Sikh Research Institute Connects United Kingdom Diaspora.

The Sikh Research Institute of San Antonio, Texas, was invited to the UK in March to present a variety of educational pr...

The Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI) of San Antonio, Texas, was invited to the United Kingdom (UK) in March to present a variety of SikhRI educational programs and radio broadcasts to the Sikh Community in the UK.

In Glasgow, Scotland, SikhRI put on a Mark of Excellence (MOE) program entitled, “Asa ki Var: Beyond Duality,” on March 22, 2008. The MOE focused on structure and significance of Asa ki Var and interpretations on transcending duality in thought, action and society. Jas Kaur reflected on the day saying that it was “very inspiring, [it] made me view Sikhi in a different view. I listen to Asa ki Var regularly but never sat and thoroughly took time to learn and understand what Guru Ji's message actually is…..was definitely worthwhile".

In Southall, Middlesex, UK, SikhRI facilitated youth development and training through a MOE program entitled, “The Guru: Connecting with the Divine Light.” SikhRI presenters during the March 24th event were Harinder Singh and Ryan Singh Kohli. The Southall MOE sessions focused on understanding the role and importance of the Guru, historical narratives about the attributes and contributions of the Ten Nanaks, and the co-existence of the dynamic Guruship of the Granth-Panth. Jagdeep Singh Gill, the UK coordinator for SikhRI who organized all the events noted that, “The Mark of Excellence series, with its wide variety of themes, is specifically designed to impart the Sikh perspective to meet the needs and desires of specific audiences. Essentially, participants attend personal and community development sessions that seek to foster the Sikh values based on Gurmat traditions: Sikh scripture, history, and discipline.”

The Southall MOE program was hailed by Dr. Parvinder Singh Garcha, General Secretary of Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall, because of “…its unique approach of presenting Gurmat ideals in language that connects with today’s youth.” Jaswant Singh Bhangu from London, after attending the MOE session, remarked, "Today has been insightful, engaging and left me with the tools to approach questions regarding Sikh philosophy with a renewed vigor and confidence.”

When asked about the purpose of the Mark of Excellence programs for youth, Harinder Singh, Executive Director of SikhRI said, “Sikh ideology and lifestyle revolutionized the South Asian communities for five centuries. Now we see Sikhi being reduced to dogmas, not a life-changing phenomenon. We are trying to share the original freshness of Sikhi with the youngsters so they have enough information to make thoughtful decisions, so they feel connection to the Gurus. And hopefully some become activists, the foot soldiers, in Guru Nanak Sahib’s revolution.”

Harinder Singh was also a guest commentator on Punjab Radio Sky Channel 0130 on March 27th and 30th in Hayes, London, UK. The shows hosted by Jasvir Singh were titled “Sikhi Education.” and “Hola Mahalla”. Harinder Singh has made regular radio appearances in the past two years and continues to bring his message of the need for Sikh engagement and leadership in current social problems. Dr. Savi Singh Arora of Sikhwithin.com podcast hosted Harinder Singh for an episode. The podcast can be listened to at sikhiwitin.com. On March 30, 2008, in a presentation entitled, “The Gurduara – Then And Now.” Harinder Singh addressed the Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) in London, UK. His talk compared and contrasted elements of Sikh worship in the time of the Gurus and in modern times.

A major SikhRI event in the UK occurred on March 29, 2008, with a full day’s teacher training program for Gurmat and Pañjabi school teachers in the Sojhi elementary school curriculum developed by SikhRI. “Along with sharing Sikh ideology with youth, we provide tools for educators who are responsible to impart Sikhi to students at Gurmat and Pañjabi schools across the globe,” says Jasmine Kaur, Director of Education of SikhRI and Sojhi project lead. Sojhi – Gurmat and Pañjabi Education Resource, was developed to increase the effectiveness of Sikh education by developing high standards of learning with comprehensive teaching materials. The Sojhi team consisting of over 15 full-time, part-time and volunteer staff members combined are developing a comprehensive education plan for Sikh schools and students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. The Sojhi elementary school curriculum introduces children to Gurmat-based vocabulary and contemporary Pañjabi, as well as Sikh heritage with a focus on the Sikh theological framework from 1469 to present.

After developing a set of standards for Kindergarten to Grade 12 in 2005, the Sojhi elementary school curriculum was introduced in June, 2006. Since then, 33 community and private schools have adopted the curriculum and are currently implementing it. Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Southall, UK is the most recent organization to adopt the Sojhi curriculum for their volunteer-aided Khalsa School that is scheduled to open in September 2009. The Khalsa School team realized the need to implement an effective Sikh core curriculum focusing on Boli (language arts) and Virsa (Sikh Heritage). As a result, they invited members of the Sojhi team to train their teachers on the effective implementation of the elementary school curriculum. Jasmine Kaur and Harinder Singh developed sessions in content and instruction and trained teachers from four schools besides Sri Guru Singh Sabha’s team. These schools were Khalsa Punjabi Sunday School, Slough; Ramgarhia Sikh School, Southall; Punjabi School, Bradford and Punjabi After School, Southall.

The Sojhi curriculum nurtures skills that children learn through their educational curriculum. Students using the curriculum will have the opportunity to enhance skills that they learn in their regular education classes. Developmental milestones and abilities have been taken into account while developing the curriculum. For example, at a 2nd grade level children are typically developing map reading skills. In the Sojhi curriculum similarly, as students begin to learn about the land of our Gurus, they begin identifying districts and provinces of East and West Pañjab. This helps them improve their map reading skills through content-guided practice. Of note, the Sojhi curriculum also focuses on developing leadership skills at a young age. Typically, a training session consists of interactive workshops in which teachers are introduced to key teaching techniques including effective questioning, developing lesson-related graphics, and the realizing the importance of detailed planning and preparation to teach in the classroom. Foundational understanding of Sikhi is provided through workshops with titles such as: Sikh Culture and Traditions, Sikh Celebrations, Language: Spelling, Parlance and Vocabulary and The Ten Nanaks: One Jot. Sojhi also provides second level customized trainings for schools adopting the curriculum. The instructional training workshops are highly customized to the needs of the specific school staff members, whether in content or teaching techniques.

Teacher comments continue to be enthusiastically positive. For example, Mohinder Kaur of Bradford said……….”very interesting, informative and useful program, particularly how it links a Sikhi and Gurbani perspective. A very good mechanism to increase Sikhi and Gurbani based knowledge in youngsters. Lesson plans are user-friendly, flexible, and relevant and so can be adapted to suit the different institutions.”

As Sojhi training sessions continue across the world, they continue to introduce new tools for teacher success. My Gurmukhi Khajana: A Gurmat Based Primer has been developed in conjunction with Kikli to supplement the elementary school curriculum. Other teacher and student supplemental resources continue to be developed for use in the classrooms and at home. Of major importance to the Sikh Community: Sojhi will soon be releasing its Middle school curriculum for students in Grades 6 to 8.

The Sikh Research Institute will be returning to UK to conduct other institute programs. If you are interested in participating or sponsoring a SikhRI project contact information is provided below.

Jagdeep Singh
[email protected] 

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