Language Policy in Public Compulsory Education Systems: Multiculturalism and National Identity in the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China

In: International Journal of Taiwan Studies
Alessandra Ferrer PhD Candidate, Department of Education, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan,

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In 2018 the government of the Republic of China (roc) on Taiwan elevated certain Chinese languages, Taiwanese Indigenous languages, and Taiwan Sign Language to the status of national languages, seemingly marking the latest stage in an evolution of language education policy away from the long-standing focus on Mandarin. This paper analyses this evolution by comparing approaches to language education policy in contemporary Taiwan with those in the People’s Republic of China (prc). It focuses on how notions of multiculturalism, deployed to legitimate policy, have taken on different meanings in these divergent political contexts. I argue that in both the prc and Taiwan, multiculturalism primarily signifies symbolic recognition of minority and non-dominant languages, involving limited redistribution of power. The continued centrality of Mandarin reflects the powerful legacy in both the roc and the prc of discourses of national identity centred around Han Chineseness, despite significant differences in the deployment of multicultural rhetoric.

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