Teaching Chinese in Saudi Arabia!


When Jawaharlal Nehru insisted on the need to teach English to the Indian people, he felt that English was the economic language of the world and that India must have a competitive advantage by learning it. India today has excelled in administrative and technical sciences because of its commitment to the teaching of English, in addition to other reasons, as well.

Lee Kuan Yew, the leader and founder of modern Singapore, strongly insisted that young students must in addition to English be educated in Mandarin Chinese, which was the official language of Communist China. He did not favor Chinese Cantonese Chinese that was spoken by the people of Hong Kong even though they were driving China’s economy.

Lee Kuan Yew’s view was that China was in a state of deep sleep and would one day wake up. The years have proved that he was right and Singapore has grown rapidly to become an important competitor to Hong Kong and one of China’s investment platforms in Southeast Asia.

Today, Saudi Arabia is strong and is focused on its political and economic relations with China. China is one of the Kingdom’s most important trading partners and is the largest consumer of Saudi oil. Saudi companies are investing in China and students are being sent to study there.

A decision has now been made to introduce the Chinese language in the curricula of Saudi education. In this way the economic relationship with China will be in the DNA of Saudi education strengthening the relationship between the two countries, which is also testimony to the transformation and change in Saudi Arabia.

I remember those who in the past used to warn about the danger of teaching English in the Kingdom, as it was the language of infidels. Some people also warned against programs that offered scholarships to study abroad because they thought that this was part of the conspiracy of Westernization.

I hope that the teaching of Chinese will not be limited to language only, but will also include cultural dimensions such as the study of the ideas of Confucius, Sun Tzu and other influential philosophers of Chinese thought. It was said in ancient times that it was necessary to seek knowledge, even if you have to go as far as China.

Teaching the Chinese language in the Saudi curriculum is a realistic step that reflects the strategic economic relationship between the two countries, and cultural and educational exchanges will further strengthen that relationship. However, teaching Chinese should not replace English, because English will for many years be the language of science and economics.