A member of the Standing Committee of the PRC’s National People’s Congress has called for members of China’s ethnic minorities to be educated in not only Mandarin but also in their native languages.
“Minority children today are reluctant to learn their own ethnic languages, and if the trend continues, these languages will disappear,” said Zhang Meilan, a member of the Hani minority group. Zhang made her comments on Sunday in an address to fellow lawmakers on the draft amendment to the Compulsory Education Law, which is in its final hearing.
Zhang also made the suggestion before the amendment was submitted to the legislature, but her proposal was omitted from the draft.
On Sunday, Zhang urged the legislature again to include an article in the amendment to make bilingual education compulsory for minority children in the nine-year free education from elementary school to junior high.
The legislature is expected to vote on the draft amendment on Thursday….
Zhang said that if her suggestion was accepted, the Ministry of Education and the Ethnic Affairs Committee should invest in bilingual education, providing a fund for minority language preservation.
Unfortunately, this will probably not be accepted. And even if it does pass, it will probably never receive much more than lip service.
source: Chinese lawmaker calls for compulsory minority language education, Xinhua, June 26, 2006
Not to mention top-down/paternalistic processes are inherently limited in their capacity to forestall let along reverse language shift on the ground. There must also be grassroots democracy, the sort that would allow civil society to take matters into their own hand and engage the state institutions.