Changing dynamics of Education in Tibet

The glorious past

Tibet has been a world leader in spiritual and cultural education since the time monasteries began to come up in the early 9th century. A land of Buddhism and open-minded philosophy, Tibet find home to most of the early Buddhist philosophies which travelled from India, and later towards East to China, Japan and erstwhile, Korea. However, only 13% of the population (less for girls) lived there, and many still were manual labourers educated only enough to chant their prayer books. Just two schools existed outside of the monasteries in Lhasa: one to train boys for ecclesiastical functions in the government and another, to prepare aristocrats with the proper etiquette for government services. Afterwards with the advent of globalisation in the 20th century, the government in Tibet allowed foreign groups, mainly English to establish secular schools in Lhasa.
Tibet has a long and rich history as a nation inseparably linked to Tibetan Buddhism, existing side-by-side with China while political power in Asia shifted between empires and kingdoms. The change in powers led to an overall change in the government policies leading to change in all sectors, predominantly Education and Tourism. In present days, English education is indispensable and with the setting up of a high speed Fiber Optic Network in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, many Tibetan provinces have access to world class education. Among other forms of education, online education has seen an unprecedented increase in Tibet, leading to a whole new generation with a scientific thinking and rational approach. Online educational platforms like IGCSE provides resources and makes studying easier, better and less time consuming for Tibetans. Students are provided classified resources like past exam papers, mark schemes and examiner reports, along with tutorials, notes and study guides. This has led Tibetans to pursue higher studies in diverse fields like Engineering, Mathematics, Humanities, Sciences and Arts.

Contemporary indicators

Current government policies give top priority to speeding up economic development in western China, including the Tibetan provinces. Improving the quality of education is seen as one of most important strategies toward reaching this goal. Within this context, education is made multi-dimensional in order to generate a workforce skilled and capable to drive production and add greater value to the economy. The recent advancements in Tibetan lifestyle can be attributed to growth of Fiber Optic Network in the East Asian mainland, among other reasons. As for communications, Tibet is building a modern communication network system that is complete with Fiber Optic cables, Satellites and Internet. (http://www.tibet-society.org.uk/lack-of-landline-telephone-lines-is-forcing-tibetans-to-use-voip-and-gmail-fax-technology/)
Prior to China’s invasion in 1950, Tibet maintained a unique culture, religion and language for centuries. Tibet is rich in tradition and some Tibetans, particularly nomads, have lifestyles that have changed little over generations. It is also a modern country with many urban Tibetans living busy city lives. Communications are very important to Tibetans and the use of mobile phones and the internet is extensive, including in some of the most remote parts of Tibet. While China attempts to prevent Tibetans accessing foreign media and influences, Tibetans are working hard to circumvent restrictions and engage with the world beyond their borders. Education is the best tool to help him achieve their share of the global economy.

Source: IGCSE World (added CIE)

The way ahead

Tibet-Siyong-Educational-2015Chinese records indicate that the illiteracy rate was 90% in 1951. The Seventeen-Point Agreement 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 enrolment of children in public schools in Tibet reached 98.8% in 2010 from 85%. 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. In 2008, the number of ethnic Tibetans sitting the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) reached 14248, with 10211 being accepted into university, making the enrolment proportion of ethnic Tibetans 60%.
Critics, including mainly Tibetan educators, administrators, and other cadres, agree that there is an urgent need to improve the quality of education in Tibetan areas. Officials in charge of education accept that teaching and learning may be necessary to help Tibetan students achieve better results. “For a nation to be strong, we need to have a strong, independent youth,” says Tsering Choedon (20), a counsellor at the Tibetan Career Center in Lhasa. “If we are unemployed and doing nothing, then I don’t know the future of our country.” The centers offer career counselling, mock interviews, resume writing workshops, and courses, such as free computer classes and provide resources like Online Education Videos. They also link young Tibetans to third-party job training programs and potential employers across India, Tibet, Nepal and China. But education departments have limited resources, so instead of investing in more infrastructure, online resources can be used. Online access to free resources and education is saving Tibetans big money. The amount of learning and access to international grade courses can never be undermined. Tibetans get an access to the World Class Education at one go and this can add value to their families and generations to come.