Education in Tibet

A Briefing Paper for the Special Rapporteur

Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy

International Campaign for Tibet, Europe

June 2003




×        Introduction

×        Politicised Education

×        Removal of Tibetan Children for Education in Mainland China

×        Eradicating the Tibetan language

×        “Minority Education” in Tibet: An Unfulfilled Promise

×        Conclusion

×          Recommendations


I. Introduction


Since the occupation of Tibet in 1950, the Chinese government has wielded the power of education to systematically discriminate against Tibetans.  Instead of cultivating human and social development of the Tibetan children education has been the medium of inculcating loyalty to the Chinese Communist government in Beijing.  Such an exercise of power is a blatant violation of international law.


Legal Obligation

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified in 1992 by China, makes a number of provisions for State parties.[1] Article 29 of the CRC states that


            the education of the child shall be directed to...the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or             her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her             own.[2]


China, as a State party to the CRC, is obligated to submit a report to the UN every four years.  China is yet to submit its second periodic report which was due in March 1999.


The PRC’s White Paper on Minorities[3] policy of 1999 states that the education of China’s “minorities” shall be “of paramount importance to the improvement of the quality of the minority population and to the promotion of economic and cultural development in ethnic minority areas”.[4]  However, as this report will reveal, independent studies and anecdotal evidence from all over Tibet indicate that there is minimal educational development in the “TAR” as well as in provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan which now incorporate most of the traditional eastern Tibetan provinces of Kham and Amdo.


Statistical Anomalies

According to the China Human Development Report 2002 released by the United Nations Development Program, the educational index for Tibet[5] ranks dead last against China’s other 31 provinces. The gross enrolment rate and adult literacy rate for Tibet are also the lowest in comparison with provinces of China.  Xinhua, the Chinese national news agency, cites the illiteracy rate of young people to be 34.27%[6], though the White Paper on Modernisation in Tibet in 2001 declared that the illiteracy rate among youth was 32.5%.  And yet another report found that the illiteracy rate may still be as high as 70%.[7]  The White Paper also purported that there were “956 schools of all kinds”[8] while Xinhua boasts that by the end of 2002, there were 3,099 schools in Tibet[9]—a preposterous statistic when taken in tandem with the enrolment rates.  This imputes that even though 2,143 schools were allegedly built in twelve months, calculations of official statistics compute that the rate of enrolment has increased less than 3%. 


The Price of Poverty

The level of education continues to be low among Tibetans for several reasons.  Many remote areas do not have schools and parents are reluctant to send their children to boarding schools for various reasons including their inability to pay the fees charged by the Chinese government which are used to fill a gaping deficit in the education budget.  In some cases in rural areas, where the parents couldn’t pay in yuan, the fees were exacted in butter and meat.  Article 10 of the 1986 Chinese “Law on Compulsory Education” which states that “The State shall not charge tuition fees for students attending compulsory education.”


The PRC Law on Compulsory Education (1986) states that every child over the age of six should have access to education, but there is a stipulation in the law for Tibetan children which allows for a postponement of education up to age nine.  This delay is legal on account of the fact that there are many remote areas over a vast territory that has yet to be developed, and thus meeting the requirements of the law is impossible. 


The Chinese are doling out lofty sums for the construction of schools, but there is a dearth of evidence to show that this funding actually reaches the rural and underdeveloped regions, where it is most needed.  What is clear is that the people are expected to bear the brunt of construction and costs based on the proclamation of Gyaltsen Norbu, the Chairman of the “TAR” Government in 1994, which stated that “wherever possible, local governments should mobilise and organise peasants and herdsmen to reconstruct unsafe village schools, build new schools, and improve teaching conditions by contributing their labour service or construction materials on a voluntary basis.”[10]


