Since 1951, education in Tibet has changed dramatically through the Chinese government’s hyper-political agenda. Depending on the source, some view the changes as great improvement to the educational system, and others are gravely concerned. The positive view is that of the Chinese policy-makers and the fear comes from Tibetans who see that their culture is being drained from the classroom. The central Chinese government wants to completely assimilate the Tibetans by removing their true history and religion from lessons and selectively choosing the physical representations of culture that serve to decorate schools for Tibetan students in inner-China. I am going to explore the different schooling experiences for the Tibetans and show how the education options for Tibetans are depriving them of their culture, resulting in poor performances in school and a dishonest, manipulated education.
Education in Tibet before the Chinese invasion was quite different from how it is presently. According to a journal out of China, only two percent of school-aged children were in school, and ninety-five percent of the general population was illiterate before “Liberation.1” The overpowering Chinese government determined that they must be freed “from Western imperialists.2” Eight years later, in 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India, unsuccessfully trying to win back Tibet’s independence. Education for the Tibetans has traditionally taken place in the monasteries. However, of the greater than 2,500 monasteries that once existed in Tibet, all but three percent of them were destroyed by the Chinese government.3 These monasteries served the multiple purposes of university equivalents, religious centers, and cultural centers.4 Monastic education dates back to the seventh century, the time when Indian Buddhism was introduced into the land. The monasteries were open to all citizens regardless of social class. Some scholars believe that there was a time before the Chinese invasion that Tibet had an exceptionally high literacy rate.5 The form of education accessible through the monasteries was non-secular, offering a different style of education with a community focus. According to scholar Radha Mookereji, “The Buddhist world did not offer any educational opportunities apart from or independently of its monasteries. All education, sacred as well as secular, was in the hands of the monks. They had the monopoly and the leisure to impart it.”6 The secular education that was available in Tibet was in place to train government officials, and a few private institutions schooled the aristocracy. Even the private schools taught religion.7
Apart from Buddhist learning, it was possible to study Tibetan language and
medicine, astronomy, calendar calculation, painting and other branches of knowledge. Because of this, there was the abnormal phenomenon that ‘temples were schools, and religion was equivalent to education.’ Tibetan...