DHAKA: Red lanterns, paper cutting, kites and big Chinese knots... the new office of Confucius Institute at North South University in Bangladesh was decorated with all these in traditional Chinese style on Thursday for its inauguration.
Scores of students, teachers and officials congregated in the evening at the occasion to inaugurate the new office of the Confucius Institute at the new permanent campus of leading private North South University (NSU) in Bangladesh's capital Dhaka.
The 361-square-km new office, ten times bigger than the earlier one, has more space and more facilities, which will be a great boost to the development of the Institute, said Professor Jiang Yinlian, Chinese director of the Institute.
The Confucius Institute at NSU was established in February, 2006,the first in South Asian region and so far the only one in Bangladesh. Some 600 students have been enrolled and nearly 100 Bangladeshis are learning Chinese at the Institute now, according to Jiang.
"The Confucius Institute has made a steady progress...We are teaching Chinese on four level now," Khaliquzzman Elias, Bangladesh director of the Institute, said at the inaugural function.
"We are always proud of the fact that this Confucius Institute is the first in the Indian sub-continent," Elias said.
"From Fall 2008 we are offering Chinese Language and Culture as a 3 hour credit course for NSU students who can take it as a partial fulfillment of their general education course requirement, " he said.
"It's really a great feeling for me. I never thought I would have the opportunity to learn China's language and understand its rich culture if there isn't any such institute," said Salehuddin Ahmed, pro-vice chancellor of leading private BRAC University, said.
Ahmed, who obtained a scholarship for further learning Chinese, said "I am also keen to be a teacher of Chinese language and culture at my university when I return home on completion of my course in China."
"Learning Chinese is now a demand of time. It's not only important to minimize the gap of relations between the two countries but also to enhance cooperations in various areas," said Md Jahidul Islam, a professional lawyer.
"Learning Chinese helped me a lot as demand of Chinese-speaking lawyer on rise in the country due to growing trade link up with China," Islam said.
"It (the Institute) makes positive contributions to promote mutual understanding and appreciation of each other's culture, tradition between our two peoples and strengthen the friendly relationship between China and Bangladesh," Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh Zhang Xianyi said at the occasion.
"I believe the Confucius Institute will be flourishing and more successful," said Hafiz GA Siddiqi, vice-Chancellor of NSU, who witnessed the establishment of the first Confucius Institute in Bangladesh at the NSU.
"I think it requires to establish more Confucius Institutes in Bangladesh in near future as more and more people are showing interest to learn Chinese language to meet their future needs," said Siddiqi.
"Confucius Institute is a platform for culture and education exchanges between China and Bangladesh. We want to extend our cooperation and help enhance understanding toward a common development," Jiang said.
She said during last three years, 16 Bangladeshi teachers were also trained in the Confucius Institute at NSU to teach Chinese. Some of them has been teaching Chinese languages in their schools where over 1,000 students are studying Chinese.
Humayun KJ Alam, a teacher of an English medium school in Dhaka, said "I am learning Chinese to teach my students. I've got scholarship to learn Chinese in China for one year. I will return Bangladesh and join my school to teach Chinese."
Alam, who received training at the Institute, said his school Bangladesh International Tutorial (BIT) is the first school in the South Asian country which has made learning Chinese language for students compulsory.
In Bangladesh, thousands of people are now studying Chinese language in a number of varsities including Dhaka University, North South University, BRAC University and also in some middle schools like BIT in Dhaka.