During interviews, we learned of several instances when the Chinese authorities collected money and wood from villagers to build schools that the Tibetans had to construct themselves without any wages.  Upon completion of the building, no teachers were sent to facilitate education.  Only when high-ranking officials came around did authorities order children to scramble into the school.  Rural Tibetans are thus forced to construct schools at their own expense, with their own labor, and apparently, unless they find teachers for them, no one will get an education there.  This is a travesty considering that 85% of the country’s population is living below the poverty line.  One farmer aptly commented “maybe they never intended to give us an education.”[11] 


The Risky Alternative

A significant number of children escape across the Himalayas to the Tibetan exile community in India each year to receive a proper Tibetan education.[12] Children under the age of 18 constitute more than half of the Tibetans annually seeking asylum in India.  In 2002,[13] 715 children under the age of eighteen—mostly in the age group of seven to thirteen—arrived at the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Dharamsala, north India. These minors who risk the treacherous and sometimes fatal journey across the Himalaya escape primarily to enrol in exile schools and receive broad-based education. Most are sent by their parents paying guides and trusting strangers to accompany them.  Children arriving in India receive free and high quality education in a country-wide network of various schools set up in exile by the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government- in-Exile. “Whoever has gone to Dharamsala will acknowledge that the education of the refugee children is a success story.”[14]


Unfortunately, though well-educated and professionally competent, these students will fall under surveillance and lack job security because of their affiliation with Tibetan exile institutions if they decide to return to their homeland.  For those families who send their children to India for an education when there are no other options, harsh repercussions can be expected.  In 1994 a policy was instituted demanding that parents recall their children from India lest they be demoted or expelled from their jobs, and their children lose their rights to residence permits if they did not return to Tibet within a specified time.


II. Politicised Education

Education in Tibet is designed to generate love for communism and the “motherland” and demands the denunciation of the Dalai Lama and his “clique” in the exile.  The school curriculum is based on the Marxist analysis of history placing cultures as being at different stages of development.[15]   In 1994, Party Secretary of the “TAR”, Chen Kuiyuan, revealed the true intent behind education in Tibet at the "TAR" Conference on Education:

"The success of our education does not lie in the number of diplomas issued to graduates from universities, colleges...and secondary schools. It lies, in the final analysis, in whether our graduating students are opposed to or turn their hearts to the Dalai Clique and in whether they are loyal to or do not care about our great Motherland and the great socialist cause."


The Han Chinese think of themselves as being at the apex of development, inherently superior to the Tibetan race who are dubbed backward and ignorant barbarians with a negligible culture and history.  The Tibetan students are taught China’s version of history and world view and are deprived of knowledge of their own.  Doctrines of superiority are specifically prohibited by Article 4 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)[16] which states that


States Parties condemn all propaganda and all organisations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race or group of persons of one colour or ethnic origin, or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form, and undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitements to, or acts of, such discrimination...


Though monasteries and nunneries are not widely perceived to be institutions of higher education, they are pillars of the Tibetan intellectual tradition.  There are facets of their education system that conform to modern institutions, such as the awarding of degrees.  For these reasons, Tibetans regard monastic institutions as esteemed sites of higher education.  Beijing’s “Patriotic Education” campaign, launched in 1996 in Tibet, seeks to undermine loyalty to the Dalai Lama through the promotion of atheism.  The campaign involves re-educating Tibetan monks and nuns in Chinese communist ideology and China’s version of Tibetan history, denunciation of the Dalai Lama and Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the XIth Panchen Lama chosen by the Dalai Lama..  This campaign which was originally meant for monastic institutions has now been extended into the lay populace.  An editorial in Tibet Daily on 4 July 2000 opined that children should be trained in atheism “in order to help rid them of the bad influence of religion.”


