Laos’ top university to offer master’s degree in Chinese language teaching

China’s increasing investment in Laos in recent years has led to a Mandarin learning boom.
By RFA Lao
2023.08.10
Laos’ top university to offer master’s degree in Chinese language teaching The first group of Lao trainees for the Lao-China Railway attend a Chinese language class at the Confucius Institute at the National University of Laos in Vientiane, July 15, 2020.
Credit: Kaikeo Saiyasane/Xinhua via Getty

China is planning to sponsor a master’s degree in Chinese language teaching at the National University of Laos, a development that could lead to the spread of the already popular Mandarin courses into more remote and rural provinces.

An official from Laos’ Ministry of Education and Sports told Radio Free Asia that the program would be run by the Chinese state-sponsored Confucius Institute, which Beijing has used worldwide to promote studies of Chinese language and culture.

The official said that the master’s degree program should be approved by the government soon, although the exact curriculum still hasn’t been revealed. 

Beijing’s increasing investment in Laos in recent years has led to a Chinese learning education boom as job hunters have begun to see proficiency in Mandarin as an essential skill.

“These days, many businesses want to hire workers who can speak Chinese,” the Education Ministry official said. “Students who finished courses in Chinese language seem to get employed 100%.”

Most Chinese language schools in Laos are concentrated in Vientiane, but schools have sprung up in the northernmost provinces, especially those that share a border with China.

ENG_LAO_ConfuciusInstitute_08102023.2.jpg
A Lao trainee takes notes during a Chinese language class at Confucius Institute of National University of Laos in Vientiane, July 15, 2020. Credit: Kaikeo Saiyasane/Xinhua via Getty

‘They can get hired’

The Confucius Institute at the National University of Laos is the largest and most popular Chinese language school in the country, an employee of the institute told RFA in 2021.

A student at the National University – the country’s top-ranked educational institution – said some of her fellow students want to learn enough Mandarin to further their education at a university in China.

Other students want to achieve fluency in Mandarin so they can work for the increasing numbers of Chinese businesses and investors operating in Laos, she said.

“Once they can speak and translate, they can get hired,” she said.

China is Laos’ top foreign investor, with a total investment of USD$16.4 billion across 933 projects, according to a Ministry of Planning and Investment report from last year. 

Chinese investment mega projects include several hydropower dams, rare-earth mining explorations and the Laos-China high speed railway – which opened in December.

Last year, the Confucius Institute reported that over 400 students applied to study at the institute in Vientiane. 

And at the National University this month, 2,330 of 17,198 students applied to enroll in the university’s Chinese language course, compared to the 1,886 students who chose the English language course, according to a university report.

RFA reached an official at the Chinese embassy in Vientiane this week but the official said he was unable to comment on the master’s program.

Translated by Phouvong. Edited by Matt Reed.

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