BECAUSE they are, apparently, already excelling in Sindhi, Urdu and English, the provincial government has decided that Sindh’s secondary-school students should now become proficient in Chinese. No doubt this will make them even more productive participants in Pakistan’s society and economy. The powers that be have decided that the language will be taught in all schools across the province from Class VI onwards starting in 2013, and, according to the province’s education minister, might be made mandatory. But while the specifics still have to be ironed out, the provincial officials who met on Sunday to make this decision did point to their reasons for doing so. Apparently, their sudden interest in teaching the language in Sindh has to do with China’s status as Pakistan’s ‘all-weather’ friend as well as the growing importance of China in the world economy.
These ostensibly puzzling reasons for making young people spend time on a language that will do little to help them in the Pakistani context make more sense when one considers the inclusion of Cadet College, Petaro, the president’s alma mater, which is not run by the provincial government but where the programme will be mandatory and will start with the next academic year. Add to this the interest taken in the matter by the secretary general to the president, and the decision begins to take on a distinctly top-down flavour. Our youth are vastly undereducated and have little time to spend on subjects that will not improve their ability to contribute to, or benefit from, Pakistan’s economy. Making Chinese available as an option would be an admirable step — as long as it does not drain resources from more fundamental subjects — but one hopes it will not be made mandatory based on a personal whim or the desire to make friendly overtures to a foreign country.