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Gaga: Rest in Peace (b.2002 - d.2010)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chinese Language: A New Obsession in Pakistani Schools

Heiwei: Chinese language teacher in City School ( a private school) in Islamabad. The most interesting part is that students have NO desk though the monthly fee is 300 USD minimum.

When Misbah Rashid taught Chinese 30 years ago, few signed up. Today her department has more than 200 Pakistani students, increasingly attracted by the prospect of an affordable education and a job.
For decades, a foreign education was the reserved for the richest who'd go the West but Rashid’s pupils are mostly middle class. Ambitious and academic, they lack the means to afford an American or British education and so they sign up for Mandarin Chinese at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) in Islamabad.

Some of them hope to get a job with a Chinese company in Pakistan. Others will go on to further studies in China, which offers around 500 scholarships a year and cheaper fees.

A course in China costs a few thousand dollars a year, compared with the tens of thousands of dollars US and British universities charge.

“Nowadays as Pakistanis, you may not be as welcome in all other countries as we were a few years ago,” says 18-year-old Ali Rafi, who applied to study economics at Shangdon University after visiting last summer.

“But when we went to China, there was one major difference in that we felt at home, the people always welcomed, honored us and everyone was really pleased when they heard that we were Pakistani.”

Rafi studies at City School, one of the private schools in Islamabad that has started to offer Chinese lessons to children as young as 12, who sing in Mandarin under the watchful eye of their teacher, Zhang Haiwei.

If everything goes well, the classes will be rolled out across the school’s other 200 branches in Pakistan. And other private schools are doing the same.Pakistanis complain about the difficulty of getting visas and of the suspicion their nationality can arouse among those who associate Pakistan with Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, particularly in Britain and the United States.

The British government issued 20 per cent fewer student visas in 2012 than the previous years.
The US mission in Pakistan supports the world’s largest US government-funded exchange program, sending over 1,000 Pakistanis on fully funded educational programs to the United States every year.

The independent Institute of International Education says 5,045 students from Pakistan studied in the United States in 2010-11, but that the number has declined steadily since 2001-02 after the 9/11 attacks. There is also considerable resentment of US policy, including the “covert” use of armed drones to carry out attacks in Pakistan on militants which has increased anti-Americanism.
On the other hand, Chinese investment, China’s reluctance to admonish Pakistan in public, its rivalry with India and status as an emerging global superpower give it considerable goodwill.

China’s growing presence in Pakistan speaks volumes.Pakistan’s main trading partner is still the European Union (EU), but trade with China reached $12 billion last year, up 18 per cent from the previous year, hence coming at the second place.

China is also Pakistan’s main arms supplier. Beijing built two nuclear power plants in Pakistan and is contracted to construct two more reactors.Last month, it also took control of Pakistan’s strategic port of Gwadar, which through an expanded Karakoram Highway could connect China to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil.

There are an estimated 10,000 Chinese living in Pakistan which is one of the highest number of foreigners from any country (about 2.5 million Afghan refugees  live in Pakistan). According to Pakistan’s embassy in Beijing, around 8,000 Pakistani students are already studying in China and thousands more are preparing to join them. “In Pakistan we have more than 6,000 Chinese students. However, we have maybe about 50 teachers. We don’t have enough teachers from China. Some people found it dangerous so they don’t want to work here,” Haiwei, a Chinese language teacher in Pakistan said.