Mandarin to be medium of teaching at minority schools for all age-groups across PRC

Students attend class at Yiri Ecological Forest School in Chamdo. (Photo courtesy: Xie Wenting/GT)

(, Aug08’21) – Implementing President Xi Jinping’s call for sweeping Sinicization of the ethnic minority regions across the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has announced that it will extend compulsory Mandarin teaching to preschoolers across the country, ousting minority languages like Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uyghur, reported the Chinese languages service of Aug 6.

Previous moves to implement the policy had led to large scale protests followed by brutal repression in Tibetan and Mongolian areas.

The report said the move requires Mandarin to be made the medium of instruction for children of all ages across the country. The same rule will apply even to regional Chinese languages like Sichuanese and Cantonese which will also be ousted, the report added.

“In order to … implement general secretary Xi Jinping’s instructions on nationwide Mandarin-medium education (“start them when they’re babies”), we will further promote the use of Mandarin across the country,” an Aug 2 directive from the ministry of education was quoted as saying.

“We will focus on strengthening Mandarin language learning among preschoolers, during the critical period for language acquisition,” the directive, published on an official government website, was quoted as saying.

The new system is to start from the fall semester of 2021, with kindergartens in ethnic minority and rural areas that aren’t already using Mandarin for childcare activities being compulsorily required to begin to do so.

Regarding the aim of the move, the directive was quoted as saying it was for “enabling pre-school children in ethnic minority and rural areas and rural areas to gradually acquire the ability to communicate at a basic level in Mandarin, and to lay the foundations for the compulsory education phase.”

The government was stated to be launching a nationwide “batch training” scheme for kindergarten teachers to ensure sufficient supply of qualified staff to meet the new demand. Teachers from other parts of China will be “paired” with teachers, and kindergartens with kindergartens, in ethnic minority and rural areas. These mentors should “guide grassroots teachers to change their ideas about education, and to follow the rules of language learning for preschool children,” the directive was quoted as saying.

Kindergartens in the target areas are required to “organize a variety of activities to get children to hear more Mandarin, speak more Mandarin, as well as wanting and daring to speak, and to give them the opportunity to speak Mandarin.”

In addition to Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols in their respective ethnic regions, the move also affects the roughly 2.3 million ethnic Koreans in in northeast PRC, apart from the non-Mandarin speaking Chinese areas.

The “education for national unity” policy was first announced in Sep 2019 by President Xi in a speech at a conference on national unity: “The Chinese nation is one big family, and we will build the Chinese dream together,” he was quoted as having said at that time.


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