At the Roots School System in Pakistan, 1,200 students – about 8 percent of its 15,000 – are learning Mandarin. Campuses in Islamabad and Rawalpindi recently introduced Mandarin courses, and it now teaches the language to almost half of the students nationwide who are learning Mandarin.
There are between 2,500 to 3,000 Pakistanis in middle school and above learning Mandarin. Chaudhry Faisal Mushtaq, executive director of RSS, attributed the interest to Pakistan and China's "exemplary bilateral relations in almost every sphere of life."
Mandarin courses are the most popular course among RSS students and parents, Faisal Mushtaq said, adding that they are also introduced to Chinese culture through skits and co-curricular activities.
The school is going to introduce Mandarin courses in two other towns, which the director thinks will further increase the number of Pakistani students learning Mandarin.
RSS is now working with the Confucius Institute in Islamabad to set up a possible Confucius course on one of its campuses. The Confucius Institute is also sponsoring 20 RSS students to visit China for two weeks in the summer.
This trip offers Pakistani students a good chance to experience China and its culture, Faisal Mushtaq said.
"In recent years, we have witnessed a considerable increase in exchanges between Pakistan and China in education," he said. "But I must say that these exchanges are not at all at par with the depth and strength of the bilateral diplomatic and strategic ties between these two countries. In fact, they are far below from the levels of adequacy."
Faisal Mushtaq said he has great expectations for the two countries to devise workable strategies to bring these exchanges to a satisfactory level, and that cultural and academic sections of diplomatic missions can play a pivotal role in accelerating these connections.
"More and more cultural and academic delegations should be exchanged on a regular basis; ample opportunities plus incentives should be provided to the students across these two borders to study and excel in each other's quality academic institutes; and planning should be done to organize co-curricular competitions for the talented youth on both sides of the Sino-Pakistani border," he said.