Education in Inner Mongolia

Education in Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of China, has been growing substantially over the past few decades. It offers compulsory education in both primary and secondary schools, and education for children ages three to six has been expanded in preschools in some districts. Students from Mongolian ethnic groups attend Mongolian-language elementary and high schools and are assigned jobs by the government upon graduation. They can also choose to pursue advanced education.

In Inner Mongolia, ethnic education displays typical features which also represent the foundation of harmonious coexistence for multiple ethnicities. For instance, in 2012, each Han Chinese child received a subsidy of ¥2,700 yuan for kindergarten education expenses, while each child from a Mongolian ethnic group received a subsidy of ¥3,900. A few more public kindergartens were built in the following years in addition to the existing 17 kindergartens in Ejin Horo Banner.

Take Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia, as another example. There are 10 ethnic middle schools, 19 primary schools and 11 kindergartens in Hohhot, with a total of 44,000 students, among which 15,000 (34 percent) are ethnic minorities. 5,031 students in seven schools (two middle schools, one primary school and four kindergartens) are taught in Mongolian.

Teaching Mongolian as a supplemental language is a distinguishing feature of Inner Mongolia. In this category, there are 24 schools with 8,820 students in Hohhot. There are seven schools for the Hui nationality and two for the Man nationality. In ethnic primary and secondary schools and kindergartens, there are 3,913 teachers, among which 1,473 (38 percent) are of a minority ethnicity. Among those teachers, 110 of 456 language teachers are teaching Mongolian in the schools.

While great achievements have been accomplished, there are some deficits of ethnic education in Inner Mongolia, mainly an imbalance of students in the different grades. Students are relatively crowded in some schools (especially senior high schools) in major cities such as Hohhot. This overcrowding may result in students skipping preschool education and going directly to primary school. Meanwhile, due to a lack of space in junior middle schools, current primary school graduates may lose out on the opportunity for further education. Senior high schools are at risk of a student shortage due to the smaller amount of junior school graduates.

Secondly, the existing classrooms, facilities and teachers are far behind the current requirements which are urgently needed in order to expand. While Mongolian kindergartens in some districts are likely to increase the number of students enrolled in Mongolian classes, problems such as insufficient facilities, a shortage of teachers and the inconvenience of transportation due to suburban locations call for immediate attention.

On June 17, 2009, at a symposium on the present status of ethnic education, 27 participants from 12 different institutes proposed an agreement to end the merging of fundamental ethnic schools and instead expand and enlarge the scale of Hohhot ethnic schools as quickly as possible. In the following years, the layout of schools among different urban regions has been adjusted to meet the needs of both local and migrant students.

To further improve the state of education in Inner Mongolia, local governments should strive for support from the central government and promote the development of ethnic education. The number of schools teaching Mongolian should be expanded. Active and strong measures must be adopted to strengthen trilingual teaching (Chinese, Mongolian and English). In addition, internal management of each school should be even stricter, for the purpose of expanding feature-based construction of schools and propagating multi-ethnic cultures.

The protection and development of culture and education for ethnic minorities are of paramount importance to build the foundations for sustainable, balanced and healthy development, not only for ethnic regions, but also the entire country.

– Xin Gao
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in MongoliaBordering Russia and China, Mongolia, the landlocked country in northeast Asia, has been experiencing more severe and frequent effects of climate change. Among several of these issues, water quality and scarcity are at the top of the list. Mongolia’s unique landscape is comprised of sparse rivers, lakes and springs that flow from the wooded northeast, leaving most of the east and south with a desert climate.

Of the population that is just under 3 million, about one-third to one-half reside in the capitol, Ulaanbaatar. The people of Mongolia traditionally practice a nomadic lifestyle.  Second to mineral industries, Mongolians rely heavily on livestock as a major economic driver. Needless to say, water quality in Mongolia has a profound effect on this industry, as well as on the health and well-being of its people. Threats to water supplies exist both in urban and remaining rural communities. A lack of water quality infrastructure has led to contamination of water supplies, and unregulated use has resulted in scarcity in some regions.

In the last few decades, Mongolia has also made a transition to democracy and has introduced a market economy across the nation. Issues have arisen since the adoption of this new system that have directly affected water usage, such as wealth gaps, overgrazing and collapsing value systems and traditions. Desertification, premature melting of permafrost and water pollution have also increased along with the growing effects of climate change. As a consequence of drier rivers in the northern region, many have had to rely on groundwater resources, which made up roughly 80 percent of Mongolia’s water consumption in 2010.

