Language-in-education policies in Inner Mongolia: Empowerment and identity

Robert Damian ADAMSON, Helen Yayuan YI

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Since 2002, the People’s Republic of China has instigated language-in-education policies covering standard Chinese (Putonghua), English and ethnic minority languages that effectively promote trilingualism. These policies reflect a desire to foster national cohesion through strong propagation of standard Chinese as a lingua franca, to play a prominent role in international affairs through the development of English, and to preserve and promote minority languages in response to the desire of the 55 officially-recogonised ethnic minority groups (who form a significant portion of the population) to maintain their culture and identity. While there appears to be consensus among key stakeholders regarding the potential benefits of trilingual education, major political, theoretical and logistical tensions have arisen when the policies are actually implemented. In this chapter, we examine the trilingual education policies for Inner Mongolia, an economically-developing region with a particularly strong sense of Mongolian identity and a large Han (i.e. the majority Chinese ethnic group) population. Drawing on data collected in a major national project, we report on field visits to elementary and secondary schools in Inner Mongolia and on our analysis of policy documents to identify and compare models of trilingual language-in-education policies that have emerged in this region, reflecting different forms of settlements among the three languages, Mongolian, Chinese and English. We discuss the different values ascribed to these three languages in the models and speculate on the implications for empowerment and identity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


Adamson, B., & Yi, H. Y. (2013, November). Language-in-education policies in Inner Mongolia: Empowerment and identity. Paper presented at the 2013 Comparative International Education Society’s Western Regional Conference, Los Angeles, CA.


  • Language policy
  • Trilinguialism
  • Identity
  • Inner Mongolia


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