Repeating patriotic slogans about the great motherland, its “great” leaders and atheistic sentiments are a daily ritual in classes.  Claiming that religious practice was an obstacle to progress, children who were found wearing protection cords, going to temples for offerings, reciting prayers, or displaying any other outward sign of practice were fined and in some instances threatened with expulsion.  Holy items were confiscated and burned in front of the class.[17] 


Any form of political discussion or dissent in political connotation in the classrooms is quelled with threats of severe repercussions, including being reported to the state’s armed intelligence contingent, the Public Security Bureau (PSB).  Tenzin, an 18-year-old student from Chenduo township, Jyekundo County, Jyekundo “TAP”, Qinghai Province, who arrived in Nepal on 1 April 2002,  reported TCHRD of a classroom incident that occurred in 1999 when he was in higher middle school. An anti-Dalai Lama news item shown on television sparked a strong reaction from the students. The headmaster, on learning about the protest reprimanded the whole class.  Tenzin says,


In a very stern tone, he reminded us of what he had talked about at the meeting with the whole school at the beginning of the semester. He told us again that we must follow the path shown by the Chinese communist government with their Marxist and Leninist ideology, and we should not think of anything incriminating. He told us that we should not believe in the Dalai Lama’s misleading preaching about Tibet’s independence, which is simply not attainable. We were warned that if that sort of incident happened again, he would not hesitate to expel the whole class from the school and hand us over to the Public Security Bureau.[18]  


Chinese authorities reportedly require professors, particularly those from Tibet University’s language department, which is viewed as a potential source of political dissent, to attend political education sessions and purge course studies and materials in an effort to prevent “separatist” (political and religious) ideas and activities from transpiring on campus. Many ancient or religious Tibetan texts are banned from the curriculum for the fear of generating Tibetan nationalism by studying them.


Beijing’s 2001-2005 Five-Year Plan requires more Chinese nationals to be recruited to fill teaching posts in the “TAR” ostensibly to develop education in the region and keep pace with the loose, expanding policy of using Chinese in the classroom.  Existing Tibetan teachers are likely to become obsolete and liable to lose their jobs to Chinese migrants recruited deliberately for Tibet.


III. Removal of Tibetan Children for Education in Mainland China

People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, reported on 8 November 2002 that “Since the first Tibetan class was set up in an inland school in 1985, more than 20,000 Tibetan students have graduated from such classes offered by more than 20 provinces and cities over the past 17 years. Some 10,000 are university graduates.”[19] 


China’s central government has allocated special funds to set up Tibetan middle schools in mainland China.  The students are selected after medical examinations and on the basis of their school results.  These mainland middle schools are distant from Tibet, and so the students must stay continuously for three years. [20] Some young Tibetans who were chosen from primary school age spent a many more years continuously in China.  Teng Xin (Tib: Tenzin), a scholar, fully endorses this policy and states that students need to be isolated so that they can learn and not be affected by their fatalistic surroundings.”


TCHRD questions why these elite schools are being provided in mainland China and not where they are most needed, in Tibet. Beijing’s rationale is that these students, upon graduation, would become trusted leaders and bureaucrats under the socialist system when they are assigned government positions in the “TAR”. The PRC calculates that it can more easily control Tibet’s population by installing leaders of an ethnic Tibetan origin who nevertheless follow the correct path over development, socialism and anti-Dalai Lama rhetoric.


This “minorities” education policy of taking the brightest Tibetan students to special schools in China and indoctrinating them in communist ideology and political worldview is part of a series of mechanisms to assimilate Tibetans into the Chinese mainstream and blur the distinctiveness of Tibetan language, culture and history.


IV. Eradicating the Tibetan language

The Tibetan language policy has been one of the most significant issues in education in Tibet, particularly since the temporary period of liberalisation in the early 1980’s.  In July 1988, Tibetan was declared to be the official language of the “TAR”, yet new policies and practices indicate that this elevation is only nominal in value.  Though Tibetan language has been cast with a veneer of officialdom, it’s swept into the shadow of Mandarin Chinese—the “national” language of the People’s Republic of China. 