One solution that Mongolia is exploring is a pipeline that would stretch across the steppe that comprises the majority of the country. While this project may ensure more sanitary and abundant water supplies, there has been no advancement on this project due to the high cost and labor burden that it would pose. Although projects like these may be costly and inefficient, it is important that sustainable options are being explored and debated as the water quality in Mongolia continues to decline.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in MongoliaHunger in Mongolia is one of the major challenges faced by the country, as it has led to poverty. The poverty rate has declined over the last decade but still remains at over 22 percent. Approximately 20 percent of children under five years old are anemic (most due to iron deficiency), while about 13 percent of them are undernourished or suffering from other nutrition-based conditions such as skin diseases and rickets.

Hunger in Mongolia stems from the dzud, a weather phenomenon where a summer drought is followed by a harsh winter. Dzuds negatively affect the economy, especially among the herder population, which accounts for over a third of all employment in the country. Their livestock, which herding families rely on for food, transportation and income, often do not survive the dzud, resulting in food insecurity and malnutrition.

According to the secretary-general of the Mongolian Red Cross, Nordov Bolormaa, over 150,000 Mongolians across 17 of 21 provinces were affected by this February’s dzud. The Mongolian government discovered that over 40,000 animals had died by early February. Over a million livestock died in the winter of 2015-2016, and the dzud of 2009-2010, one of the worst recorded, saw over nine million animal deaths.

Several organizations are working to address both the short-term and long-term effects of hunger in Mongolia. The Red Cross placed an emergency appeal for over $835,000 to help over 25,000 people in Mongolia who are vulnerable to the effects of the dzud. The Asian Development Bank approved a grant to address child malnutrition, planning to work directly with families in Mongolia to educate them about the causes of malnutrition and ways to prevent it. These programs are vital to helping Mongolians better endure the dzud and establish a solid foundation to reduce hunger and malnutrition.


Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Mongolia

How to help people in Mongolia? Over 27 years after the revolution that would lead the Mongolia to a democratic form of government, the country faces social and economic issues that have yet to be resolved. Mongolia’s current poverty issues are mostly connected to its climate and natural disasters such as severe snow storms over the winter and droughts during the summer. The characteristic nomadic way of living is slowly fading because of how animals, as well as their owners, are gravely affected by such climate conditions.

As a country whose economy relies on agriculture and cattle raising, such natural impacts destroy Mongolia’s economy from the root. Thus, Mongolia’s poverty is higher in the rural areas than in major cities.

The Red Cross has been successfully helping Mongolia’s population during the “dzud,” a natural disaster seen only in Mongolia that is distinguished by its severe low temperatures. 2010 was the culminating point, when eight million animals were killed by the natural phenomenon.

By working hand in hand with families within the affected communities, the Red Cross has provided supplies, shelter, physical and emotional support throughout 17 different provinces across Mongolia.


Ways to Help People in Mongolia


But the different ways of how to help people in Mongolia encompass more than the effects of extreme weather, and therefore have to be tackled with a variety of concepts and strategies.

The United Nations has been working with Mongolia and its citizens to develop an integrated national system as well as macroeconomic plans, which were previously lacking. These strategies have decreased unemployment and reduced poverty due to their economic impact in the country.

The organization People in Need have been working with the country of Mongolia for decades. The NGO ensures access to healthcare for habitants in remote locations, distributes food around the country and helps rebuild rural areas after harsh weather events, among other forms of aid.

How to help people in Mongolia is a question with a simple answer. Creating and spreading awareness is key, and the companies mentioned above and many more are successfully doing this every day. There is hope for Mongolia.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Mongolia Poor
Between one third and one half of Mongolia’s population currently lives in poverty. Since the nation ended their Soviet-style communist regime in 1990, many impoverished Mongolians have been wondering why the advantages of capitalism have not yet reached them. After nearly three decades of reform, why is Mongolia poor?

Since the turn of the 21st century, Mongolia has fostered great development. Income and school enrollment have risen, while sanitary concerns and maternal and child mortality have declined. However, the nation’s success has not been equal in all areas and has not had the desired impact on alleviating poverty.


Why is Mongolia Poor? Investments and Inequality


While economic growth is necessary for human development, human development is not necessary for economic growth. Between 2009 and 2013, Mongolia’s GDP rapidly increased by $8 billion – primarily a result of foreign investment in the country’s natural resources. Despite this flow of capital, there has not been a satisfactory increase in more and better job opportunities; thus, impoverished families are not able to lift themselves out of poverty and share in the new wealth.

Not only are not enough jobs being created, but most lower-class Mongolians are unqualified or under-educated for the advantageous jobs that are present. Furthermore, adequate job opportunities are not present where poor Mongolians live, so they must resort to low-productivity work that only provides enough income to sustain their livelihoods rather than improve them. In turn, the nation’s wealthy get richer while the impoverished remain poor.

Since 2013, Mongolia’s economic growth has slowed, with its GDP dropping over $1 billion in three years. The economic slowdown, while not drastic, raises concern for the country’s most vulnerable and how the downturn will affect them, considering the previous upturn was not doing much to help them.

