The aim of the project is to build on the lessons learned through the successful implementation of the Bai minority language education program, by establishing an educational capacity building partnership in Yunnan province. The project aims to help with the building of strategically located university-based centres of expertise in the early educational needs of remote minority children, and for those centres to leverage their own experience to spread positive outcomes to children in many remote rural communities in China.
This stage of the project was approved in May 2017 and will run for three years. It will be supported by SILA consultants Dr Brian and Dr Liz Billard, co-founders of the Bai bilingual education program established in Yunnan in 2006.
For ethnic minority children living in remote parts of China, starting school without being able to speak Chinese means that the issues of poverty and remote location are compounded by a huge language barrier. A pilot bilingual preschool education program addressing these issues was conducted amongst the Bai people in Shilong village, Jianchuan County. The program incorporated modern teaching techniques contextualised to the cultural and rural environment and it has been successful in providing Bai, Yi and Lisu children access to education in Chinese at the local primary school. These children, who would otherwise have struggled to attend or to perform in school, are now outperforming other children in the district.
The pilot program continued to develop, with opportunities for replication in other dialect areas and minority language groups, resulting in a vision for a wider educational partnership. This addresses the needs of remote minority education in rural China, by building Yunnan level capacity for wider ‘mass’ replication and development of such programs in other minority areas. The latest phase indicates a maturing of the program and increasing responsibility by local stakeholders.