chapter  9
17 Pages

Language issues in Chinese higher education: the case of Korean and Mongol minority groups

Blessed with the Earth’s largest human resource base, the People’s Republic of

China is home to some 1.3 billion people. While a strong majority of this popu-

lation is ethnic Han, the government officially recognizes 55 minority groups.

Ethnic minority population nationwide exceeds 120 million with more than 100

distinct native languages (Clothey, 2005; de Varennes, 2006; Jacob, 2006;

Zhou, 2000, 2001). Recent ethnic demonstrations and clashes with the govern-

ment in the traditional minority regions of Tibet and Xinjiang highlight some of

the tensions that exist in China today (Wong, 2009). The largest ethnic minority

groups, in terms of population, are the Zhuang at 16.1 million, Manchu at 10.6

million, and the Hui at 9.8 million (Jacob, 2004). Because China’s minority eth-

nic groups constitute less than 10 percent of the total population, and because

they largely reside in rural and hinterland regions of the country (Hawkins,

1978; Kormondy, 2002; Lam, 2007), these minority groups are frequently

neglected in terms of education access, especially at the higher education sub-

sector (Zhao, 2007). However, minority populations tend to have higher fertility

rates than majority Han Chinese (Yusuf & Byrnes, 1994; Kim, 2003), who are

restricted by government laws to no more than one child per couple (Hudson &

Den Boer, 2005; Mosher, 2006). According to the National Bureau of Statistics

of China (1990, 2000, 2006), the population of Chinese minorities increased

approximately 260 percent from 1953 to 1990 while the Han majority increased

less than 190 percent so that the proportion of minority nationalities to the

country’s gross population have also increased from 6.06 percent in 1953 to

8.07 percent in 1990.