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Pakistan middle class fixes sights on China, more learning Mandarin

Published on Mar 8, 2013 12:46 PM
In this picture taken Feb 18, 2013, Pakistani school children learn Chinese from their teacher Mr. Haiwei in the private City School in Islamabad. While the country's elite continue to look westward for their children's education, an emerging Pakistani middle class is turning towards its prospering neighbour China as a more affordable means to receive quality education, with private schools and universities in Pakistan providing progammes in the language. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - When Mr Misbah Rashid taught Chinese 30 years ago, few signed up. Today his 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 preserve of the richest who could afford the stratospheric expense of sending their progeny to Oxford or Harvard to mingle with an international Westernised elite.

But Mr 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 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.

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