February 22, 2018
Expecting to land a lucrative job in the ongoing Chinese projects, especially under the umbrella of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), thousands of people, especially students, have become interested in learning the Chinese language, and for this purpose, a large number of centres have popped up across Karachi -- in public and private universities, religious seminaries and small coaching centres.
Even the NED University of Engineering and Technology (NED) has made learning Chinese mandatory for all first-year students, and Karachi University had established a Confucius institute in 2012, which has been playing a significant role in promoting Mandarin, besides offering admissions in cultural studies to local students.
First Chinese institute
In 2004, the first Confucius institute was established in Pakistan at the National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, by Hanban, the headquarters of Confucius institutes in China. Hanban operates around 430 Confucius institutes in 127 countries worldwide.
According to Confucius Institutes website, Hanban, as a public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, is committed to providing Chinese language and cultural teaching resources and services worldwide.
In 2012, the KU in collaboration with Sichuan Normal University, one of the oldest varsities of China, set up the second Confucius institute on its campus.
The institute became functional after former president Asif Ali Zardari and the [premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang, inked an agreement on May 23, 2013. Similarly, the first Confucius Institute in Punjab was established at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, in 2015.
“After the initiation of the CPEC, the enrollment ratio for Chinese learning is increasing day by day,” said Moinuddin Siddiqui, former director of the Confucius Institute at the KU.
Initially, 200 students had enrolled in 2014-15, but in the last two years more than 1,500 students have gained admissions to the institute.
Siddiqui said the institute had recently inked memorandum of understandings with the Institute of Business Administration, Preston University, Newports Institute of Communications and Economics and NED University. Under the MoUs, the KU’s institute would provide teaching services to these institutions.
“Chinese is the growing need for communication in Pakistan. Therefore, Chinese- learning institutions have attracted lots of students as they are expecting to acquire good jobs,” Siddiqui said.
“The businessmen who were already engaged in business activities with China are offering huge salaries from Rs200,000 to 300,000 even to students of beginner levels,” said Jawad Madani, manager of Madrasa Sattariya, also known as Hundred Languages University. Though it is not recognised by the HEC, the madrasa wants to meet the growing demand for interpreters after the start of bilateral development projects under the CPEC.
He said the people of Pakistan had linked their interests with the CPEC, which was a game changer, realising that the Chinese language would not only bring the business communities closer but also help the people of both countries understand each other’s perspective better.
Madani said Madrasa Sattariya had been offering admissions in Chinese-language courses for the past two years. At the start, students were enrolled for a six-month course and admissions were closed, but now the madrasa was starting new classes almost every month.
He pointed out that religious quarters had always discouraged the learning of foreign languages, especially English, except for Arabic and Persian, but they seemed to have a soft spot in the case of Chinese, and around five traditional seminaries were offering Chinese courses to their students.
Some institutes, especially seminaries that offer Chinese courses, have their own course designs. However, a standard course outline in six levels has been introduced by the KU’s Confucius Institute and adopted by both private and public sector centres.
Each level has duration of six months. The first two levels or the first-year course is the beginner level. The next two levels or the second-year course is called the intermediate level. The last two levels or the final-year course is the advanced level.
The courses from level one to three are mandatory for students who want to study in China. The advanced level courses are compulsory for professional interpreters.
Why students prefer Chinese
During interviews, a number of students said they wanted to cash in on the job opportunities the CPEC was creating. However, some were dissatisfied with the subjects they were enrolled in; therefore, they decided to study Chinese additionally.
“I met with a student of Mandarin who was earning around Rs100,000. Realising the potential of the language I decided to enrol myself,” said Rashid Khan, a 26-year-old student at the Obortunity center located in Khayaban-e-Ittehad, Karachi.
Khan was confident about his progress and hoped that after graduating from the institute he would have greater chances of landing a job in CPEC projects.
“I was not so sure about my future; therefore, I decided to get admission for learning Chinese because there are many job opportunities for those students who can speak, read and write, Urdu, Chinese and English,” said Hina Dedar, a student of final-year in the Mass Communications Department at Karachi University, adding that more than 50 companies across the province had already sought students from the KU and had offered them good salaries with a lot of incentives.
STVETA future plan
Apart from religious and educational institutions, the Sindh government is planning to take some steps to produce skilled-based workers for CPEC projects under its Training Trainers Programme. The programme will be started under the supervision of the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (STEVTA) this year.
Engineer Liaquat Ali Jamro, director academics and training of STEVTA, said the authority intended to train over 200 local trainers and set up around 12 regional centres for teaching Chinese this year.
These trainers will be appointed in the regional centers, expectedly in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkar, Larkana, Mirpurkhas, Khairpur and Dadu.
Jamro said STEVTA had already produced skilled manpower with appropriate training. However, Chinese would be an additional skill for workers to get their due share in the CPEC