To answer and address the question of why Mongolia is poor, the nation must focus on equal and quality access to jobs and education. Fortunately, Mongolia has the tools to succeed and is currently implementing strategies such as the National Plan of Action for Decent Work and the National Employment Promotion Programme. Investing in education will also be crucial for increasing the population’s employability and potential for the generations to come.

Mongolia’s rapid development is worth celebrating, but to ensure the nation’s long term success the country must work toward closing the gap between the rich and the poor and evenly dispersing their development. Only when the entire population has the capability to succeed will Mongolia reach its full economic potential.

Catherine Fredette

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Refugees in Mongolia

Mongolia is a landlocked country in Asia with a population of just over 3,000,000. This East Asian nation is home to a small, yet geopolitically significant refugee population. Here are 10 facts about those displaced refugees in Mongolia:

  1. The World Bank’s most current data shows that there were nine refugees in Mongolia in 2015. This obviously ranks Mongolia behind neighboring countries China and Russia, which both have around 300,000 documented refugees. However, this miniscule number does not reflect the reality of refugees in Mongolia.
  2. Refugees in Mongolia are mainly from North Korea. The North Korean defectors live there, often briefly, under a tenuous balance between Mongolia-U.S. diplomatic relations and Mongolia-North Korea diplomatic relations.
  3. Hundreds of North Korean refugees pass through Mongolia each month before being repatriated in South Korea. Refugees in Mongolia from North Korea choose one of two common paths to defect to South Korea. One option is to travel north from North Korea through China into Mongolia before flying to South Korea.  The other route they take is to go south through China and into Laos and Thailand before boarding a plane to South Korea. North Korea expert and head of the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Relief Fund Stephen Noerper once estimated that each month, 500 North Koreans pass through Mongolia.
  4. North Korean refugees must pass through China in secret before arriving in Mongolia. China’s alliance with North Korea means that North Korean defectors will be sent back to North Korea if caught in China. Defectors who are caught often face brutal treatment and forced labor in North Korean concentration camps.
  5. Their journey to Mongolia is treacherous. Besides having to sneak through China and past Chinese border patrol, refugees in Mongolia must pass through the Gobi Desert, a cold desert that stretches hundreds of miles.
  6. Mongolia has long said it will humanely treat North Korean refugees. Mongolian Prime Minister Nambaryn Enkhbayar has publicly sympathized with North Korean defectors.
  7. However, Mongolia’s position on North Korean defectors remains unclear. Mongolia has stepped up its border patrol in recent years and has several agreements with North Korea.  This includes accepting thousands of migrant workers from the one-party state.
  8. On the other hand, Mongolian border patrol agents have let North Koreans into the country, and Mongolia remains an ally of the U.S.
  9. Refugees in Mongolia from North Korea often make their way to the South Korean embassy. There, they are taken care of and able to book a flight from the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar to the South Korean capital of Seoul.
  10. The number of refugees in Mongolia from North Korea is decreasing. According to the Korea Herald, stricter North Korean border patrol has caused the number of North Korean defectors to drop 21 percent already in 2017.

Though their numbers may seem small, Mongolia still plays a crucial role in aiding North Korean refugees and defectors. Mongolia’s situation reminds us that even helping a handful of individuals has an impact on both personal lives and international relations.

David Mclellan

Photo: Flickr

Mongolia, a country in central Asia, has some of Earth’s most beautiful mountains and wonders. Despite its abundance of natural resources, lakes and rivers, water quality in Mongolia has begun decreasing at an alarming rate.

Climate change is one of the largest factors in Mongolia’s decreasing supply of drinking water; many lakes and rivers continue to dry up. The land in southern Mongolia around the Gobi desert has had an increase in desertification as climate change emphasizes the unequal distribution of drinkable water between Mongolia’s mountain region and its drier areas.

Mongolia’s economy relies heavily on herding culture, an industry that requires accessible drinking water nationwide. However, the presence of so much livestock also poses a threat to public health, as the lack of infrastructure around water supply often leads to contamination.

An increase of urbanization and an economic reliance on mining have also contributed to the gradual pollution of groundwater resources in Mongolia, the country’s main source of water outside of mountainous regions.

However, multiple organizations have implemented plans to address these growing concerns for water quality in Mongolia. The Water Supply and Sewage Authority (USUG) aims to supply safe drinking water to an estimated 1.2 million people living in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. USUG has a three-year program to maintain sustainability and is a pilot project of a larger organization: the WHO/AusAID Partnership on Water Quality, created in 2012.

The Mongolian government has implemented several revisions in policy, such as an order for the Compulsory Establishment of Centralized Water Supplies, and the Methodological Guidance on Water Safety Plans for Small Communities, established in 2015.

