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My own research with children and families from greater China investigates the widespread yet deeply personal effects of assimilationist language policies.
Changing educational policies
This summer, the Inner Mongolian Education department announced changes to the province’s primary school curriculum. Currently, Inner Mongolia’s schools use Mongolian as the language of instruction for all subjects other than Chinese and foreign languages. The new policy will introduce Mandarin textbooks for three subjects: language and literature, morality and law (politics), and history.
This will significantly reduce the number of hours of Mongolian instruction each day. The new policy effectively shifts the meaning of bilingual education from Mongolian schooling that teaches Mandarin Chinese as a subject to Mandarin schooling that teaches Mongolian as a subject.
In the short term, local Mongolian teachers will have to adapt to using Mandarin, and face heightened job insecurity. In the long term, the change will transform students’ educational trajectories, with university-level majors and subjects that are now taught in Mongolian becoming obsolete.
In response, communities in Inner Mongolia have engaged in active protests. Alongside demonstrations in the streets, parents are refusing to send children to school, and children are running away from their classrooms.
The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center links protests over the new policy to at least nine suicides and thousands of arrests. On Aug. 23, it reported the shutdown of Bainnu, China’s only Mongolian-language social media site, as a way of curtailing this political activism.