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Year Conducted: 2015, 2012


Some 293 languages are spoken in the People’s Republic of China. Mandarin Chinese is the official language. There are laws and policies supporting the use of non-dominant languages as medium of instruction in minority areas. However, such policies are not implemented everywhere, and they apply only to the 55 designated national minorities. There is a lot of variation in the use of NDLs in education, depending on geographical area and ethnolinguistic group. Some half a dozen NDLs are used as medium of instruction from primary school through high school. In these cases, Mandarin is taught as a second language. However, the most common bilingual programmes using local language in China are those which start with the students’ mother tongue, but transfer to Mandarin fairly quickly. In many minority areas, local languages are taught as a subject at different levels of education. According to the MLE Mapping exercise, ten (10) non-dominant languages (NDLs) are used in classrooms, some of them also as medium of instruction, in twelve regions of China. These classes are provided in formal systems of education for pre-primary and primary children. It is likely that this information does not fully reflect the use of NDLs in China.

Quick Facts
Name of Organization/ Institution Level of Schooling Formal or Non-formal Public or Private Which Languages Number of Children reached by level of schooling Location Use of language in classroom (see explanations below) Materials in classroom
SIL International (Co-implementer funder), Xishuangbanna Prefecture Education Brueau (Co-implementer), Yunnan Province Education Bureau (initiator) PP FE PUB Tai Nüa (tdd) For 2014-2015 school year:
PP1- F: 90 + M: 74 = 164
PP2- F: 82 + M: 105 = 187
7village schools (3 in Jinghong County, 2 in Mengla Country, 2 in Menghai Country) in Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan Province, PRC PP1: 2, PP2: 2, 7 Yes, there are MT materials in the classroom. For both PP1 and PP2, there are 2 primers, 4 textbooks, and 2 math books. 22 extracurricular story books.

* Remarks:

More information is provided by the Department II of Basic Education, Ministry of Education, P.R.C concerning foreign languages teaching in primary and secondary education in China: 

In 2001, Ministry of Education of P.R.C dictated that “the foreign language teaching course in compulsory education must represent 6-8% of the nine-year teaching hours”. The starting grade for English teaching at primary schools is normally Grade 3. In addition, Ministry of Education of P.R.C formulated the curriculum criteria for the subjects of English, Japanese and Russian as the basis of the curriculum development and for the purpose of steering the local schools to improve foreign language teaching.

In 2011, the statistics concerning the full-time foreign language teachers in compulsory education in China are as the following: 

1. Primary Education:

total number of foreign language teachers: 333, 575, teachers of English 333, 144, teachers of Japanese 221, teachers of Russian 59.

2. Secondary Education:

total number of foreign language teachers 552, 159, teachers of English 551, 205, teachers of Japanese 421, teachers of Russian 373.


Name of organisation / institution: 

Give the name of the organisation(s) (NGO, local association, etc) or institution (church, pagoda, temple, university etc.) which is initiating and supporting the action. This can include government agencies and institutions. Please specify type of involvement, e.g. initiator, lead actor, funder and implementer.

Level of schooling:

Identify whether action is at the pre-primary level (PP) or at the primary /elementary level (PR). The mapping is focusing only on these two levels of education.

Formal or Non-formal:

Identify whether action is:

1. in the formal (FE) or non-formal (NFE); and
2. in the government education system (Govt) or outside the government system by non-state providers (NSP).

Public or private:

Identify whether the action is happening in the public education (PUB) system or private (PRI). If this does not apply to your country, write n/a.

Which language:

Give the name of the local or minority language(s) which the action includes. If possible, see your country’s section on the ( and find the relevant 3-letter ISO language code for these languages.

Number of children:

Give the number of children reached by school level (pre-primary and primary/elementary). Please disaggregate by gender (i.e. M: and F:),

Location of action:

Give sub-national location of action(s) either province or district

Use of language in classroom:

Identify how language is used in the classroom by using the descriptors below. Choose the most appropriate one. You can choose more than one.

1. Language of instruction (LOI) is the learners’ mother tongue (MT or L1)  and their second language (L2) .
2. Language of instruction is the mother tongue only.
3. The second language is officially the language of instruction.
4. Language of instruction is the second language with MT as subject.
5. Mother tongue is used orally, no written materials – officially.
6. Mother tongue is used orally, no written materials – unofficially.
7. Second language (L2) is taught as second language.

Materials in classroom:

Are there teaching and learning materials in MT in classroom? Yes or no. If yes, estimate the number of titles in MT.