Our campaign to save Gujarati qualifications has been successful. Thanks to the support across the community the OCR exam board has agreed to offer GCSE and A Level Gujarati qualifications for one more year, and the Pearson exam board will then offer them from 2020 onwards.
This is a crucial step, but is not sufficient to save Gujarati teaching, and it is vital now that the Government look at how they can further support the dedicated community organisations that have been running the weekend schools where the majority of students learning Gujarati are taught.
A few months ago I was approached by the Consortium of Gujarati Schools who were concerned about the future of Gujarati teaching. The number of students taking GCSE Gujarati has fallen by 20% since 2010, and cuts to local authorities’ budgets meant that rents had gone up for many of the weekend schools. This in turn meant that community organisations had to charge higher fees or reduce the amount of time available for Gujarati teaching. Added to this, the OCR exam board stated earlier this year that they would not be offering Gujarati qualifications beyond summer 2018.
As a result, I launched an Open Letter to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, calling on her to step in and protect these qualifications. I received an overwhelming response, with more than 8,000 people signing up to show their support.
The pressure this put on the exam boards, and on the Department for Education to intervene, was crucial in securing the future of Gujarati qualifications and I want to thank everyone who signed the letter and shared it with their friends and family. Gujarati is the first language of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and is an important form of communication for UK-India trade and other relationships.
Now that the qualifications have been preserved, it is vital that the Government support community organisations in finding affordable premises for them to open weekend schools, and that Gujarati teachers – who are often volunteers – receive financial support for professional development similar to the sort available in mainstream schools.
You can find the open letter here: www.gareththomas.org/save_gujarati