The Tibetans regard their language as the root of their ancient culture whereas the Chinese authorities view it as the symbol of nationalist sentiment.  Some officials assess Tibetan language as a ripe target for both the current campaign against the pro-independence movement and the campaign throughout Tibet to eradicate traditional beliefs.  In October 1995 Communist party leaders in the “TAR” circulated a document arguing that separatism was partly caused by schools teaching too much religion and using the Tibetan language.[21]


In fact, China’s 1995 Education Law provided for teaching nationalities in their own languages.  Article 12 of the Education Law[22] states that


Schools and other educational institutions primarily for ‘minority’ nationalities may use the spoken or written language in common use among the ethnic group or in the locality as the language of instruction.


While the teaching of Tibetan has been permitted in some village schools, the best equipped and staffed schools continue to teach in Chinese medium.  Though the 1995 law still stands on the books, 1997 brought about a sharp change in policy, as it was declared that Chinese language instruction would be introduced from the first year of schooling for Tibetan children.  This is a distinct reversal of the much hailed 1987 policy which promised to set up Tibetan-medium junior secondary schools by 1993 and to have “most” university courses available in Tibetan shortly after the year 2000. 


The 1987 policy was deemed “impractical” and “not in conformity with the reality of Tibet.”[23]  While this sought to rectify the underperformance of Tibetan students after the mandatory shift to Chinese only education after age 13, the unemployment among Tibetan youth for lack of proficiency in Chinese, and the language-based hurdles they must overcome in order to gain admission to Tibet University, it also fuels the rapid extinction of Tibetan language.  The policy adjustment condones the current trends—unemployment among Tibetan teachers, fewer publications translated into Tibetan, and the phasing out of Tibetan as a medium for all official communication.  This policy shift was pursued ruthlessly, and morbid predictions are being made that soon, the only subject taught in Tibetan will be the language itself.


It was indisputable that Tibetan students excelled when instructed in their own language: four experimental classes were set up by the late Panchen Lama at secondary schools in 1989.  By 1995, the Tibetans in these classes were passing at twice the rate of their peers taught only in Chinese-language.  Party Deputy Secretary Tenzin said in 1993 that “there was conclusive evidence that nothing could substitute the effect of using Tibetan language to raise educational quality and to improve the nationality’s cultural level.”[24]  The Chinese government abrogated plans to expand Tibetan-language schools in 1996, claiming that they faced a lack of qualified teachers for the program. 


Two foreign tourists who travelled extensively in Tibet in the month of April-June 2002 commented that


Chinese schools (like in Dartsedo) were taught in Chinese and no Tibetan subjects are taught, not even Tibetan language although in some cases most of the students are Tibetan. Chinese medium schools in which Tibetan language is taught just as another subject and all other subjects are taught in Chinese only. Tibetan history, philosophy and arts are not taught in these schools. This is the type of school most prominent in Tibet[25].


By the end of July 2002, the Chinese authorities closed down Tsangsul School.  This Tibetan-run school was  first founded in 1988 through the joint effort of three Tibetan individuals to promote and preserve Tibetan language.  The primary reason for the school’s closure was its popularity for giving emphasis to Tibetan culture.  Parents removed their children from the government school, Yuethong school no.1 to admit them to Tsangsul school.  The school followed the curriculum similar to the other middle level school with an emphasis on Tibetan.[26]  At the time of its closure the school had 500 students, of whom 60 students—all orphans—received  free education while the others, who generally were unable to pay the regular exorbitant fees asked by other schools, paid a nominal fee of 20 yuan per semester, significantly less than the cost of a Chinese government-run school.


The written Tibetan language is drastically deteriorating.  Business and government reports, especially at a higher level, are primarily written in Chinese. Almost all computer software in Tibet is formatted to write in Chinese.  Even well-educated Tibetans are losing the ability to write in their own language.


