For many middle class Pakistanis, Mandarin is the new language of choice, Agence France Presse reported. Traditionally, only the wealthiest Pakistanis could afford a foreign education. Children from the wealthy families opted to learn English so that they could attend a prestigious Western university, such as Harvard or Oxford.
But the AFP has identified a growing trend: middle class Pakistani students who lack the money to afford an expensive Western university, but still have plenty of ambition. So instead, they sign up to learn Mandarin Chinese at places such as the National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad. The university is cheap and offers 500 scholarships a year.
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The AFP's report comes about a year after Pakistan launched a pilot project to teach more children Mandarin. Education officials had said they hoped to eventually make Mandarin a standard part of public education, the Telegraph reported back in 2011. "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," Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq¸ senior provincial education minister, said back then as he unveiled the pilot project.
And China.org reported back in May 2011 that at the Roots School System in Pakistan, 1,200 students, or 8 percent of its 15,000, were learning Mandarin. Writing in the Huffington Post, Islamabad-based freelance journalist Saad Khan said that there is a growing perception in Pakistan that China will replace US as the next world superpower.