The government in Pakistan's Sindh province has decided to make the Chinese language a compulsory subject in schools from 2013, sparking a debate in the educational and political circles over the reasons behind such a move.
The decision was taken at a high level meeting yesterday presided over by chief minister of Sindh province Qaim Ali Shah, an official statement said.
According to the announcement, Chinese language will be a compulsory subject from class six in all educational institutions, including the Cadet college of Petaro from the 2013 session.
Sindh education minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq said the decision was taken keeping in mind the close ties with China and its growing role as a economic giant in the world.
"Our trade, educational and other relations are growing with China everyday and now it is necessary for our younger generation to have command over their language,’ Mazhar said.
He pointed out this move would reap benefits in the longer run for Pakistan.
But the move drew a mixed reaction in education circles although the Vice Chancellor of the Karachi University Dr Peerzada Qasim supported the decision.
"China is not only a very close friend of Pakistan but also a major player in the global economy whose role will further strengthen in the future," he said.
But many termed it as a political decision and said that educational institutions lacked qualified teachers in the Chinese language and also the resources to implement the course.
Ather Mirza, the President of the Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association, said it was a move by the political leadership to gain points with China and gain financial benefits from them.
He said the introduction of the Chinese language would put an additional burden on parents but also on students who were already made to learn three languages, English, Urdu and Sindhi as compulsory subjects.
Another educationist said the government decision came out of the blue as it was not discussed or debated in recent meetings of the education department with the chief minister or education minister.
It is reported that President Zardari's daughter Aseefa Bhutto has been planning to study Chinese in China after graduating from college.
Sources said that the provincial government also decided to award scholarships to educated people of Sindh for learning Chinese language from educational institutions in China.