Putonghua program doesn’t mean Mongolian language courses are cancelled: education ministry
Published: Sep 24, 2020 01:00 PM

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

The Chinese Ministry of Education at its latest press conference addressed concerns raised over bilingual courses in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, saying that the teaching of Putonghua does not mean the ethnic language will be phased out.

Ministry spokesperson Zheng Fuzhi said at Wednesday's press conference that promoting Putonghua, the national common spoken and written language, is in line with China's law. The move will also facilitate communication between people, help ethnic children to better seek higher education and work in bigger cities. Proficiency in Putonghua will help them have better lives, Zheng said.

An earlier local policy of Xilingol League in Inner Mongolia stipulated that grade-one students will learn the subject of Chinese language and literature with unified Putonghua textbooks. The move was mistakenly interpreted by local residents as a cancellation of Mongolian language teaching. 

Local authorities later explained that Putonghua teaching used to start in the second grade, while the new policy brings the teaching to first graders of primary school. Other subjects will still be taught in Mongolian and there is no intention of canceling Mongolian language teaching. 

Zheng on Wednesday said that promoting Putonghua in Inner Mongolia could lead to different views. National laws and policies are clear that "we promote the use of national common language and also respect ethnic minorities to use their own languages. The two are not contradictory and both languages should be learned and mastered," Zheng said. 

The division will be temporary, Zheng said, noting that he has confidence authorities in Inner Mongolia will handle the issue appropriately and people of ethnic groups in Inner Mongolia will understand it eventually.