Schools in Pakistan's Sindh province to teach Chinese
The government of the Pakistani province of Sindh has announced plans to make Chinese compulsory in schools from 2013.
All educational institutions in the province will have to provide Chinese language courses from class six (10-11-year-olds), it says.
The provincial government says that the decision was taken because of Pakistan's close ties with China.
The two countries have been strong allies for more than 50 years.
In May, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani described China as his country's "best friend".
But some critics say the plan is political, will need considerable investment in teaching staff and materials, and further stretch limited resources.
Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq said that the initiative reflected China's growing role as an economic giant in the world and would benefit Pakistan in the long term.
"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," he said.
The provincial government says that students will be given incentives, including foreign scholarships, to encourage them to study Chinese.
The Sindh government says that it will seek help from China to go ahead with the plan and is now in the process of devising a syllabus.
Teachers critical of the scheme say it will put an additional burden on them and students, who already have to learn three languages - English, Urdu and Sindhi - as compulsory subjects.