Local govt in Inner Mongolia clarifies new education policy won't phase out Mongolian language teaching, preferential policies

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/9/7 0:55:15

A student raises her hand to answer a teacher’s question at a grade school in Yuquang District of Hohhot, capital of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on May 7. Photo: Xinhua

Local governments in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have clarified their new education policies on teaching classes in Putonghua and the Mongolian language in ethnically populated regions after parents and students raised concerns after hearing rumors that teaching in their ethnic language may be phased out.

The local government of Xilingol League in Inner Mongolia issued a detailed explanation on Sunday, guaranteeing that the new regulation doesn't signal a cancellation of classes taught in the Mongolian language, nor does it mean the end of preferable policies aimed at helping ethnic minority students get into college.

The explanation was issued after the Inner Mongolia government, which released new education regulations last month saying that students entering grade one in ethnic primary and middle schools, will use unified national textbooks for Chinese language and literature and the course would be taught in the national common spoken and written language. 

In the past students started taking the course in the second grade. Mongolian language remains the medium of instruction in other subjects from the first grade.

The new regulation raised concerns from some parents, who were misled by rumors that the new regulation would replace the Mongolian language with the Putonghua, the national common spoken and written language, and that the new policy would make it harder for ethnic minority students to get into college.

 "Unified national textbooks in Chinese language and literature are for eligible students in the first year of primary and middle schools in the Mongolian language teaching schools. Other subjects will be still taught in the Mongolian language and bilingual education in these schools is not scrapped. Neither the central government, nor the regional government have indicated the teaching in Mongolian language is to be cancelled," according to the statement from Xilingol League government.  

Meanwhile, the courses on Ethics and Law and History will be taught in Putonghua for first grade students and ethnic schools in 2021 and 2022, respectively, it said.  

The Xilingol League government said that three subjects: Chinese language and literature, Ethics and Law and History, are closely related to ideology and cultural heritance, and directly related to the kind of person the country wants and is capable of cultivating, so their consistency must be guaranteed.

The country has made important plans to compile, examine and use textbooks on those three subjects, said the statement, noting other subjects will still be taught in the Mongolian language.

It also said that favorable college entrance policies for ethnic minority students remain unchanged, dismissing parents' concerns that once teaching in Putonghua is introduced ethnic minority students will have to compete with their Han peers which may put them at a disadvantage in exams. 

Students from ethnic minorities in China enjoy favorable policies in the national college entrance exams, and can be admitted to colleges around the country with lower scores than Han students. 

China's work in implementing bilingual education of Putonghua and an ethnic language in ethnically populated regions in recent years has been smooth and effective in cultivating bilingual talent. The twists happened in Inner Mongolia as the new regulation on bringing courses taught in Putonghua has not been fully explained to parents, and disinformation has misled the public. 

The concerns of parents in Inner Mongolia attracted the attention of anti-China forces and overseas separatists. Some Western media also gave rolling coverage of the incident, hyping the Chinese government's "replacing the Mongolian language with Putonghua" without touching on the truth.

Police in Bayannur, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, announced on Sunday that they have punished six people for fabricating rumors to mislead the public and instigate them to stir trouble in an attempt to hinder the use of national compiled textbooks in schools or prevent students from attending classes.

According to the statement published by the official WeChat account of the city's public security bureau on Sunday, a villager surnamed Ao was found to have published false information and seditious words that disrupted public order on WeChat group chats. He was detained for five days on Friday after confessing to his mistakes. 

On Sunday, local police detained a person surnamed E who published abusive and threatening information in the WeChat group of local students' parents in an attempt to prevent students from registering for classes. He was detained for 15 days for preventing the use of national compiled teaching materials and seriously disturbing the social order, and committing acts that caused a bad social impact.

Four other people in Linhe district of the city were also put under criminal coercive measures on Sunday for preventing the use of textbooks and hindering students from attending classes. They were also accused of instigating local residents to gather for a joint signing campaign to disturb normal teaching activities. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a press conference on Thursday that recent reports on what happened in the Inner Mongolia region are political hype. 

"The common language of a country is a symbol of its sovereignty, and it is every citizen's right and responsibility to learn and use it. Other countries do the same," Hua said. 

The Chinese government, in accordance with relevant laws, promotes the use of the national common spoken and written language in ethnic minority areas, upholds the principle of equality in the spoken and written languages of all ethnic groups, and guarantees according to law the freedom of all ethnic groups, including the Mongolian ethnicity, to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, Hua said. 

In recent years, the National Textbook Committee has organized experts to compile textbooks in Chinese language and literature, politics and history, which have been used in all primary and secondary schools nationwide since 2017. 

Starting this year, six provinces and autonomous regions, including Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, have also started using these textbooks. The unified textbooks of the three subjects will not affect the setting of courses of other subjects in schools teaching ethnic languages. 

The class hours, textbooks, and teaching language of the Mongolian language and literature class will remain unchanged, and the current bilingual education system will not be changed, Hua said. 

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