(TibetanReview.net, Jul30’23) – Students in schools such as the one Spanish international news agency EFE gained access to in a visit organized by the Chinese government, the only way to enter Tibet as a foreign journalist, learn both Mandarin and Tibetan, although this minority group seems completely immersed in Chinese culture, reported laprensalatina.com Jul 28.
The Communist Party of China’s aim in organizing the visit, the report said, was to challenge criticism Beijing faces over allegations of forced assimilation policies towards Tibetans which Beijing, on the other hand, says are aimed at “promoting the development” of the region.
The report said that although some locals, speaking anonymously to EFE, said they were stung by the growing prominence of Mandarin, authorities argue it is the only way forward.
“There are 30 full-time Tibetan language teachers in our school. The hours of Tibetan classes? Five to seven per week, the same as Mandarin,” vice president, Wang Chuin’eqa, of a secondary school in Shannan, 150 kilometres southeast of Lhasa, has said after a brief tour of the classrooms.
She has added that the curriculum varies depending on the age of students.
“There are more Tibetan subjects in the first year of secondary school…. In the following years, less.”
The visit took place on a Sunday, a day of rest, but officials and teachers have been summoned to echo the Chinese government’s slogan that education unfolds in Tibet in “harmony and normality”, the report said.
The education centres, which are also boarding schools, are risking new generations losing touch with their heritage, the report said, citing nonprofits and the United Nations.
Activists fear that Tibetan children will lose the ability to communicate with parents and grandparents, which would inevitably contribute to the erosion of their identity, given the “curriculum in Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua) without access to traditional or culturally relevant learning,” a UN report was stated to have warned.
The laprensalatina.com report quoted UN experts as saying, “the Putonghua language governmental schools do not provide a substantive study of Tibetan minority’s language, history and culture.”
The report also quoted UN rapporteurs as saying that the number of boarding students is proportionally larger in Tibet than in the rest of the People’s Republic of China, where only 20% of children are educated in similar institutions, compared to almost one million children in Tibet, which is the vast majority of children.
The report further cited experts as saying the closure of rural schools in Tibet had prompted this shift to boarding school culture, although the Chinese government says that boarding schools represent “a great opportunity” for Tibetan children that will open new doors for them professionally.