Students of Tibetan restricted

Sources in Lhasa report a recent decision that the Tibetan Language Department of the University of Tibet in Lhasa will not take any new students for the academic year of 1997-98.

The reason given by the university authorities is that the syllabus is being changed and the new books required have not yet been compiled. This decision follows policy changes announced by authorities in December 1996 that the university’s History of Tibet course, taught by the Tibetan Language Department, would henceforth be taught in Chinese rather than Tibetan.

The students report something else: they feel that the actual reason for the new restrictions on student intake is that the Chinese do not want Tibetan children to receive a good standard of education in Tibetan language. They also report that the books currently used by the department are in fact of a very high standard and that these will be replaced with new books of a sub-standard level.

This argument is valid given that Chinese may soon be the main medium of teaching at every level of schooling in Tibet. On 17 April of this year, authorities announced they would end the use of Tibetan as the sole language of education in primary schools, introducing Chinese from the first year and replacing Tibetan with Chinese as the language of instruction in some primary classes. At the middle school level children must switch to Chinese medium other than some special schools in the Amdo (incorporated into the Chinese province of Qinghai) region where Tibetan medium is used.

It appears Chinese authorities are also reluctant to allow private schools to teach Tibetan language. Recent reports from Kantze Dzong say there are many Tibetans in the area who are seeking Chinese permission to open private schools where Tibetan language will be exclusively taught, but are being refused.

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