News and Views on Tibet

Mandarin imposed as medium of education in schools across Tibet

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Students of primary and secondary schools across TAR will be subjected to Mandarin as medium of instruction (Photo/Global Times)

By Tenzin Nyidon

DHARAMSHALA, May 3: The Chinese government under its larger umbrella of assimilation policy has imposed Mandarin as the medium of instruction in primary and secondary schools across the so called Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Ngaba County in Eastern Tibet earlier this year, the Dharamshala-based rights group Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) on Tuesday said.

The Model 2 education system imposed by the Chinese government requires all the subjects to be taught in Mandarin Chinese. “This educational method is a means to destroy the Tibetans language and culture. The enforcement of this policy has no basis in law or scientific reasoning; it is a decree imposed by a handful of autocratic leaders,” a Tibetan teacher in Tibet told TCHRD. The report includes petitions submitted by three Tibetan teachers to the Chinese officials which were widely circulated. An online public poll was conducted in 2020 on the different education model system received 97 percent votes in favour of Model 1 or education through minority groups’ native language i.e. Tibetan.

The letters by Sabuchey and Shergyam on Weibo dated April 19, 2020, and April 14, 2023 stated how the Tibetan medium of education or Model 1 has become an inspirational educational model which greatly contributed towards raising and fostering educated individuals. 

Sabuchey’s letter read, “So, why is there any need to change the [current] model of education? I don’t think that the government leaders are unaware of the importance of raising children in their mother tongue during the early years.” The letter by the Tibetan writer, Shergyam in Khyungchu County rejected the Model 2 and criticised the Chinese government’s systematic experiment of education reformation, “The medium of education has always been Chinese for Han Chinese because it is their mother tongue, which has enabled them to produce talented and skilled professionals. In the minority regions, the mother tongue based education system is blamed. Such actions defy scientific reasoning and moral principles.”

Another letter, whose author remained anonymous titled “Idiot” published on April 16, 2020, urged the Chinese authorities to allow the minority groups to learn in their native languages arguing that students who studied in their native language have better proficiency to learn and understand information or knowledge.

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