Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

We all heard of this quote Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics. I dont know the who uttered these words first. Some attribute this to Benjamin Disraeli, colourful 19th century British Prime Minister, others ascribe the quote to Walter Bagehot, who is regarded as the philosopher behind the modern Conversative Party. I think it may be been Bagehot, he was the editor of The Economist for 17 years and wrote a great deal about government and constitutional matters. Both Benjamin Disraeli and Bagehot were the key figures who shaped the Modern Tory Party. I mustnt write too much off the top of my head though, last time I did that a reader corrected me about the date for the US recognition of Mongolia.

Anwyway, I quite like the quote and everytime I read reports from China about Tibet, this quote keeps coming to mind. Last week the Chinese government issued another White Paper on Tibet, which contains an impressive set of statistics. I have always wondered how these figures are compiled. In the 1970s, the CCP tried to show that the PLA are really performing services to the liberated serfs of Tibet and used to rattle out figures for the number of how many free haircuts they carried out and how many tons of water they carried to the field. The CCPs predilection for statistics was pointed out by another blogger, who works as an English editor for Xinhua. He wrote There is no attempt at understanding anything about what Tibetans are thinking. The argument is based purely on money and statistics.

High Peaks Pure Earth found an interesting post written in Chinese on this blog. The author gives an interesting account of how figures are compiled at a local level at Chigdril Dzong (gChig sgril rdzong) in Golok (gMog log).

Here is an English translation of the post:

An Account of the Serious Falsification of Data Concerning the Universal Nine-year Compulsory Education and the Elimination of Illiteracy Among Youths and Adults in Chidril County (Ch: Jiuzhi, Qinghai Province) by Luwo Tsetan


In 2007 when the Provincial Team Inspecting the Work Concerning the Universal Nine-year Compulsory Education and the Elimination of Illiteracy among Youths and Adults came to Chigdril County, they demanded that the enrolment rate of school-age children should be 100%. When the County authorities reported to the higher level of government organizations, they reported the enrolment rate at 99.6 percent. For 98% of school-age children, they reported 96.25 percent. The drop-out rate for primary schools was !%, and that of the junior high schools was 3%. The literacy rate for people between the age of 15 to 50 was 95% but it was reported to be 96.53%. The literacy rate for youths between the age of 15 and 24 was 95% but it was reported to be 96.53%. The rate for completing primary school for 16 year old youths was 98% but it was reported to be 98.2%. And for the rate of completing the Junior High School among 18 year old youth was 85% but was reported to be 86.72%.

This data was falsified by the staff charged to establish data for the Universal Nine-year Compulsory Education and the Elimination of Illiteracy among Youths and Adults, headed by Erko, the deputy magistrate in charge of Cultural and Educational Affairs in Chigdril County.

1. It is absolutely impossible for the enrolment rate for school-age children and youth in the area to reach the percentage mentioned above. In order not to have their children to go to school, the herdsmen of the area would pay children of herdsmen from Ngawa (Aba) County, Machu (Maqu) County and other townships in the county to replace their children. For each student, they would pay about 20,000 Yuan. Over 200 young monks in the monasteries have not received nine-year compulsory education and between March and August of this year the number of drop-out students from the only Tibetan School was as high as 40. Thus the actual enrolment rate of the school-age children and youth can be logically imagined.

2. The statistics and the rosters of school-age children and youth in the primary schools of the various townships as well as the two middle schools are false. All students who are older than their peers were transferred to the junior high schools, and the original classes were mixed with others. When the Prefectural Inspection Team came to re-examine the second time, they asked the teacher how many students and how many female students there were in the class, but the teacher in charge of the class replied frankly whether he/she should tell them the real number or the fake number the county authorities demanded him/her to report. The Prefectural Inspection Team called the teacher a fool, and left.

3?The literacy rate for youth and adults and the enrolment rate for the junior high schools are also false. The literacy teachers would give the textbooks and exams to students in the Junior Middle School Section of the Tibetan School, and have them complete the homework and take the exams. Majority of Tibetan herdsmen in the countryside do not even know a single Chinese character, how is it be possible for the county to reach the literacy rate of 90%?

4. In October 2007 when the data for the Universal Nine-year Compulsory Education and the Elimination of Illiteracy among Youths and Adults was initially collected and established, it was required that the number of students in the Tibetan School in the county must reach about 1,300, and at that time the number of students in the school was 700. In the end of October there formed intensive classes with over 500 students. Among these students, some are graduates from a certain senior high school, and others were students who graduated from the Tibetan school but were herding at home. Still others were monks. They all came to school to deal with the inspection, thus, as soon as the inspection team left, the students could go home. Initially when the students came to register for the classes, the county authorities promised to give them salaries, and would provide them with houses to resettle the immigrants. Though they lived in the school for no more than two months, in the dossier it was recorded as a four-year intensive class. Eventually, the salary some students received was such materials as solar energy equipments used to help the poor given by the Department of the Civil Administration of the county (the value of these materials is 5,000 to 6,000 Yuan). However, up to now some students still have not received their salary, and some poor families filed their complaints to the provincial authorities because they did not receive the materials they were supposed to obtain from the county authorities.

5. The intensive classes in the various townships were also established to deal with the inspection. The students just came a few days ago, and they all came to earn some money.

6. There are over 40 full-time teachers in the Tibetan School of Chigdril County, but the county authorities reported over 80 teachers. In the list of these extra teachers, most of them are staff in the Bureau of Culture and Education, including accountants, cashier, typists, drivers or office boys. They also included names of teachers who have already been transferred to other counties or retired teachers. Judging from the situation, how can they satisfactorily complete the task of teaching over 20 classes with over 700 students. How is it possible to even take the quality of teaching into consideration!

7. They implemented the system of vetoing with four votes, and the salaries for the teachers are in arrears.

8. Whatever is written in the report of the evaluation of the Universal Nine-Year Compulsory Education and the Elimination of Illiteracy among Youth and Adults is false. Leaders like Erko have brought great loss to the cause of education in the region. Is it right to guide the work concerning education like this? If the leaders in charge of education set such an example, how can the teachers who are on the forefront of education improve the quality of education? How is it possible for the local economy to develop!!!

I hope the government departments concerned redress the issue as soon as possible.

Here is the original post in Chinese:

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[ 2008-9-28 11:06:00 | By: ???? ]

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