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Universities Offer Preparatory Mandarin Courses for Ethnic Minority Students

About 20,000 ethnic minority students each year are attending preparatory courses in Mandarin in more than 100 Chinese universities, according to the State Ethnic Affairs Commission (SEAC).


Ethnic minority students in China can choose one-year or two-year preparatory courses where they can raise their level of Chinese before entering the first year of university.


The Chinese government has granted several favorable policies to the country's ethnic minority students, such as easier access to higher education, said the SEAC.


Wurihan, a 26-year-old girl of Mongolian ethnic origin, had 20 marks added to her college entrance exam results when she attended the exam eight years ago, because the university course she had applied for was taught in Mandarin.


"The competition is fierce so the added marks were a huge relief," she said. Wurihan said she could use Mandarin at a high level but still felt nervous when competing with Han students because Mandarin was her second language.


She said her college entrance exam papers were in Mongolian, which were directly translated from the Han language paper by educational departments, except the "Mongolian literature" exam which was only attended by Mongolian students.


The SEAC source said ethnic colleges attached to the SEAC had created special university courses to help train talented students from 22 ethnic minorities, each with a population of below 100,000,including the Ewenki, Oroqen, Daur, Maonan, Sala, Bulang and Tajik,


China has 55 ethnic minorities which accounts for only 8.4 percent of the total population. Most of the ethnic groups live in impoverished western regions and border areas in 10 provinces or autonomous regions such as southwestern Yunnan, Guizhou, northwestern Xinjiang and northern Inner Mongolia.


The SEAC said the government was preventing small minority groups by recording their threatened languages and conducting bilingual school education to protect and rescue their cultural heritage.


"Culture is the soul, the root and the essence of a people," said Dainzhub Ongboin, vice director of the SEAC, at a press conference in March.


(Xinhua News Agency May 14, 2007)

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