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Language Education Articles in the Educational Law 

of the People's Republic of China  

The Educational Law of the People's Republic of China (ELC) was approved by the third meeting of the eighth National People's Congress of China and was implemented on Sept. 1st, 1995. It is intended to “develop education, to improve the quality of the nation, and to foster socialist material civilization and spiritual civilization construction” (Article1, ELC). Its design is according to the principle and guideline of the Constitution. As the fundamental law that rules national education and stipulates the basic language education right, it specifies the articles of the Constitution pertaining to language rights. In other words, the articles about language policy in ELC embody the requirement of the Constitution in aspects of education. In this sense, the articles about language education in ELC are the fundamental stipulations of language education. They provide the primary norms of protecting individual’s language rights. In ELC, its intention of both popularizing Mandarin education and protecting minority language speakers’ language right are clearly identified.


Han language and literacy are the basic teaching and learning language and literacy in schools and other institutions of education.

   Schools and other institutions of education should promote the use of Putonghua (Mandarin) and the standardized characters in teaching, which is the lingua franca.

--From Article 12, the Educational Law of the People's Republic of China, 1995


In this article, Han language is defined as the “basic” language in the career of education and legally seen as the “lingua franca”. Han is the largest ethnicity in China, accounting for almost 92% of the population. It is generally accepted that the Han Language is the system of language spoken by Han people. In this sense, the Han language is compromised of different dialects of Han people in Han district. Putonghua (Mandarin), which means the common language in Chinese, is the dialect based on the pronunciation in northern China, especially close to Beijing. Setting Mandarin as the common language means the empowerment of Mandarin as the superior language as exclusively official language in practice. In school, teaching and learning through the medium of Mandarin is promoted as the norm. Generally, Mandarin is the only teaching language in class and in textbooks in most districts of China, except for schools and other institutions of education where most students are of ethnic minorities. Then students learn Mandarin+ minority language. For example in Xinjiang, Uyghur and Mandarin are alternatives. But Mandarin becomes gradually dominant in these minority areas.


   Schools and other institutions of education, where most students are of ethnic minorities, can use indigenous language and literacy or local language and literacy in teaching.

--From Article 12, the Educational Law of the People's Republic of China, 1995

This sentence comes to the issue of indigenous language and the speaker’s language right. It points out that minority people and their languages should be given special consideration. Based on it, an exception for the popularizing Mandarin is provided. Also,minority language speakers’ right of speaking is protected to some extent. This indicates that indigenous language and minority language get policymaker’s attention and are protected in laws.



Educational Law of the People's Republic of China. (2005). Retrieved from



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This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Lan, Yuting. (2015). Language Education Articles in the Educational Law of the People's Republic of China. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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