Sinicization of education in Tibet

The Chinese government repeatedly claims that Tibetans are “happy” and seeing “record development” under its rule, but this is a sick joke. In reality, every facet of Tibetans’ identity- the right of Tibetans to control their land, religion, language and education is under attack. Two vital areas of Sinicisation have been in the areas of religion and education. Gradually, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders came to know that education is the key factor to make the Tibetan youth loyal to China and to change the appearance of Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas fundamentally depends on education. China’s constitution enshrines the languages of its minority groups on paper, but authorities have increasingly placed restrictions on their usage in the education system, while those with limited proficiency in Chinese language often encounter barriers to employment and other services offered by the state.

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping is worried about the dissent that is brewing in Tibet. In Xi Jinping’s eyes, Tibet needs to be stabilized and wants officials to strengthen political and ideological education in Tibetan schools. This means re-education. During the 7th Tibet Work Forum, organized by the Central Committee of the CCP on August 28-29, 2020, Xi Jinping emphasized that “We must attach importance to strengthening ideological and political education in schools, put the spirit of patriotism throughout the entire process of school education at all levels and types, sow the seeds of loving China in the depths of the hearts of every teenager.” Xi Jinping added that it is necessary to educate Tibetans to strengthen the “struggle against separatism”. Sinicization of Tibet has been the goal of the Chinese government since its illegal occupation. Chinese President Xi Jinping has only put it on the national agenda in the most outspoken and explicit terms.

Xi Jinping wants his officials to build an impregnable fortress around Tibet. The Chinese President wants officials to educate Tibetans to strengthen the “struggle against separatism”. So he has ordered senior officials to sinicize Buddhism, re-educate students and fight those who call for separatism. In the garb of building a “new socialist modern Tibet”  the Chinese Xi Jinping wants to make sure that the calls for independence are crushed because a united voice for freedom will be a serious challenge for Beijing to tackle.

Buddhism with Chinese characteristics is what Xi Jinping wants. After Christians and Muslims, he wants to kill the religious freedom of the Buddhists. Beijing wants to impose its will on the Tibetans. So it is deploying the same tactics used against the Muslims in Xinjiang. China plans to implement the Xinjiang playbook in Tibet. He said that officials need to “plant the seeds of loving China in the depths of hearts of every youth”. Replace religious texts with the communist party rulebook and influence young minds. So that they follow the diktats of the communist party.

Wang Zhen, Director of the Department of Education in Tibet said, “Our young people must cherish the party, listen to the party and be guided by the party and be loyal to our beautiful new Tibet,.” Simultaneously, the Chinese government is tightening its grip on access to education platforms within Tibet. Based on religion education system the China’s present leaders are implementing many bad policies to make Tibetans adapt to the Chinese socialist ideology.

Since the 1960s, Chinese has been the language of instruction in nearly all middle and high schools in the TAR, but new educational practices introduced by the government in the TAR are now leading more primary schools and even kindergartens to use Chinese as the teaching language for Tibetan students. Based on the target the development policies in sectors ranging from infrastructure construction and urbanization to education and language including ‘bilingual education’ policy are part of the wider agenda of creating a single Chinese national identity, so as to undermine Tibetan identity and cultural transmission.

In 2001, all primary schools in urban areas of Tibet began to teach Tibetan pupils Chinese language. In 2010, all provincial-level administrations throughout China introduced formal programs for the implementation of “bilingual education.” Chinese analysts distinguish between “Model 1” bilingualism, which emphasizes the use of the local or minority language in classrooms, and “Model 2” bilingualism, which emphasizes the national language, Chinese. 

Then, in June 2016, the Lhasa Education Bureau announced that Chinese was being used as the medium of instruction to teach mathematics in a majority of primary schools in the counties around Lhasa, including rural areas outside the region’s capital city. This was the first known direct admission by the government of a shift to Chinese-medium teaching in some classes within rural TAR primary schools.

The order from the Chamdo kindergarten in May 2018 cautioned parents that “if your children miss any days of school and are later found to have been secretly taken to a monastery or religious festival, your family will be reported directly to the city education bureau.” The ban, the order said, was to encourage “critical thinking” among children. In August last year, an upper-middle school in Lhasa made it mandatory for parents to sign an undertaking committing that “students must be stopped from attending various religious activities.” Punishments for sending children to classes run through religious centres are severe, including the removal of government welfare and subsidies.

Furthermore, China’s education policy in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) is significantly reducing the access of ethnic Tibetans to education in their mother tongue. Tibetan language instruction is being largely phased out in Tibetan areas of China beginning in secondary school, leaving Tibetan students few options to pursue formal studies in their native tongue. The government policy, though called “bilingual education,” is in practice leading to the gradual replacement of Tibetan by Chinese as the medium of instruction in primary schools throughout the region. This new trend can be explained by a series of measures which were taken particularly in the field of education. Earlier this year in January, the Director of Legal Affairs Committee Shen Chungyuao announced that schools in “minority areas” were not allowed to teach in their own languages and deemed such education to be “unconstitutional”. The move was in direct contradiction with the founding provisions of the Bilingual Education Law passed in 1951.

In the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP), the prefectural government ordered primary schools to introduce primarily Chinese-medium instruction in the 2019-2020. According to a notice issued by the Ministry of Education in the Malho, Tsolho and Yulshul Tibetan areas of Qinghai province, a new announcement reducing the weight of Tibetan language scores on entrance exams for students in Tibetan areas has made it more difficult for them to gain admission to top tier secondary schools. Tibetan students often seek placement in national-level secondary schools that offer studies in Tibetan as well as Chinese and other languages, but the bar of  acceptance in these institutions will now be more difficult because in the change of exam scoring. Instead, they have to enroll in schools where more than 90 percent of the instructions are in Chinese and that pose a long-term threat to the Tibetan language.

Recently, a week after the centenary celebration of the CCP, the Chinese government officials ordered the closure of Sengdruk Taktse middle school in Darlak County, Golog TAP on July 8 without giving any reason for the shutdown. In conclusion, the present Chinese hardliner leaders are trying their all efforts to convert the Tibetans into Chinese and force them to adapt to its ideology. It is the CCP strategy to root out the fundamental Tibetan identity from the younger generation

News Desk

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