A graduate in Chinese language, linguistics, and Central Eurasian studies, the author evaluates China’s linguistic education policy in Xinjiang, with a brief historical survey of the late Qing dynasty (1645-1911), of the Republican period and of the first times of the People’s Republic, to focus on the ‘bilingual’ education policy implemented since the 1980s. E. T. Schluessel explains the Chinese basic tenet for the education of minorities, viz. that minorities’ languages are not fit for modernity and science which could be learnt only through Chinese language. From the 1980s to the early 2000s the first levels of education programmes were comprising education in mother tongue and in Chinese as a secondary language. The author observes that this policy, though perfectible, raised a generation of educated Uighurs which provided enough teachers in Uighur elementary schools at least for the rural population ― whereas urban young Uighurs were confronted with Han Chinese and obliged to master Chinese language in everyday life. A second stage in the elaboration of ‘bilingual’ education was the imposition of immersion in Chinese language from the first school levels, whereas any higher education in Uighur was suppressed (2002). The result was a quick deterioration of the education level: Uighur teachers were not sufficiently fluent in Chinese, and later were massively dismissed (2006), whence Uighur pupils could not handle basic school knowledge and were unable to compete with Han Chinese pupils. This new policy, aiming at the full cultural assimilation of the Uighurs, raised a strong resentment among the Uighur population. Even if the author proposes solutions for the improvement of the situation, he clearly outlines the overall process in present-day Xinjiang, the worsening of the education system being added to massive Han immigration.

Leila Chebbi-Cherif, National Foundation for Political Science, Paris
CER: II-7.5-687