On International Mother Language Day 2014 today, High Peaks Pure Earth presents the English translation of a blogpost that provides a good summary of a speech on education in Tibet by Jigme Gyaltsen. The opinions were posted to a Tibetan language blog on January 24, 2014.
Born in 1965, Jigme Gyaltsen is a senior monk at Ragya Monastery in Golog, Tibet, and also a prominent educator and entrepreneur. According to this biography from Trace Foundation, Jigme Gyaltsen established the Jigme Gyaltsen Nationalities Vocational School in 1994 and more recently established the Machen Rajun Girl’s School. In 2000, Jigme Gyaltsen established Snowland Treasure Co., Ltd., which manufactures yak cheese for export.
There are long English-subtitled video interviews with Jigme Gyaltsen on YouTube thanks to the Trace Foundation where he talks about his work. Jigme Gyaltsen’s many achievements have also been profiled by Chinese state media, including this 2010 report from CCTV’s English service.
It was at the annual political consultative conference held in Xining, Qinghai province in January that Jigme Gyaltsen was able to convey his thoughts on Tibetan language, education and society. In extraordinary detail, Jigme Gyaltsen outlines what he sees are the problems with education in Tibet today, from the shortage of teachers to the language of instruction.
Asking for mother tongue teaching is becoming increasingly politicised by the state. In recent official documents from Amdo, the Party Secretary outlined 13 activities of splittists, including using the name of protecting the mother tongue and speaking pure Tibetan to engage in illegal activities such as protesting in the street or putting up slogans.
Finally, thank you to Ingsel for the English translation.
“A Few Proposed Suggestions on Education”
By Teacher, Jigme Gyaltsen
During the six day long, two expanded meetings of Qinghai province, Jigme Gyaltsen, a teacher, expressed some opinions on education.
1. It’s a mistake that in most schools in Tibetan areas, only Tibetan language class is taught in Tibetan and other subjects such as maths, natural and social sciences etc, are taught in Chinese. The goal of a student’s study is to attain a knowledge of the subjects he has learnt and to be able to put this knowledge to use. Whatever race you may be, being taught in your mother tongue instead of two languages leads to a much easier personal experience. For example, if all Chinese students in Xining were taught maths, natural and social sciences etc, from textbooks written in English, we can estimate they would not pass. Furthermore, students from Tibetan areas will in the future generally go on to serve Tibetans living in Tibetan areas. And because of this the production and expansion of these students who have been educated in Tibetan, is the sole means of developing education, economy and philosophy in Tibetans areas in the future.
2. The basis of improving the quality of education is to increase the number and the quality of teachers. But in many schools in Tibetans areas, not only is the teacher quality low but there is a lack of teachers. For example in Golog, the county with the worst level of education is Machen county. If we consider the number of teachers in Machen county, there are 1089 nursery pupils and according to national standards there should be 1 teacher for every 5 nursery pupils. At present there are only 25 teachers, a shortage of 193 teachers. There are 5250 primary students and according to national standards there should be 1 teacher for every 16 students. At present there are only 259 teachers, a shortage of 64. There are 2069 middle school students. According to national standards there should be roughly 1 teacher for every 12 students. At present there are only 117 teachers, a shortage of 49 teachers. In Machen county, there is a shortage of 316 teachers. 965 nursery students, 1024 primary students, 693 middle school students, that 2682 students in total are missing teachers is a very horrible situation.
3. Some leaders remain indifferent to whether or not there are any private schools. In the private school law, it’s prescribed that private schools are an indispensable part of the national education development program. Moreover, from my twenty years of experience running Snowland Jewel of Knowledge Education Centre we can assume that it is significant to have private schools, especially for the ordinary people. For instance, every year there over a 1000 new students waiting to enter into private schools. This shows how essential they are to society.
4. If we look at Chinese culture, we can see they had a very prosperous traditional culture from ancient times and that it was one of their national characteristics. At present in Chinese schools, even though many modern subjects are taught, in the schools where no Chinese traditional cultural classes are taught, the students are lacking in appreciation for traditional Chinese culture. I hope that the state adds traditional Chinese culture to school curriculums, China’s international attributes will be promoted through education. Chinese nationality culture must be embraced. In the same way, Tibetan international attributes must be promoted through education, we must establish the position of Tibetan culture.
5. In a certain region, we can see how well the economic policy was followed and the abilities of the leaders from the issues of employment and unemployment in said region. Farmers, nomads and the general public, to organise in a manner which is in accordance with the real situation, is one of most important actions to fulfil their aims of the general public. But when an action is being organised, we must consider the undertaker’s level of knowledge and their living situation, they cannot organise in the way they wish. For example in 2012, the Provincial Congress’ plans and arrangements to create jobs for the many unemployed people in each individual area completed many actions that really brought benefit. But many farmers and nomadic people were given opportunities in commercial businesses. They were presented with no small number of problems, as they couldn’t speak or read and write Chinese. In the future when they organise such actions, level of knowledge, mind’s ideas, physical and mental well-being must be well considered. In organising, a very important point is to gauge the benefit to their lives over a long period.
6. Establishing cooperative businesses is the only path decided significant by the three-agriculture policy of the nation. If we consider our province, in over 3 to 4 years we have established cooperative bioindustrial businesses. Over these years in each area we have allowed cooperative bioindustrial businesses to be carried out. But some areas cooperative business have only been carried out in name, only a very few people have profited economically. We have the issue that over RMB 200,000 of money in government hand-outs that were supposed to be distributed among families has instead ended up in the hands of a few private individuals. The farmers and nomads have not received their hand-outs for said cooperative venture. It has become important for the government to treat those who participate in cooperative businesses willingly and those who are forced to participate equally to foster development in an area.
7. The government and high-ranking government officials have to understand that minority harmony and economic development are fundamental to social stability. At present, Tibetan areas are not stable, there are some dissentive and deceitful actions between people. Between leaders and powerful people. Between factions and factions. Between department and department and so on. They are are all being dishonest towards each other. For example in 2011, Snowland Jewel of Knowledge Education Centre edited and Gansu Minorities Publishing House published a book “A Compilation of New Conventions for Use”, on the back cover there was a picture of a jewel on fire. This was taken as a political crime. Now in Tibetan areas, whether out of envy, to badmouth someone or deceive them, the main way is to point out political mistakes. After this there seems to be only one way, instead work units and national stability offices and related offices of examining actions, they see all unproved accusations as true and mete out penalties and take to court, turning harmony and stability upside down.
8. Taking sound care of monasteries and to foster stability for the monastery’s monks and people is one of the conditions for having peace, harmony and a happy life. In some areas, many Party officials have been appointed to high positions in the monastery management offices. Not only are they lacking in ability to take care of the monastery, in a few monasteries high officials appointed to the commission and the monastery itself are in antagonistic relations. The main reason being, not only do they not know about Buddhism, they don’t know about Tibetan culture and local traditions and customs. So lacking the ability to deeply educate the monks, in some places the government and the monastery have become at odds with each other, this has become an obstacle to unity.
9. The TAR has many regulations, many these are hardly put into practice. It is very important the Provincial People’s Representative Assembly investigate. For example, many members of a Tibetan region’s general populace don’t have the right to submit letters of request and letters of charge in Tibetan. Many political and legal codes have not been translated into Tibetan. Many advertisements and billboards about stability on the highways have not been translated to Tibetan. Documents of two provinces have not been wholly translated into Tibetan. Many signboards are spelled incorrectly. We can tell that the 20,000 plus Tibetans living in Xining have not had the opportunities to study Tibetan etc.
Translation by Ingsel