The recent news and circular by China’s Ministry of Education regarding the admission guidelines for prospective students to universities in Tibet have been harrowing and discriminating to say the least. The circular states how students seeking admission must state their ‘political attitude and ideological morality’ to get into universities. Furthermore, it mentions how students should not be involved in religious movements and prefers students who are proficient in Marxist theory. This policy push indicates the shift in attack of Tibetan education at the university level as well.
Since, Beijing started occupying Tibet they have meticulously set up policies and methods in dismantling the Tibetan education system that was tied closely with the rich monastic system of education that even pulled people from as far as Afghanistan and Eastern Europe to study in Tibet. Their main push has been at targeting primary level of education, by preventing Tibetans to even go near such monastic institutes that continue even to this day. And now their push to the highest level of education system, university level highlights the rigors and significance given to dismantling Tibetan education, with the ultimate goal of making Tibetans devoid of their identity and their own language.
Cultural Revolution, renaissance of Tibetan education system:
The real attack on Tibetan education which in many a sense was deeply rooted to culture and tradition begun during the Cultural revolution, a revolution that occurred just a few years after Beijing completely occupied Tibet. This was a period in Tibet when not only was education and the way of life dismantled but it simultaneously paved the way for indoctrination of Beijing’s thought in Tibet especially the young minds (children).
During this period the Tibetan monastic system which was the cornerstone of the Tibetan education system was wiped out both in terms of physical structure and mental acumen (the great teacher and lamas were imprisoned). With a vacuum created in terms of educational space, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized this opportunity to indoctrinate and culturally assimilate the Tibetans.
The late prof. Dawa Norbu mentions in book ‘The Road ahead’ how him and many other young Tibetans during the early years of Chinese occupation were brought together and thought about Chinese culture, language and history through Chinese lens. Signifying indoctrination happening in Tibet. The CCP was successful to an extent here as more and more Tibetans started to learn the narratives being pushed but this also became a double-edged sword as Tibetans now knew how clearly, they were different from the Chinese as well.
The end of the Cultural Revolution gradually set the platform for a renaissance of Tibetan education. Great Lamas and scholars, a majority of whom had received the education from monastic institutes were now able to continue their scholarly work, within the few surviving monasteries being able to function. They took this opportunity to set up modern institutes and rapidly increased the publication houses and its activity as well. The Tibetans in Tibet led by the late 10th Panchen Lama and other charismatic individuals with wit used Deng Xiaoping’s drive for an educated China here to their benefit and were able in bringing Modern education with Tibetan characteristics in Tibet.
Even with such moderate success the education system in Tibet remained very dire and this can be seen in the book ‘Wangdu’s Diary’, a Diary by Wangdu who was a member of the Tibetan fact-finding delegation visiting Tibet to specifically look into the education system of Tibet. He was shocked at how most of the schools in Tibet lacked basic facilities and was taken aback by the teachers who were mostly Chinese as well.
Beijing’s policies,moulding and attack on Tibetan education:
Since the onset of the occupation, Beijing has been in full propaganda mode referring themselves as saviors and bringing Tibet back to the motherland (China) through liberation. And to really have this narrative rooted in the mind of Tibetans they set up policies to indoctrinate the Tibetans, with a particular focus on the young minds who were relatively easy to mould. They tactically viewed how this would be the best way to not only occupy Tibet territorial wise but also in terms of culture and assimilating Tibet into China eventually.
The cultural revolution proved to be the perfect opportunity and as mentioned above, they started by dismantling the available Tibetan education system, which barring the few modern schools set up in Lhasa by the late 13th Dalai Lama was majorly centered around the monastic institutes.
They now set up community schools in which CCP cadres would forcefully sought Tibetan children and even grownups to participate in their education (largely indoctrination and painting China in good light, while criticizing the Tibetans establishment)
With time, schools were set up with the goal being to not educate Tibetans but rather to brainwash them and make them adhere to Marxist thought, which later morphed in Mao’s thought and is currently Xi Jinping thought. They implemented a Bi-lingual education policy to Tibet and other occupied regions (or minority region as they call it). This policy enshrined in the Chinese constitution states how minority region’s language would be protected and preserved through such an educational policy. Yet in implementation it was the total opposite and was a charade just to promote and allow the deeper penetration of Chinese language and narrative to these regions.
There was a huge bias in this education system when implemented in Tibet. The textbooks used in schools itself were different in Tibet compared to those in China, with the latter having child centric images while the former had images of soldiers and authorities.Likewise, the period slot allocation was and continues to be discriminatory with only one slot for Tibetan language, and the remaining subjects being thought through Mandarin (Chinese Language).
Tibetans numbering the thousands had to go through this education system which I and many other views as indoctrination. And the recent alarming report by the Tibet Action Institute through various testimonies on ‘The Colonial system like boarding schools’ in Tibet stripping Tibetans away from their identity and language is a stark reminder to what is happening in Tibet to the Tibetans right from the day they are born. With more than 78% of Tibetans having to forcefully go through this government run boarding school, where its mandarin and not Tibetan language that is given priority. It illustrates the big state run-drive in controlling and manipulating the future Tibetans in motion. It is worrying to witness colonial activities taking place in Tibet especially after China as a nation prior to occupying Tibet had undergone this traumatic experience and instead of empathizing is using these very structures and tools in a colonial free world to attack the Tibetan education system.
There is no stopping this policy on Tibet’s education system where the ball continues to run and has even gain more pace and acceleration since Xi Jinping has come into power. He has not only maintained this policy but is testing it to its limit now by putting various conditions in it to prevent Tibetans from getting admission to top quality education in China and also strips them away from their identity simultaneously. On top of this, even those Tibetans who complete higher studies are looked and viewed differently, creating a apartheid like environment that Tibetans themselves are not being able to get jobs and are segregated at many levels.
Enough is enough and the world must stand united here and raise genuine concerns here for such outdated, draconian and violative practices implemented by Beijing that too in education, in Tibet.