Zhang Qiang, deputy director of the ethnic education department at the Ministry of Education, said, "we promote learning Mandarin among ethnic minority people. We encourage them to master their own ethnic languages first to preserve and develop their own cultures."
Zhang Qiang worked for the education department of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region several years ago. He said Mandarin-learning programs are also introduced in many schools to "help enhance education quality, boost the local economy and improve communication among the Chinese of different ethnic groups and with the outside world."
China has 55 ethnic minorities, accounting for 8.4% of the population of 1.3 billion. More than 50 languages are used, but some have written characters and others exist only in oral form.
About 6 million students are taking bilingual courses at more than 10,000 schools in China, and 21 ethnic languages are taught.
All of which is vitally important. The writer can attest to the fact that a command of a minority language — in this case Welsh — is of no practical use in the outside world.
Zhang Qiang, who is of Hui ethnicity, has been promoting bilingual education — an ethnic language and Mandarin —- for nearly 20 years.
He said, "We have never tried to weaken any ethnic language. Every ethnic group has the right to use and develop its language, according to the Constitution."
China View reported that the modern education system in ethnic minority areas was established and developed only after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The system includes preschool education, basic education, vocational education, higher education and continuing education.