Beijing claims that Tibetan is widely used in the media and in publications.[27]  In fact the opposite is true as most newspapers, books and periodicals in Tibet are written in Chinese and not in Tibetan.  John Billington, an independent observer noted that there were 408 magazines for sale in Chinese, but saw only one in Tibetan.[28]


Tenzin Rabgyal, a refugee who arrived in Kathmandu on 25 May 2002 reported that 


In 2002, the Chinese authorities virtually closed the Cultural Development Society (a forum for pure cultural exchange through showcase of literary talent) in Rebkong County, Malho “TAP”, Qinghai Province. The Chinese are always against anything that promotes Tibetan culture. On the pretext of the society having underlying political tones, the Chinese authorities ordered for its closure without prior notice. There was no political significance attached to the aims and objectives of the society.[29]


In the post 1987 political climate, the government gives priority to the economy, and the sidelining of Tibetan language and culture is one of the casualties.[30]  Kunchok Gyatso (Ch: Goinqog Gyaco), a linguist with the Tibet Regional Academy of Social Sciences said, “the Tibetan language faces a challenge in the wake of globalization and cultural influences”.[31]  Chinese language takes the lead in business and government in Tibet—a development that many critics say has worrisome implications for the embattled Tibetan culture.[32]  Tibetan is still the main language in rural Tibet’s villages and farms, but ambitious young urban Tibetans, immersed in Chinese pop culture and aspiring to higher-paying jobs in a Chinese-dominated system, find fewer and fewer reasons to speak their native tongue.[33]  Linguistic scholars warn that younger Tibetans are having trouble communicating with their older relatives, becoming “aliens” in their own communities.


Students who attend the Chinese schools master Chinese better than those who attend the Tibetan schools.  Since a high level of Chinese language is prerequisite for any government job, those attending the Chinese schools have better chances.[34]  Tsering Yangtso, 17, originally from Dingri (Ch: Tingri) County said, “The students pay more attention to Chinese classes, and it is common knowledge that learning Tibetan does not offer much scope in future career.”[35] 


In the light of current political situation of Tibet, Tibetan language is sliding down a moribund path.

The efficacy of the much publicised Tibetan language law approved at the 15th session of the Seventh Regional People’s Congress of the “TAR” on 23 May 2002 remains to be seen. Yet precedents reveal that positive developments in law are mere public charades—hollow gestures in the Chinese constitution and its provisions for the minorities.


V. Minority Education in Tibet: An Unfulfilled Promise

Under the classification of one of China’s so-called minority nationalities, Tibetan children should enjoy enhanced educational rights under international law. Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stipulates that


States in which ethnic, religious or linguistics minorities or persons of indigenous origin exists, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.[36]


China is thus obligated to ensure that Tibetans enjoy the enhanced protections that “ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities” receive under international treaties such as the CRC, which establishes the right of each “minority” child to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.[37]  The Han-centric curriculum, taught largely in standard Mandarin Chinese (Ch:Putonghua) and obligatory throughout China regardless of the ethnic composition of the region, generally does not create an environment in which Tibetan children do not  feel their cultures, languages and histories have value.[38]  


On account of shrinking government subsidies, minority colleges have begun to enrol more and more Han Chinese students to meet their expenses. Han students account for half or more of the enrolment in most minority colleges now.[39]  University administrators indicate that this trend will only rise, as the colleges have intensified their focus on departments such as English and computer science to attract those students.


Beijing claims that to foster education in Tibet and as part of its preferential policies toward local ethnic groups, a flexible method of enrolment is applied in all schools by lowering the passing marks of local ethnic groups and then taking into account their test results.[40]  While it is true that admission to the University of Tibet in Lhasa does not require high grades, Tibetans must pass an entrance exam in Chinese to enrol in the university.  Tibetan students lose their seats to native-speaking Chinese who have failed entrance exams in their homeland.  These individuals then go to Tibet, where they have an advantage of passing the test due to their command over their mother language and more importantly the prevalence of corruption.


