URUMQI, May 6 (Xinhua) -- Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is expanding bilingual preschool education further into its rural and pasturing areas to enable more children have access to such education.
With central government funds, Xinjiang plans to offer three years of bilingual preschool education instead of the current two years in the region's rural area during the 2016-2020 period, sources with the regional education authorities said on Friday.
Xinjiang is aiming to ensure 85 percent of pre-school children across the region have access to such education in 2020. Seventy-seven percent of its preschool-age children attended bilingual kindergartens last year, according to official figures.
The central government has invested over 1 billion yuan (153.7 million U.S. dollars) this year to build 552 bilingual kindergartens in Xinjiang, mainly in the southern part and rural and pasturing areas of the region. Xinjiang had established 2,500 bilingual kindergartens in rural areas over the previous five years.
The autonomous region is heavily populated by people of Uygur ethnicity. The government says bilingual education, based on the official tongue Mandarin and minority languages including Uygur, will help improve ethnic groups' job prospects.