The History of Foreign Language Education in Mongolia

Foreign language education in Mongolia has been deeply influenced by its geographic location and political circumstances. Amarsaikhan Purev, BOOKBRIDGE Country Manager for Mongolia, writes about the history of teaching foreign languages in his country.

The first foreign language courses in Mongolia were offered in March 1912. Russian and English courses were offered at a school which was established by decision of the Government of Mongolia and was managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first foreign language textbooks for teaching Russian were published in 1940. From this period on, Russian was the only language to be taught in secondary school as foreign language. This continued until around 1990.

The National University of Mongolia started to offer Russian, English, French, German and Chinese languages courses starting from around 1950 and 1960. Japanese language course were organized in 1974 and Korean classes from 1991 on. Many Russian language specialists were trained and around half of them had a degree.

Although French courses were offered starting from 1962, some historical sources say that there were four young Mongolians who studied French in Paris in 1922 and 1930. When the first Chinese course was offered at the National University in 1957, it was soon stopped for some years due to political reasons and restarted around 1980.

Due to the close relationships among the communist states during the cold war, the first German course took place in the beginning of the 60ies. But it was already between 1920 and 1930 that political leaders of Mongolia studied in Germany.

From around 1990 on, the Mongolian government started to take English language education seriously. The Ministry of Education of Mongolia issued a resolution to teach English at secondary schools starting from the 1997-98 academic year. Organisations such as Peace Corps, VSO, English Institute of California University or International Education Alliance are making valuable contribution to teaching English. According to a survey among foreign language learners, English is – not suprinsingly – more prevailing than other foreign languages. The current government sees English as the official second language. Nowadays the global rapid development requires a good knowledge of foreign languages also in Mongolia, especially English. But despite recent efforts, there is still a lot of work to do in order to establish a sound system of high-quality English teaching in Mongolia.

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