Education in Tibet
Education in Tibet is the public responsibility of the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China. Education of ethnic Tibetans is subsidized by the government. Primary and secondary education is compulsory, while preferential policies aimed at Tibetans seek to enroll more in vocational or higher education.
Some form of institutionalized education was in place in Tibet since 860 CE, when the first monasteries were established. However, only 13% of the population (less for girls) lived there, and many still were manual laborers educated only enough to chant their prayer books. Two schools existed outside of the monasteries: Tse Laptra trained boys for ecclesiastical functions in the government, Tsikhang to prepare aristocrats with the proper etiquette for government service. Both were in Lhasa.
In the 20th century, the government in Tibet allowed foreign groups, mainly English, to establish secular schools in Lhasa. However, they were opposed by the clergy and the aristocracy, who feared they would "undermine Tibet's cultural and religious traditions." The parents who could afford to send their children to England for education were reluctant because of the distance.
Chinese records indicate that the illiteracy rate was 90% in 1951. The Seventeen Point Agreement signed at that time pledged Chinese help to develop education in Tibet. Primary education has been expanded in recent years. Since the China Western Development program in 1999, 200 primary schools have been built, and enrollment of children in public schools in Tibet reached 98.8% in 2010 from 85%. Most classes are taught in the Tibetan language, but mathematics, physics, and chemistry are taught in Chinese. Tuition fees for ethnic Tibetans from primary school through college are completely subsidized by the central government.
The Free Tibet campaign and other Tibetan human rights groups have criticised the education system in Tibet for eroding Tibetan culture. There have been protests against the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in schools and the lack of more instruction on local history and culture. The Chinese government argues that the education opportunities available in Tibet have improved the economic livelihood of the Tibetans.
The central government held the Second National Conference on Work in Tibet in 1984, and Tibet University was established the same year. Tibet had six institutes of higher learning as of 2006. When the National Higher Education Entrance Examination was first established in 1980, ethnic Tibetans were only 10% of the higher education entrants from the region. However, in 1984, the Chinese Ministry of Education effected policy changes including affirmative action and Tibetan language accommodations. Today, ethnic Tibetans are 60% of the enrolled, the Tibet Autonomous Region as a whole has 17.4% gross enrollment.
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