Rong Hu is a PhD student at the Faculty of Education of Chiang Mai University, majoring in multicultural education. She is interested in culturally relevant pedagogy in ethnic minority regions in China.
Sustaining Ethnic Minority Literacy Through Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: The Case of a Public School in the Yunnan Border Area
Abstract: Situated in the southwest of China, Yunnan province is home to a wide variety of ethnic minority groups and is renowned for its rich cultural diversity. More than 25 minority ethnic groups live in the area, and each of these communities has its own distinct language and script, which are essential to maintaining their unique identities and cultural heritage. However, the increasing influence of Mandarin Chinese and modernization have raised concerns about the preservation and promotion of ethnic minority literacy in the region. A case study of a public primary school in this border area highlights the importance of incorporating the knowledge and cultural capital of students into school-based curriculum and culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP). Investigating the practices of the school’s principal and teachers, the study revealed that teachers supported students’ academic performance and empowered the unique identities of ethnic minority students by incorporating their cultural backgrounds, life experiences, and ethnic languages into the curriculum and pedagogy. These practices were supported by the principal through school administration, by avoiding potential cultural gaps and fostering a stronger sense of place and pride for the local heritage. Sustaining ethnic minority literacy through CRP can facilitate students’ critical thinking, self-expression, and pride in their community’s knowledge, while promoting academic success and long-term learning engagement. However, teachers, as curriculum and instructional gatekeepers, are key in transcending culturally relevant practices that are still human-centric towards more-than-human and nature-culture oriented approaches for maintaining ethnic minority literacy and building more sustainable and eco-friendly environmental education practices in public schools in Yunnan.
Keywords: ethnic minority literacy, public primary school, Yunnan border area, ethnic minority students