Additionally, only those Tibetans who were born in the “TAR” are able to attend Tibet University, yet a Chinese student is eligible if they are either already settled in the “TAR” or if they quickly migrate there and change their registration to reflect that they live in the “TAR”.  Han Chinese students have often misused the preferential minority policies by reclassifying themselves as Tibetan (or another minority) in order to take advantage of university programs.[41]  The birthplace policy only affects the Tibetans, and essentially anyone in China can find a way into Tibet and take advantage of the only university in “TAR” with Tibetan language courses. 


A detailed account of how Chinese usurp places ostensibly designated for Tibetans was given to TCHRD by a Tibetan who recently arrived in exile:


            In 2001, approximately 300 Tibetan students were denied their opportunity for higher education in the “TAR”. These courses included specialised fields such as medicine, secretarial studies, banking, accountancy, police force etc. According to an exclusive bulletin on exam results published on 30 July 2001 by the “TAR” Department of Education, the cut off score was 225.  Four days later, a revised higher score was announced on TV causing great distress to the students and their families who had already been celebrating their admittance into university.  When asked about the change, the Lhasa City Education Department gave no apparent reason which made the students and their parents proceed to the “TAR” government office.  There, they protested against this abrupt and unexplained change. A junior official played down the whole episode as an unfortunate typist error. The assertive parents and students were singled out for insinuative threats. One of the ill fated students stated that “Chinese officials take bribes to recruit Chinese students in the reserved seats meant for the Tibetans in the category of ‘ethnic minority group’.”


Many Chinese are stealing those few opportunities that are extended to Tibetan students. This claim is supported by the fact that in 2001, of the 1019 students who qualified for these specifically allocated positions, only 405 were Tibetan and the remaining 515 were Chinese students. [42]


 To limit the number of Tibetan students accepted, age restrictions also apply.  Here too, Tibetans are disadvantaged because they begin school later than students in Central China.[43]


In March of this year, “TAR” Board of Education (TARBOE) issued a new directive to inhibit the educational progress of Tibetan youth by instituting new testing procedures for government-funded college education.  The TARBOE now mandates that every student applying for standard government educational funding undergo ideological testing prior to the standard written exam for entrance to college or vocational training programs. 


This political litmus test comprises four parts; the first part examines the candidate’s respect for the four principles of the Party and ensures that he or she does not engage in cult or illegal worship.  Examples of “illegal” worship are reverence for the Dalai Lama and the practices of the Falun Gong.  The second question eliminates any candidate with a history of separatist activities.  The third and fourth questions seek information regarding anti-social and criminal activity, which would include a record of arrest for political speech.  In order to prove that the candidate is clean, he or she must procure a letter of recommendation from the local authorities. 


Many Tibetans cannot afford elementary or secondary school fees, thus government “scholarships” for college education or vocational training are a fundamental facet of making higher education a reality.  TCHRD is deeply concerned that this test is meant to and will succeed in preventing Tibetans from seizing educational opportunities.  Precedents demonstrate that even affiliation with a political dissident may hinder an individual’s safety, and eligibility for this funding.  Poor relations with the local police may unfairly jeopardize their chances.  No Tibetan has a future education, either in Tibet or at a university in mainland China, or in vocational training, unless they can pass this examination, which hinges upon the government’s attitude toward Tibetans and perceived loyalty to the Party.  Unless the applicant is independently wealthy, this scholarship is the key to his or her future. 



VI. Conclusion

The Beijing government fears political unrest in Tibet.  To thwart potential unrest, education has been the preferred conduit of inculcating loyalty to the state.  The main objective of education in Tibet is to Sinicise the Tibetan population and indoctrinate them with political dogma.  China uses every opportunity to saturate the masses with the rhetoric of love for the great motherland.  Education is no exception.


