The application of language education policy in southwest China is mainly about the protection and improvement of local minority languages. There are over 120 minority languages in China now, and among all these minority languages, about 20 of them are spoken by less than1000 people, except Hui and Man speak Han Chinese (Sun, 2001). Most of the population in southwest China is composed of minorities, especially in Guizhou, Xinjiang, Yunnan and Tibet. In recent years, the promotion of Mandarin Chinese in this area has not succeeded as compared with other areas, because minority languages are strong. As for helping these often impoverished areas to develop their educational system, the Chinese government creates an aid form called “counterpart aid” through insistent investigations. Counterpart aid is an aid form that is organized by the central government, establishing a stable relationship in relative organizations and schools between developed and underdeveloped regions, to boost the educational development in the latter.. As an important element of this counterpart aid form, in recent years, the Chinese government has started the Inner High School program for minority students. The government holds examinations to select middle school students from different minority areas to send to better high schools in more developed inner China cities with full financial support. Yet the government also shows respect to their local language during the aid. For example, in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the official language is Uyghur- it appears on official bank notes together with Tibetan, Mongolian and Zhuang. Xinjiang Reigion has Uyghur-language-based public schools and Uyghur media, and this language policy is also applied to other minorities in Xinjiang. There are also various social policies that give all minorities privilege over Mandarin.
Another example is Yunnan: a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual province in Southwest China with 25 minority groups with a population over 5000. Each group has their own language except Hui, Man and Shui, the other 22 minorities speak 28 local languages in total. These minorities will also need to learn Mandarin, and even a third language, like English. Minority students in Yunnan will choose different languages in their daily communication.according to many factors that have influence on the choice of language: gender, grade, living milieu, nationality of father, educational background of mother, language learning modes before college and number of friends from one’s own ethnic group. Their native language is frequently used at home, while Mandarin and local dialect are mostly used in public, especially in reading and writing activities. Within this big language circle, Mandarin ranks top for its position, function and prospect, which is also one result of the national emphasis on it in China.
The government is trying to implement bilingual education in Yunnan province, which focuses on both the local language and Mandarin, students have to go classes related to local culture with the instruction in local language and other national or international classes with the instruction in Mandarin. However, Bilingual education in Yunnan is now facing a big problem: the lack of professional bilingual teachers. According to the analysis of Department of Education in Yunnan Province (2005), the number of teachers in elementary schools who are bilingual only orally is 10635, the number of teachers who are bilingual both orally and written is 2301, which only accounts for 5.6% of the total number of elementary school teachers. (See Multiculturalism, Multilingual Education, Mother Tongue Instruction.)