Nation state versus ethnicity: educating ethnic minorities in South-West China

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Educational Sciences


  • China, ethnicity, nation, education, ICT


Global development initiatives such as Education for All in 1990 and the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 have also directed attention to the educational rights of ethnic minorities. Even though the People’s Republic of China has not ratified important conventions that protect ethnic minorities such as the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention 1989, it has increasingly subscribed to global initiatives that aim at greater educational inclusion and the protection of individual and collective rights, including so-called “ethnic solidarity education” at schools. At the same time, China represents an autocratic state with political interests and institutional structures that run counter to a democratic and pluralistic understanding of education, and it often prioritizes nation-state integration over the acknowledgment of ethnic differences.

The official Chinese policy is “unity in diversity”; ‘diversity’ however is often defined and prescribed in a top-down process, denying minorities the possibility to voice their own understandings of ethnicity or to choose their own paths into modernity. This stands in stark contrast to more recent attempts globally to incorporate local forms of knowledge and contest mainstream supremacy.The Chinese state’s attempt at an “ethnic solidarity education” can be interpreted as a response both to inter-ethnic tensions and to the lower school performance of ethnic minority students. Against this background, policy makers and educators alike view modern information and communication technologies for education (ICT4E) as an apt instrument for reaching out to communities in remote regions; this view is reiterated by the Chinese state’s strategies regarding the informatization of society. This calls for a more systematic investigation into the role that ICT4E are playing in the implementation of multiculturalist educational policies.

The project will investigate educational policies and practices regarding ethnic minority education in China by examining the following three questions:

1.How are multiculturalism and education for ethnic minorities framed in Chinese academia? What are the linkages to international conventions, the global academic debate on multiculturalist/ethnic education, and Chinese social, cultural, and political trajectories?
2.How are multiculturalism and education for ethnic minorities integrated into Chinese teacher education, and how are these practiced by teachers in ethnic minority regions in Southwest China?
3.Which role do information and communication technologies for eduation (ICT4E) play in educating ethnic minorities in Southwest China? Can they enable educators to pay greater attention to cultural sensitivities, or do they enforce mainstream (Han Chinese) cultural hegemony among ethnic minorities?

For answering the first research question, the main material will be official educational policy documents (both international and Chinese) and academic journal articles (drawing on the Chinese Academic Journals database). For examining the second and third research questions, fieldwork will be conducted in Southwest China. Two ethnic minority regions have been chosen: Xishuangbanna Prefecture in Yunnan Province, home to ethnic Dai; and Youyang County near Chongqing, home to ethnic Tujia. The rationale behind this selection is these minorities’ different integration into mainstream Chinese society: while the Dai represent an ethnic minority with a rather distinct cultural awareness (in recent years reinforced by ethno-tourism), the Tujia have assimilated to a large extent to Chinese society. This has led to the Chinese government actively pursuing a policy of reviving ethnic minority traditions among the Tujia. The selection of field sites has been decided upon in consultation with The Center for Studies of Education and Psychology of Minorities in Southwest China in Chongqing.
Effective start/end date2016/08/152019/03/31


Related research output

Wei Wang, 2019 Feb 6, Lund: Lund University. 134 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)

Barbara Schulte & Wieland Wermke, 2019, Liber. 196 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Barbara Schulte, 2019, In: on_education. Journal for Research and Debate. 5, p. 1-7 7 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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