The wielding of control through language discriminates against Tibetans in every sphere of life.  Tibetan language though promoted sporadically, is more often a convenient idol for destruction at the hands of government policies and ideology.  Despite illustrious provisions in the Chinese national law and regulations passed in the regional government, Tibetan language is hobbling toward extinction as it is not the medium in all forms of mass communications in Tibet.  Tibetan language is sidelined in favour of much acclaimed economic prosperity of the 15% of the Tibetan people who are not living under the poverty line.  Beijing has created a demand for Chinese courses by dangling unemployment in front of Tibetans who insist on studying in their native language. And those who insist on cultural and linguistic preservation face the repercussion of being slapped with accusations of having separatist sentiments and inciting the people against the government.


The “minority education facilities” for Tibetans are as minor as their name.  Dubiously named “minority education” exists in name only, as paths designed for Tibetans to enrol in institutions of higher education are usurped by Han Chinese who snatch the Tibetan identity by changing their name and their house registration. [44]  The authorities willingly entertain these mainland Han Chinese students by issuing them false house registration and identity.[45] 


The inland schools for Tibetan children are incubators for children thoroughly brainwashed in the communist ideology. When the Chinese hatch them, they will act as community leaders for China and aid the further consolidation of Chinese control over Tibet.


China promised to uplift and educate Tibetans but the actual reality experienced by so many Tibetans is that these are empty promises, like the empty schools the Tibetans are forced to finance and build.  The ideals and promises are lofty, but the reality demonstrates apathy at best.  What’s not empty are the pockets of the Chinese—though they claim to be throwing money into Tibetan education, nothing has manifested save for tighter communist control over religion, language and culture. 


China often refers to development when countered on certain policies. Unless there is human development in Tibet, there will be no sustainable development in Tibet.  Education is sustainable development.  Until education in Tibet improves enormously, the basic economic and social human rights of the entire people will be denied.


VII. Recommendations

TCHRD deplores China’s failure to submit its second periodic report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which was due in March 1999, and eagerly awaits its presentation to the UN.


TCHRD calls upon the Chinese government to respect the Tibetan people’s fundamental right to control the content of the curriculum and medium of instruction in their children’s education as stipulated by Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which China ratified on 2 March 1992.


TCHRD demands an end to the “Patriotic Education” Campaign in primary and secondary schools, for education requires the liberty to study, think, and learn without the threat of force for straying from Communist ideology.  Article 14 of the CRC insists that “States parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.


TCHRD laments the current educational opportunities in Tibet, in particular the dearth of rural education.  Furthermore, it regrets the numerous obstacles to education.  TCHRD encourages the provision of subsidies for Tibetan children to attend school and discriminatory practices ought to be eradicated immediately.


TCHRD is deeply disturbed by the college admission policies of the “TAR”.  The “TAR” Board of Education ought to immediately cease the policy of March 2003, which requires political, ideological, and social history exam before college subsidies become available to a university candidate. 


TCHRD condemns the conscious and rapid importation of Chinese teachers to Tibet.  The policy is clearly designed to displace Tibetan teachers and make them obsolete among their own people, language, and culture.  Beijing’s 2001-2005 Five-Year Plan must be revised in order to be in compliance with international laws against cultural genocide and racial discrimination.










[1] China signed the CRC on 29 August 1990 and ratified the Convention on 2 March 1992

[2] Article 29 1(c) of the CRC

[3] The term ‘minority’ is much contested .  China considers Tibet as one of the 55 ethnic minorities of the PRC although Tibetans view themselves as a distinct people with a distinct nation that has been occupied by China since 1949 and put in the slot of ethnic minorities.  In the following, the term has been used and scrutinised in light of the current political status of Tibet.

[4] Information Office of the State Council of the PRC,                National Minorities Policy and its Practice in China, Beijing, September 1999

[5] The education attainment index for Tibet is 0.4181 and the adult literacy ratio and the gross enrolment rate are 0.3382 and 0.5779 respectively. The education attainment index is derived by computing weighted average of the adult literacy index and the gross enrolment index, where two thirds  are given to the former index and one third to the latter index.

