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Selected Development Project
Project Title

Models of trilingual education in ethnic minority regions of China

Principal Investigator Prof Bob Adamson
Area of Research Project
Language, Literature and Linguistics
Project Period
From 01/2013 To 06/2015
  1. Deepen understanding of trilingual education models
  2. Identify effective models
  3. Broaden international literature
Methods Used
  • A network of researchers in 11 regions
  • In each region, 3 representative research sites and 3 primary schools per site
  • Interviews, documentary analysis, lesson observations and field notes
Summary of Findings
  • Four models
  • Two effective models: sustaining factors include (community support, geography, demographics, political attitudes, resources, economic needs and degree of assimilation of the ethnic minority)
  • Two models are detrimental to the ethnic minority language
  • The results of the project may lead to a better understanding of how trilingual education is implemented in Hong Kong primary schools, which would be relevant to the successful implementation of the ‘biliterate and trilingual’ language policy proposed by the Hong Kong government, and to effective language education in Hong Kong in general.
  • It is of value to local primary schools that are currently trying out or intend to try out their own trilingual education models, as they will be better informed when re-designing the school curriculum.
  • The results would also have a long-term impact on language education policies in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world.
  • Feng, A.W. & Adamson, B. (Eds.) (2015). Trilingualism in education in China: models and challenges. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Adamson, B. (2015). China’s English: lessons for Asian literacy. In Halse, C. (Ed.), Asia literate schooling in the Asian Century (pp.119-132). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  • Sunuodula, M., Feng, A.W. & Adamson, B. (2015). Trilingualism and Uyghur identity in the People's Republic of China. In Evans, D. (Ed.) Language and identity: discourse in the world (pp.81-104). London: Continuum.
  • Feng, A.W. & Adamson, B. (2015). Researching trilingualism and trilingual education in China. In Feng, A.W. & Adamson, B. (Eds.). Trilingualism in education in China: models and challenges (pp.1-21). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Adamson, B. & Feng, A.W. (2015). Trilingualism in education: models and challenges. In Feng, A.W. & Adamson, B. (Eds.),  Trilingualism in education in China: in China: models and challenges (pp.243-258). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Adamson, B., Feng, A.W., Liu, Q. & Li, Q. (2013).Ethnic minorities and trilingual education policies. In Besharov, D.J. & Baehler, K. (Eds.) Chinese social policy in a time of transition (pp.180-195). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Adamson, B. & Feng, A.W. (2014). Models for trilingual education in the People’s Republic of China. In Gorter, D., Zenotz, V. & Cenoz, J. (Eds.) Minority languages and multilingual education (pp.29-44). Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Yi, Y. & Adamson, B. (forthcoming). Trilingual education in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region: Challenges and threats for Mongolian identity. In Reid, C. & Major, J. Education dialogues with/in the Global South. London & New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Johnson, E, Ma, F. & Adamson, B. (forthcoming). Developing trilingual education in Western China. In Lee, C.K.J., Yu, Z.Y., Huang, X.H., and Law, H.F.E. (Eds.) Educational Development in Western China: Towards quality and equity. Rotterdam: Sense.
  • Adamson, B. & Yi, Y. (forthcoming). Trilingual education in Inner Mongolia—signposts for the future of English in Asia? InO’Sullivan, M., Huddart, D. & Lee, C. (Eds.) The future of English in Asia: Perspectives on language and literature. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
  • Yi, Y. & Adamson, B. (forthcoming). Life in a trilingual school: perspectives from Inner Mongolia. In Maclean, R. & Myhill, M. (Eds.), Life in classrooms, past, present and future. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Feng, A.W. & Adamson, B. (forthcoming). Contested notions of bilingualism and trilingualism in the People’s Republic of China. In Wright, W.E., Boun, S. & Garcia, O. (Eds.) Handbook of bilingual & multilingual education. Wiley-Blackwell.
Biography of Principal Investigator

Bob Adamson is Chair Professor of Curriculum Reform and Director of the Centre for Lifelong Learning Research and Development at Hong Kong Institute of Education . He is also currently Head of the Department of International Education and Lifelong Learning. Formerly, he was Director of the UNEVOC Centre (Hong Kong) and of the Comparative Education Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong. He is the current Vice President and former President of the Comparative Education Society of Hong Kong. He has taught in schools, colleges and universities in France, Wales, England, mainland China, Australia and Hong Kong.

Bob is Editor of Multilingual Education Journal, and international & comparative education editor of Cogent Education. He publishes in the fields of English language teaching, teacher education, comparative education, curriculum studies and higher education. His books include Trilingualism in education in China: models and challenges (co-edited with Anwei Feng, 2015), China’s English: a history of English in Chinese education (2004),  Curriculum, schooling and society in Hong Kong (co-authored with Paul Morris, 2010), Assessment reform in education (co-edited with Rita Berry, 2011), The reorientation of higher education: challenging the East-West dichotomy (co-edited with Jon Nixon and Feng Su, 2012), and Comparative education research: approaches and methods (co-edited with Mark Bray and Mark Mason, 2007, 2014)—a work translated into seven languages to date.

Bob has also written more than fifty textbooks for primary and secondary schools and was part of the curriculum development team that produced the Junior English for China and Senior English for China textbook series, which were used by approximately 400 million students. He has served as a Consultant to the People's Education Press in the Ministry of Education, China, for more than 25 years.

In 2013, he was awarded the title of "Kunlun Expert" (??) by the Qinghai Provincial Government in the People’s Republic of China in recognition of his 30 years' work in Chinese education, particularly in minority education in Qinghai.  

Funding Source

General Research Fund