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Educational Research

I am posting these studies for academics, and those interested in research relating to bilingual education policy and practice. My research focused on studying the effects of educational policies on ethnic minorities, specifically the Uyghurs of Xinjiang. 
Note that many profound and rapid changes have taken place in the Xinjiang region, and in China more generally, since the time of this research (2010-15).

The Uyghurs: About

A note on Xinjiang:

In the years 2010-15, I was fortunate to be able to visit Xinjiang regularly. I went several times, and completed two dissertations on language policy for Uyghur students during that period. Given what took place after this, I believe these studies now serve as a time capsule - a snapshot of life in a world that has changed irrevocably for these communities. In my view, what has happened, and continues to happen, is genocide by the definition of the UN convention. 


It is my hope that the Uyghurs prevail in their efforts to protect their language & culture. I hope they can preserve what remains of their history, their books, their contributions to this world. I hope one day they are able to move freely both in their homeland and beyond.

Research Study 1: 2012

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The Business of Learning English in Xinjiang: An Uyghur Perspective

SOAS, University of London

Published 2012


In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in the demand for better quality English language teaching provisions for the Uyghurs, one of China’s largest ethnic minority groups, indigenous to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in China. The Uyghurs are a minority group facing demands to become literate in Chinese as well as in English, and as a result, the English Language Teaching business is beginning to flourish for the Uyghurs. Using the theories of social and linguistic capital, this research is a case study analysis of ‘Atlan’, a language-training centre developed by the Uyghurs, located in Urumqi, Xinjiang. 

Fieldwork was carried out for this research in Urumqi, between June and August 2011, and is based on data derived from interviews, documentary analysis and secondary sources; it included observations of classes in ‘Atlan’, interviews and conversations with students, a collection of various articles and leaflets provided by the school, and important discussions with the director(s) and principle teachers. The research provides evidence that suggests the training centre, in providing Uyghur students with an opportunity to invest in linguistic capitals such as English on their own terms, is resulting in a direct fostering of social capital.

Research Study 2: 2013

Bilingual Education in Xinjiang: All Roads Lead to Chinese?

University of Oxford

Published 2013

Bilingual state schools in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR) deal with a multiplicity of ethnic, linguistic and cultural tensions: this research explores the practices of bilingual education policy at the classroom level. It portrays how the national educational requirement for ethnic minorities to be fluent in Mandarin Chinese is being operationalised in the context of bilingual state schools in Xinjiang, where Han and Uyghur students study in the same school, yet are taught separately.

Based on fieldwork carried out in Urban City ‘A’, Xinjiang, this empirically based research is rooted in the eth

uity to one another, with regards to both students and teachers. Findings also indicate that students and teachers make concerted efforts as a social group to strengthen the tenacity of their ethnic culture by creating spaces for the use of their heritage language in these schools.

By analysing findings and policies using the theoretical lenses of heteroglossia and translanguaging, this research highlights the potential for specific, pragmatic policy implications and minority language maintenance strategies, namely: to consider adopting translanguaging as a teaching pedagogy in bilingual schools, enabling ethnic minority teachers to instruct their lessons by code-switching between use of Mandarin Chinese and their native language; to revise the basis of assessment for minority teachers, by focusing rather on their students’ learning process and exam performance, instead of on teachers’ monoglossic use of Mandarin Chinese as a medium of instruction; and to reiterate calls for integrating minority languages into the standard regional curriculum as a third language for Han students in minority dominant areas of China. Further research is urgently needed in order that educational policy makers and language planners in China can develop better, evidence-based policies and teaching strategies for bilingual schools in ethnic- minority dominant regions such as Xinjiang.

The Uyghurs: Projects
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