bajehkian says that Farsi Dar B.C. has been in contact with B.C.’s Ministry of Education and school boards across Metro Vancouver, adding that “the Ministry of Education has close cooperation with us and has helped us with developing the guideline that we have now.”
“I think in a place like British Columbia, where people have come from different cultures and languages, the more langue we have at our schools the better it is. It is a second-language program. Any student at any school, the same way that they can learn Punjabi, Japanese, and Korean, can learn Farsi.”
B.C.’s Ministry of Education, meanwhile, is excited about the “opportunity to have Farsi taught in Schools throughout [the province]”.
“We know there is a concentration of Farsi-speaking students in some school districts and there are Farsi-speaking teachers in schools throughout B.C.,” the Ministry of Education said in a statement “The Ministry recognizes the growing number of other languages spoken by British Columbians and we provide opportunities for students to learn languages that are significant within their communities.”
The Ministry of Education encourages the stakeholders to start Farsi-language programs at the “local level as this is how provincial language curriculum courses start”.
Currently, nine languages are taught in second-language programs at B.C. schools: German, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Punjabi, and American Sign Language.
Local demand for Farsi
Farsi Dar B.C.’s president says that hundreds of families have reached out to the group expressing their support for the campaign.
“It is very important that families [at] which their kids go to school should come forward and express their support and fill out our form. We will share the result with school boards and say that there are demands for the program,” says Bajehkian.
According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, Farsi is the mother tongue of over 43,000 British Columbians, ahead of Italian, Spanish, and Japanese that are already included as second languages in the province’s school curriculum.
Worldwide, Farsi is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
According to a study by the University of Boston, Farsi has about 62 million native speakers around the world, ranking it among the world’s 20 most widely spoken first languages.
Another 50 million people or more speak Farsi as a second language worldwide.
Historically, the areas where Farsi was spoken ranged from the Middle East to India and from Central Asia to Turkey.
Farsi was a key part of the Mogul Empire and at one point it was the official language of the Mogul courts that ruled the Indian subcontinent for three centuries ending in the 1800s.
Students in B.C. must learn a second language in grades 5 to 8. If added, Farsi will become the 10th language that would be included in B.C.’s school curriculum as a second-language program.
Farsi Dar B.C. campaign says its committees are working with families to encourage them to enroll their kids for Farsi programs, as well as developing a standard guideline.