discrimination in language

A recent update by the Tibet Information Network reports further actions taken by the authorities of the PRC to discriminate against the use of Tibetan language in educational Institutions within Tibet.

In December 1996, authorities announced that the History of Tibet course at the University of Tibet is to be taught in Chinese rather than in Tibetan.

The decision ignores the fact that many of the teachers and students are Tibetan and that the course is taught by the University’s Tibetan Language Department. It also ignores one of the reasons listed for the founding of the University –the maintenance and development of Tibetan culture and language.

A long standing requirement that all students pass an entrance examination in Tibetan is also said to have been dropped this year and all except one of the 17 university courses are now believed to be taught mainly in Chinese.

Eighty percent of students at the University of Tibet are Tibetan and rural students who are not fluent in Chinese are particularly at risk of discrimination as a result of these decisions. Local authorities have also closed an experimental project initiated by the late Panchen Lama in three secondary schools study in the “TAR” whereby Tibetan children were being taught in Tibetan. All other Tibetan children in secondary schools study in Chinese with the exception of some 40 special schools in Amdo province (Ch:Qinghai).

In  1995 the first graduates of the pilot project achieved far better results (79.8% pass rate) than other Tibetan secondary school students (39%) who were required to study in Chinese. Tibetan students studying in Chinese have, moreover, scored well below the national average.

The official reason given for the closure of the project was due to a lack of funds and qualified teachers, yet some 500 teachers have been trained to teach in Tibetan since 1993. Chinese authorities are now setting up a new project to have all primary school education in both Tibetan and Chinese medium while almost all Tibetan primary schools currently teach in Tibetan.

Other actions reported include the downgrading of the committee responsible for policies implementing the use of Tibetan language from regional to county level and subsequent retirement of many of its Tibetan members. The Head of the University of Tibet reportedly does not speak Tibetan and the head of the Education Commission and Vice President of the University is also Chinese.

While Tibetan was declared the official language of the “TAR” in July 1988, it is now felt by Tibetans that fluent Chinese is imperative for employment opportunities.

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