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China extends mother tongue ban to all Tibetan schools in Sichuan province

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(, Oct18’23) – After Kardze (Chinese: Ganzi) prefecture, it has now been reported that the ban on the teaching and use of Tibetan language has been extended to Ngaba (Aba) prefecture as well, bringing the whole of the Tibetan areas in what is now part of Sichuan Province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) under a reinforced, ongoing Sinicization drive.

China has banned the teaching and use of Tibetan language at elementary and middle schools in these two prefectures, requiring all instructions to be imparted in Mandarin Chinese only, reported the Tibetan service of Oct 17, citing local sources. The move comes as an earnest implementation of President Xi’s call for the Sinicization of ethnic minority regions of the PRC.

The Chinese government ordered the ban in government-run schools in the province’s Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Ngaba (or Ngawa) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, starting with the fall semester that began in Sep 2023, the report cited a local Tibetan source as saying.

Kardze was previously part of Kham province and Ngaba part of Amdo province of undivided Tibet. They are now two prefectures with a total of 35 counties in the PRC’s Sichuan province.

The report said middle school students currently enrolled could finish their next two years of studies in Tibetan. However, from 2025 onward, all classes will be conducted in Mandarin Chinese only.

The report said that previously, state-run schools in the region not only taught Tibetan language but also conducted all other subjects including mathematics, science, physics, geography, history and social studies in Tibetan. Mandarin was taught as a language course.

The report said the ban was part of Beijing’s wider “Sinicization” program that restricts the language and culture of minorities in the PRC despite the fact that the country’s constitution permits them to use their own language in their own regions.

Another Tibetan source has called the Chinese move “soft atrocity.”

“On the pretext of the government’s program, China is trying to completely wipe out the Tibetan language,” the report quoted another local Tibetan as saying, declining, like the other one, to be identified due to safety concerns.

“China’s use of soft atrocities, instead of forcible measures, is leading to the complete annihilation of Tibetan society and education, with no scope for revival,” the source has said.

In the case of Kardze prefecture, the latest move is a complete reversal of a previous plan. The report noted that under a Kardze Area Tibetan Language Regulation, adopted in 2015, special emphasis was put on the formation of a Tibetan language task force with the promotion of Tibetan-language teaching in schools considered important.

The report said that teachers and parents were not officially informed about this major change in policy, but simply told verbally to implement it at the start of a new academic year.

However, in the case of Kardze at least, the ban was notified in a circular issued by the prefecture’s Education Bureau in Sep 2023, according to Oct 10.


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