Quality education supports Xizang’s devt
Published: Mar 24, 2024 07:42 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

The full enjoyment of human rights by all is the great dream of human society and the common goal that the people of all ethnic groups in China have long pursued and relentlessly striven for. Since peaceful liberation of Xizang Autonomous Region, the suppression of the rebellion, and democratic reform under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), various undertakings in Xizang have led to earth-shaking changes, and people in Xizang have enjoyed their fundamental rights in all spheres. In particular, the development of education in Xizang has made important contributions to the development of China's education course.

During the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, a side event on the theme "Right to Education of Ethnic Minorities During the Modernization: Good Practice in Xizang and Xinjiang, China," organized by the China Society for Human Rights Studies, was held in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 14, 2024. A number of Chinese experts and scholars from universities and research institutes presented the results of research on guaranteeing the right to education for ethnic minorities in modernization and development, taking into account the practices of Xizang and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. As a member of this group, I made a statement on the topic of education in Xizang.

Before liberation, only the very few had educational privilege

Historically, Xizang has long practiced a feudal serfdom system in which politics and religion were united. Serfdom was the cruellest form of slavery in feudal society and a barbaric and backward social system, whether viewed from the perspective of economic development, political democracy, or the safeguarding of human rights. In the 1950s, the existence of feudal serfdom was already a complete departure from the trend of human historical development. Against this historical background, education in Xizang is completely closed and backward. The rights to education were only enjoyed by the very few at that time.

In old Xizang, the serfs were treated as "talking animals," forced to work and often beaten, with insufficient access to food and nourishment, and subjected to all kinds of oppression. Under such circumstances, there was not a single school in the modern sense of the word, and monasteries monopolized education in Xizang. The illiteracy rate was about 95 percent, and less than 2 percent of school-age children were enrolled in school. The majority of serfs' children were deprived of their right to education. Since the serfs were merely the property of the serf-owners, the latter could not have allowed the children of the former to be educated in the same way as their children. The famous play Serf Tears tells the audience a true story about the life of a serf. Seeing "the housekeeper" in the play beating Chilie Duoji's children with a whip, villagers Baima Yundan from Kesong village, more than 60 years old, burst into tears: "The serf owners had a strict rule that the serf's children above 8 years old had to shepherd horses and goats, and I was one of them." You could never imagine a serf's child having a chance to go to school at that time.

After liberation, the fundamental right to education becomes fully guaranteed

The establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 opened a new chapter of equality, unity, and mutual assistance for all ethnic groups in China. China has promoted equity in education and safeguarded the right of ethnic minorities to education by developing schools of all levels and types in ethnic areas, organizing preparatory and ethnic classes, and implementing boarding education in vast rural and pastoral areas in ethnic areas.

In accordance with the provisions of the 17-Article Agreement concerning the gradual development of the language, script, and schooling of the people in Xizang, in August 1952, Lhasa Primary School was founded. In September 1956, Lhasa Middle School was established. Subsequently, Xizang education gradually embarked on a path of modernization.
In 1956, the Chinese Buddhist master, Xirao Jiacuo, pointed out that "schools can be organized and consolidated if the government allocates funds from the Treasury for the construction of fixed school buildings and the provision of board and lodging for students... The development of education in ethnic minority areas is the foundation of all construction work in ethnic minority areas."

In order to safeguard the right to education of the vast majority of school-age children in Xizang, the Party and the Government have continuously improved their education policy and guarantee mechanisms. First, it has established a 15-year system of publicly funded education from the preschool to the high school level and a mechanism for guaranteeing education funding that is "state-dominated and province-coordinated."  Secondly, a "three guarantees" policy has been implemented for education, with children of farmers and herders being provided with food, accommodation, and study fees, and children from urban families in difficulty being provided with the same standard of study grants and financial assistance.

From 1951 to 2020, the state invested a cumulative total of 223.965 billion yuan ($309.79 billion) in education, establishing a modern education system covering preschool, basic education, vocational education, higher education, continuing education, and special education, and implementing 15 years of publicly funded education throughout the entire Xizang. Since 2015, the level of education in Xizang has been greatly raised through the implementation of the "group-type" educational aid to Xizang. Data from the seventh national census show that the number of Tibetans with a university degree per 100,000 people rose from 5,507 in 2010 to 11,019 in 2020.