Awareness among water-related government agencies is another crucial part of the process toward higher water quality in Mongolia. Water safety plans (WSPs) advocate for such awareness among water suppliers, health facilities, academic institutions and inspection agencies.

Meanwhile, The Asia Foundation works at the local level to ensure smaller towns and herder communities can protect their water. The process for such awareness spans from the household levels of conservation, city-wide treatment and sanitation, and global climate change-related activity. All of these issues intersect in Mongolia’s water supply, with WSPs ready to take action.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Flickr

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2002, chronic diseases caused 13,000 out of 19,000 deaths in Mongolia. Of these, 30 percent were caused by cardiovascular disease. Various types of cancers caused another 21 percent of the deaths.

In 2015, 75 percent of men and 79 percent of women were overweight. Based on data presented by the WHO, focusing on implementing healthier diets and increasing physical activity could prevent 40 percent of occurrences of cancer and at least 80 percent of premature heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation spent five years encouraging healthier lifestyles in Mongolia and concentrated on early diagnosis and treatment plans of the top diseases in Mongolia, including heart disease and strokes. These two diseases alone cause 30 percent of the deaths in Mongolia, despite easy prevention. This project, which ended in 2013, funded schools and other organizations that encouraged healthy practices in the community and worked closely with the Mongolian government to increase funding for public health programs.

The Regional Office for the Western Pacific portion of the WHO looked at life expectancy rates in Mongolia and found that between 2010 and 2030 both women and men can expect a significant increase in life expectancy. Men are estimated to live 16.2 years longer and women 19.6 years. It is also estimated that the population of individuals over the age of 60 will outgrow the population of people 14 and under. They warn that this increase in the older population of the country will also lead to an increase in the occurrences of cardiovascular diseases since the elderly are more susceptible to these types of diseases and issues.

Furthering research and instituting prevention and interventions will be able to prevent this major increase in cardiovascular and other diseases of this nature.

Similarly, the Millennium Challenge Corporation believes that through programs that work to improve the health of Mongolians, the country is securing a better future and aims to target the youth of the nation, teaching them a healthy lifestyle before they become more susceptible to these top diseases in Mongolia.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

mobile schools in Mongolia

Since 2010, Mongolia has experienced a substantial and significant increase in the enrollment of kindergarten aged children, largely due to mobile schools through which thousands of nomadic children are given access to an early education.

Large strides have been made in Mongolia over the past decades to make a successful shift from a planned economy to a market democracy. However, despite this progress, the World Bank reported in 2008 that 35 percent of the population still lived below the poverty line.

The Mongolian Government and various humanitarian organizations addressed this issue by developing a number of resolutions to improve the living situations of the population. Many of these initiatives have been focused on educational development.

One such program is the Early Childhood Education Project of 2012 which aims to provide all young children with access to education. The components of this project are confronted with a unique cultural challenge. Mongolia is the least densely populated country on earth with roughly 1.7 people per square kilometer. A large portion of this population is nomadic and during the summer months, they reside in an area for only 2-3 weeks. Under these dispersed and fluid conditions, the young children of these nomadic families would never be able to attend a typical kindergarten.

In order to accommodate this common nomadic lifestyle, “mobile ger kindergartens” were developed. UNICEF Mongolia and Save the Children UK piloted these mobile schools in Mongolia in 1994, but their development accelerated when the Mongolian government and other organizations stepped in to assist with funding.

Tsendsuren Tumee, UNICEF Mongolia’s Early Childhood Development Officer, has reported, “Since 2012 more than 2600 children have attended ger kindergartens in Khuvsgul province . . . this year we established 10 more ger-kindergartens in the area with the help of the Government of Monaco providing nearly 280 children aged 2-5 with early childhood education programs and services. Access to early childhood has helped many children to develop to their full potential and perform better at schools.”

In addition to their benefits to young students, these mobile schools in Mongolia are cheaper to operate than their stationary counterparts throughout the country. They also assist the parents of these children by allowing them to spend more time with their herds, thus elevating their productivity.

In the report by UNICEF Mongolia, a mother named Jargal expressed the beneficial influence that these schools have for her family personally: “Summer is busy time for herders. We need to work extra hard in preparation for the cold winter ahead. Knowing that our son is safe at the kindergarten, learning new things and making friends, we feel so happy and do our work without any concern.”

The World Bank has reported that the overall trajectory of this project is a positive one. With it, young children will be better prepared for higher levels of education and their parents will be enabled to produce more. In addition, there will be decreased pressure on the government and other humanitarian participants.

The World Bank opines that more mobile ger kindergartens are needed to service the nomadic community which accounts for 40 percent of the total population. However, many are optimistic about the progress that has been made. The Asian Development Bank commented, “Reforms, streamlining, and repairs – mixed with ample optimism and dedication – are propelling Mongolia’s education system toward achieving its goal of education for all.”

Preston Rust