Mainland China (hereafter “China”) is an important player in the global spread of English as English is increasingly emphasized as a priority foreign language and a compulsory subject at all levels of education. The national zeal for learning English does not exclude rural China. In contrast with cities where English might be used as a contact language, in rural areas English does not serve as a communication tool. This paper is therefore intended for examining what make(s) China strive for a universal provision of English language education. More specifically, I attempt to explore in what ways English has been legitimized as a required school course in rural China and why it is more likely to perpetuate the urban-rural educational inequalities. I use the concept of “hegemonic spread of English” as a blend on the one hand of the global spread of English as suggested above, and the current hegemony of English on the other hand. I begin this paper by describing a pervasive belief in the global spread of English, trying to link it with how English has been taken up in China. I then describe the myth that English language acquisition equals upward social mobility, discussing how rural students tend to have access only to “low-mobility form of English” which makes their reliance on school success for social transformation becomes difficult. I conclude by arguing critical pedagogical approaches that takes the hegemonic spread of English into account should be introduced and practiced in English language classrooms in rural China.
Yujuan Wu, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Stream: New classrooms
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