Xinjiang Government Announces 2005 Admission Standards for Middle and High Schools

April 22, 2005

The government of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region announced the specific selection criteria for prospective middle and high school students, according to an April 20 Urumqi News account. All students in China must take entrance examinations, but the government has preferential programs for ethnic minorities. The Xinjiang government will send 3,115 of the top applicants to special classes at high schools in eastern Chinese provinces, and will train another 3,000 students at local middle schools.

Since 1980, the central government has promoted special four-year classes composed exclusively of minority students within institutes of higher learning in Han-majority provinces. Currently, special minority classes are offered in 43 colleges and advanced technical schools outside of the various autonomous regions. For example, more than 700 students from Xinjiang have graduated from minority classes at Dalian University since 1990. The Chinese central government hails these programs as important tools for improving minority educational levels, which continue to fall far below the national average. Some Western analysts and many Uighurs, however, see this policy as an attempt to assimilate the minorities.

According to the Urumqi News report, the new admissions standards favor Chinese language speakers. The board will draw 35 percent of accepted students from experimental bilingual schools, which emphasize Chinese language instruction. An additional 30 percent will be drawn from exclusively Chinese language schools. The admissions board will draw 35 percent from southern Xinjiang schools that teach in minority languages, and the board will give preference to those within that pool who are competent in the Chinese language.

Although the Chinese Constitution and the Regional Autonomy Law guarantee minorities the right to use their own languages and to control their own educational systems, the central government has encouraged the Xinjiang authorities to phase out the use of the Uighur language in schools (see here for a detailed report on Xinjiang's language policy). In May 2002, for example, Xinjiang University ceased using Uighur as a language of instruction. In March 2004, the Xinjiang Daily announced that ethnic minority schools must be merged with Chinese schools by 2009 and the language of instruction changed to Chinese. Some minorities fear that the central government is imposing a policy of "linguacide" in an effort to assimilate them.