BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London welcomed 108 senior management representatives from 38 different supplementary schools, mandirs and community groups across England on Saturday 17 February 2018 to further their learning about the future of Gujarati language teaching.
The Conference was the first of its kind and focused on the forthcoming changes to the GCSE Gujarati exams. Significant effort has been made since 2017 to avert the possible discontinuation of GCSE and A-Level exams in Gujarati. This Conference was the first opportunity for many schools and teachers to gain first-hand information about the new exam specifications being introduced by Pearson – the examination board that has assumed the administration and operation of GCSE and A-Level Gujarati.
The Conference was delivered through speeches, workshops and networking sessions designed around the theme of ‘Treasure, Innovate and Inspire’ – treasure and promote the rich heritage of the Gujarati language, innovate novel teaching methods and learn the latest information about the GCSE exams, and be inspired with renewed enthusiasm to teach Gujarati to the young and bring awareness to their parents.
Key speakers for this Conference included Alistair Drewery, Languages Subject Advisor for Pearson; Pascale Vassie OBE, Executive Director for the National Resource Centre for Secondary Education; Bernadette Holmes MBE, from the language campaign group Speak to the Future; and Anju Bhatt, from CVS Brent, who provided guidance on acquiring grants and funding support for Gujarati teaching.
The Conference was further enriched with the visit of Gareth Thomas MP, the Member of Parliament for Harrow West, who helped save the Gujarati exam from being discontinued last year.
Viveksagar Swami shared motivational messages of Gujarati learning and teaching via a recorded video presentation. Video blessings were also played from Mahant Swami Maharaj, who stressed the value of Gujarati schools working together.
Bernadette Holmes MBE emphasised “the great benefit culturally and also cognitively” of learning Gujarati, adding her appreciation for the conference: “What’s always inspiring with all of the work done at the Mandir is the commitment to moving forward as individuals and moving forward as a community to really solve the problems we face in the community through language and culture.”
Alistair Drewery shared, “I am very impressed by the organisation, and I’m even more impressed by the passion of the many language teachers here today. I’m looking forward to working closely with all the Gujarati teachers.”
Feedback from the delegates was also overwhelmingly positive with many pledging to attend the next conference in greater numbers. Several attendees were especially thankful for the opportunity to meet and network with many schools from their respective towns and cities as well as around the country.
Information about the next conference in July 2018 for all Gujarati teachers can be obtained by emailing [email protected].