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China disadvantages Tibetan students with Mandarin-only language for national college entrance tests

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(TibetanReview.net, Jun14’23) – In what can be seen as a significant step in President Xi Jinping’s heightened policy of Sinicizing all aspects of life in occupied Tibet at a more vigorous pace, Tibetan students who took this year’s national annual college entrance exam over the weekend have been given no choice but to do so only in Mandarin Chinese, rather than in their mother tongue as before, reported the Tibetan Service of rfa.org Jun 13.

While this by itself already puts the Tibetan students at a major disadvantage, a five-minute extra time given to ethnic minority students in the past to complete their tests was also withdrawn this year, the report said.

The exams, described by China’s official media as the world’s toughest and held this year over Jun 7-9 across the People’s Republic of China, saw more than 13 million students taking part.

The Mandarin-only policy for the tests is concurrent with other controversial educational policies meant to establish Mandarin as the medium of instruction within Tibetan schools–which Tibetan activists say is part of Beijing’s plan to eliminate Tibetan culture and Sinicize the region, the report noted.

The suddenness of the imposition of the Mandarin-only language for conducting the tests has also taken Tibetan students by surprise while disadvantaging them severely.

“Due to the sudden shift on the Chinese government’s education reforms, Tibetan students are not as well prepared and proficient enough in Mandarin to compete with [Mandarin native speaker] students who have always been learning in Mandarin,” the resident has said. “This is a disadvantage for Tibetan students over [native Mandarin speaking] students who score more easily and get admission in college. Hence, many Tibetan students will not get into good colleges.”   

Earlier, “in 2022, the Chinese government imposed the Model 2 Education System under which Mandarin was made the primary medium of instruction in all the primary and secondary schools across Golog, Kardze and Qinghai,” a Tibetan resident of Tibet has said, adding the policy had no basis in law.

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