Tibet Facts 8

Education. 1950-1953:

Discussion of anti-Tibetan discrimination in the education system of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Education of Chinese children in Tibet is far superior to that available to Tibetans. Tibetan language and culture are treated as a handicap, and few Tibetans graduate to secondary school. Those that do face little choice of employment unless they speak fluent Chinese. Official Chinese figures show that children of Chinese immigrants in Tibet make up 3 7% of the child population, yet they occupy 35% of the places in secondary schools. According to sources in Lhasa, the real figure is closer to 60%. The system also perpetuates racial discrimination and is explicitly geared to destroying political dissent.

Transportation to China

The Chinese have, in the last 30 years, built over 1,000 schools, but standards are much lower than in China, and many rural areas have no schools at all. Many children are sent away to China for education. In 1992, there were 10,000 such children in China. While they receive a better education than they would in Tibet, many of these children return to Tibet after seven years, speaking only Chinese.

Primary Education

The Chinese admit that only 54 4% of school-aged children in the Tibet Autonomous Region go to school (Beijing Review, 1990). After reforms in the 1980s, Tibetan language became the teaching medium in primary schools. However, Chinese language is the medium of teaching in secondary schools. Tibetan children who get into secondary school are at a serious disadvantage compared to their Chinese classmates, who receive all their education in the same language.

Secondary Education

According to the 1982 official Chinese census (Zhongguo 1982 nian renkou pucha ziliao, 1985; pp.240), only 5% of Tibetan children in the TAR continue their education beyond primary school. Of those children who do continue, only one third complete the six years of secondary school. Tibet has an average of 2,122 and 3,850 per 100,000 people for senior and junior middle school education respectively. This is well below the Chinese national averages of 8,039 and 23,344 (Tibet Information Network TIN, 1990).Excepting the children of Tibetan officials, Tibetans and Chinese are segregated at school. Chinese classes get better teachers and better facilities. According to official Chinese statistics, of 1,700 teachers working in secondary schools in the TAR in 1986, only 37 8% were Tibetan.

Because of the language difficulties, Tibetan classes drop behind and are unable to finish the syllabus. In exams, not only are they competing against children who are using their mother tongue, they are also being confronted with topics which they have never been properly taught. An examination allowance of 20 points, given to Tibetan children to make up for the language handicap, is presented as a magnanimous gesture towards Tibetan students because they are alleged to be less intelligent than Chinese.

Tertiary Education

At tertiary level, Tibetans are generally channelled into the field of Tibetan studies. This is the only area where serious academic research by Tibetans is flourishing, although this too is often hampered by the need to adhere to the official view of Tibetan history.

In Tibet the average number of people with a university occupation is 574 per 100,000 compared to the national Chinese average of 1,422 per 100,000 (TIN, 1990). At Tibet University, only 44% of the pupils are Tibetan. Lower entrance marks are required compared to other universities in the PRC. Consequently, less qualified Chinese, who are not residents of the TAR, go to Tibet to study, reducing the number of places available for Tibetans. The science and mathematics departments are almost entirely Chinese. Opportunities for Tibetans to- study overseas are also limited. Only 166 people from the Tibet Autonomous Region are registered as working or studying abroad (TIN News Supplement, 20/02/91). All teaching is done in Chinese except in Tibetan Language, Tibetan Art and Tibetan Medicine departments. Despite official statements to the contrary, Chinese language continues to be the teaching medium in schools. In July 1988, Dorje Tsering, then chairman of the TAR Government, said: "When we speak of using Tibetan language in education, we are accused of wanting to split the motherland."

The Chinese Statistical Yearbook (1986) states that only 27 3% of university teachers in TAR are Tibetan. The recruitment of teachers from Central China creates several problems:

Given the low prestige of working in Tibet, many of the Chinese teachers have few or any qualifications, but still earn significantly more than Tibetan teachers.

There is a serious lack of continuity as teachers come and go. Between 1986 and 1988, the Head of English at Tibet University changed four times.

Education and Politics

Before 1950, Tibet had an extensive education system - mainly religious in content and run chiefly through the monasteries, although there were also a number of secular schools. Religious teaching is forbidden now, except in the monasteries where it is severely restricted. Teaching of Marxist ideology is paramount at every level of education. Emphasis is placed on the historic unity of Tibet with China and the alleged "evils" of the old society. In December 1989, after the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, nine armed soldiers were installed at the entrances to universities, and no student was allowed in or out for 12 days. After this period, students had to do two weeks' military training and two weeks' political re-education.

Propaganda drives to increase political control and content of school education in Tibet have intensified in the last few years. According to a local Lhasa television report in July 1990, the local Party Secretary, Hu Jintao, in an unusually open comment, appeared to give a clear indication that party control even in schools depends on the use of "repressive security and police work."

The slightest display of nationalism among schoolchildren leads to severe penalties. Six pupils from No. l Middle School in Lhasa were arrested in 1989 for making a copy of the Tibetan national flag and for pasting up pro-independence leaflets. Three of the students were sent to Drapchi Prison (one

died, allegedly from ill-treatment) and another was sentenced to an indefinite term of "re-education" at a juvenile detention centre. In 1990, another student from the same school was reportedly arrested for giving a Tibetan nationalist flag to a monk. She received a three-year term of re-education through labour and is now held in Gutsa, a detention centre which is notorious for the use of torture.


The structural imbalance in the education system contributes to serious unemployment among Tibetans. Tibetans have greater difficulty in getting a job in state work units where, despite official pronouncements, the working language is still Chinese. If they get work outside the state system, they will receive lower rations of basic foods and only very limited access to commodities such as electric cooking facilities and bicycles.

In addition there is a serious illiteracy problem in the TAR. The 1982 Chinese census showed that of the Tibetan population of 3 2 million, 78 3% were illiterate or semi-literate. The average percentage of population in China who are illiterate or semiliterate is 15 88%.

All attempts to discuss Tibet are bedevilled by the Chinese redefinition of the country's borders since 1949. Here the term Tibet is used to refer to the three original provinces of U'Tsang, Kham and Amdo (sometimes called Greater Tibet). When the Chinese refer to Tibet they invariably mean the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) which includes only one province, U'Tsang (the TAR was formally inaugurated in 1965). In 1949 the other two provinces, Amdo and Kham, were renamed by the Chinese as parts of China proper and became the province of Qinghai and parts of Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces.

This information was compiled by Tibet Support Group, UK 9 Islington Green London N1 2XH England.
Additional material was added by the Australia Tibet Council PO Box 1236 Potts Point NSW 2011 Australia.
For more information contact your local Tibet support group. (February 1996)

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