[6] “Compulsory Education Progressing in Tibet,” China Radio International, DATE.

[7] International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, “The Fabric of Fear: Children’s Rights in Tibet” A Preliminary Report, 27 June 2000.

[8] The Information Office of the State Council, Tibet’s March Toward Modernisation, Beijing, 8 November 2001.

[9] “Tibetan children gain more chances for education,” Xinhuanet, March 28, 2003.

[10] China’s Current Policy on Tibet: Life-and-Death Struggle to Crush an Ancient Civilization, 29 September, 2000; Department of  Information and International Relations; Dharamsala, India.

[11] Racial Discrimination in Tibet, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights & Democracy, 2000.

[12] International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), The Indigenous World 2001-2002, p 237

[13] A total of 1378 Tibetan refugees escaped to India between 2 January 2002 and 10 January 2003.  Source: Tibetan Reception Centre, Dharamsala

[14] Claude Arpi, The Phantoms of Chittagong, The Rediff Special, 9 January 2003

[15] Human Rights in China, “Education for Ethnic Minorities”, China Rights Forum, summer 2001

[16] China signed the CERD in 1966 and ratified the Convention in 1981

[17] “Anti-religion campaign targets Tibetan schoolchildren,” Tibet Information Network, February 20, 2001

[18] ibid

[19]China’s top universities to enrol Tibetan post graduates,  People’s Daily, 8/11/02

[20] Inland Schools Help Educate Tibetan Youths”, Xinhaunet, 21 October 02,

[21] , International Comittee of Laywers for Tibet (ICLT), A Generation in Peril, 2001. ICLT is now renamed   the Tibet Justice Centre (TJC)

[22] China Rights Forum, the journal of Human Rights in China, “Education for Ethnic Minorities”,  summer 2001

[23] “Policy Shift in Teaching in Tibet,” Tibet Information Network, May 6, 1997.

[24] Ibid.

[25] “Travellers account of Tibet experience” Human Rights Update, TCHRD,  July 2002

[26] for detail see “Chinese authorities closed down a private Tibetan School”, Human Rights update, TCHRD, August 2002, and “Update on Tsangsul School”, Human Rights Update, TCHRD,  October 2002

[27] Information Office of the State Council of the PRC, The Development of Tibetan Culture, 2000

[28] John Billington, Tibet,  Zed Books; London, 1995

[29] “ Cultural Development Society Closed”’ Human Rights Update, TCHRD, June 2002,

[30] Catriona Bass, “Education in Tibet: Policy and Practice since 1950”, TIN 1998, p 5

[31] “Law guards Tibetan Language”, Xinhuanet, 24 May 2002,.

[32] Geoffrey York, , Tibet’s native tongue takes a lashing, Wednesday, The Globe and Mail,  September 25, 2002.

[33] Geoffrey York, , Tibet’s native tongue takes a lashing, Wednesday, The Globe and Mail,  September 25, 2002.

[34]Travellers’ account of Tibet experience”, Human Rights Update, TCHRD, July 2002,

[35] “Chinese Monopoly in schools and bussiness”, Human Rights Update, TCHRD , July 2002.

[36] Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

[37] International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet (ICLT),         A Generation in Peril, 2001

[38] ibid

[39] ibid

[40] Information Office of the State Council of the PRC, New Progress in Human Rights in the Tibet Autonomous Region, February 1998.

[41] Postiglione, G. China’s National Minority Education: Culture, Schooling and Development, York: Falmer Press, 1999

[42] For detail see “Tibetan Students Denied University Education”, Human Rights Update,  TCHRD, February, 2002,

[43] Catriona Bass, “Education in Tibet: Policy and Practice since 1950”, p 180

[44] The Public Security Bureau has the authority in issuing  housing registration.

[45] TCHRD Interview 383/ 2002

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