At present, talent active on all fronts and in all fields of Xizang's economy, society, culture, science and technology, and medical care have all grown up under the system of education for all since the peaceful liberation, and especially since the democratic reforms, and a large number of master's degree holders, PhDs, and even academicians have emerged, including masters of the national medicines in Tibetan medicine, among others. The rapid economic and social development of Xizang is closely related to the improvement of the education level of the entire population.

Entering a new era and moving toward high-quality development

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee, with President Xi Jinping at its core, has adhered to the people-centered development ideology, stood on the strategic level of achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, focused on achieving comprehensive well-being and modernization for Xizang together with the whole country, attached great importance to the development of Xizang, and cared for the people of Xizang affectionately. The CPC Central Committee convened the sixth and seventh symposiums of the Central Committee on work in Xizang, ultimately putting forward a strategy for the governance of Xizang in the new era and elevating the strategic position of Xizang in the overall situation of the work of the Party and the State to a new height. Xizang's development has made all-round progress and historic achievements, and the lives of people of all ethnic groups have significantly improved. By the end of 2019, Xizang had completely eradicated absolute poverty and entered a moderately affluent society along with the whole country.

The development of education in Xizang has always been unswervingly led by Xi's thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, comprehensively implementing the Party's education policy and the CPC Central Committee's decision-making and deployment on ethnic work and adhering to the principle of casting a strong sense of the Chinese national community as the main line. The main line of casting a firm sense of the Chinese national community is to continuously enhance their identification with the great motherland, the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, the CPC, and socialism with Chinese characteristics, so that the school can be run and governed in a way that promotes the high-quality development of Xizang education in the new era.

The towering snow-capped mountains, vast grasslands, and deep canyons that Western tourists perceive as the beauty of Xizang can become a barrier to modern education for local children. The mountainous geography and diasporic lifestyle make it difficult for children in some areas of Xizang to get to school, and it is difficult to solve the problem by running a school in remote areas, so boarding schools have become the optimal solution. Decades of practice have proved that the boarding system is able to provide equal and high-quality educational resources to the greatest extent possible for children in all parts of Xizang.

Many of my Tibetan colleagues and friends from Xizang have changed their destiny through boarding education. In 2009, I studied at the Central Party School for half a year and made many good classmates and friends. It was also at that time that I met my good friend, Professor Drolma. She was born in 1954. Since her family lived in Bayi Township, she had to go to a primary school in Linzhi County, more than 20 kilometers away from her home, in order to go to school. At that time, the teachers' conditions in the primary school in Linzhi were far inferior to those of today, and the accommodation was also poor, with a dozen or so children sleeping in one big bunk and eating tsampa and other food that they had to bring from home themselves. After graduating from primary school, Drolma continued to study in secondary school in Linzhi County, still living at the school on weekdays and going home on weekends. 1971, she went to the Central Institute for Nationalities in Beijing to study for her undergraduate degree, graduating in early 1976, and then returned to Xizang to work, growing up to become a theoretical researcher in a Tibetology institution of higher learning. She told me that the boarding conditions in schools were not as good as they are now, but if not for the introduction of the boarding system in schools at that time, she would not have been able to go to school at all. Because there were regular schools only in the county towns, if you wanted to receive an education, you had to go to a school in the county town and live there.

The achievements of Xizang boarding education are great, but like all countries in the world, Xizang education still has room for improvement, and in this process, it still faces many problems that need to be solved urgently, such as the problem of unbalanced development of various kinds, the problem of insufficient teachers, the problem of the people's rising expectations, and the problem of the people's expectations, which in the past was to have a school as long as there was a school to attend, but now it is to go to a good school, but resources are limited, which need to be solved together by the government and the society. This requires the government and society to work together to solve the problem. At present, the boarding education system is constantly upgrading its level and standard. With the high-quality development of education in Xizang, high-level talents from all walks of life will continue to emerge, providing a strong impetus for Xizang's innovative development. We believe that the future of Xizang education will be better and better.

The author is a researcher at the Historical Research Institute of the China Tibetology Research Center opinion@globaltimes.com.cn