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Qinghai makes teaching Tibetan a priority

China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-22 09:00

Fifth-grader Dekyi Yungdrung likes to write in Tibetan, and her mother takes pride in her daughter's creativity.

"She finds beauty in life, and renders the beauty with her writing," her mother Polha said. "I enjoy listening to her read her compositions to me."

Dekyi Yungdrung, 13, attends Wanquan No 3 Elementary School in Nangchen county, part of Qinghai province's Yushu Tibetan autonomous prefecture.

There are 55 pupils in her class. Starting from the first grade, they have had at least one class a day in Tibetan, and they are required to write at least one essay in Tibetan every week.

Sherab Dorje, director of the county education bureau, has traveled extensively across Qinghai, which has many Tibetan communities.

"Until 30 years ago, very few people went to school. Students from poor families couldn't afford an education. They spoke Tibetan, but were not able to write," he said. "Now, everywhere you go, schools have the best infrastructure you can find in Qinghai. It's a remarkable change."

Government investment in educational resources in the province's predominantly Tibetan areas has increased dramatically in recent years, Sherab Dorje said.

According to figures provided by the Qinghai Education Department, in the 1950s, there were only 14 elementary schools, with 900 students, in predominantly Tibetan areas. At the beginning of this century, some 700 elementary schools and 70 middle schools taught classes in Tibetan. The number of students exceeded 200,000.

The enrollment rate at primary and middle schools in Qinghai's Tibetan areas is now over 90 percent. There are enough teachers to meet the demands of students, and Tibetan language education has been promoted, the department said.

A 15-year free education policy has been implemented since 2015. In addition to the nine years of free elementary and middle school education provided nationwide, in Tibetan areas of Qinghai, three years of kindergarten and three years of high school are also included.

The number of Tibetan-speaking teachers is also on the rise. Eight colleges and universities have been founded in the province since 1956. Since 2012, Qinghai has invested 640 million yuan ($100 million) in teacher training.

Yet the provincial government has said education in remote pastoral areas of Qinghai is still weak.

To bridge the gap, at least 120 outstanding high-school graduates from pastoral areas are selected every year to take courses that prepare them to be teachers. Training centers and teachers' labs have also been set up in colleges including Qinghai Normal University and Qinghai Nationalities University.

Qinghai has a population of 5.8 million, 25 percent of whom are ethnic Tibetan, according to official statistics from 2015. The province has five Tibetan autonomous prefectures - Yushu, Hainan, Haibei, Huangnan and Golog - as well as the Haixi Mongol and Tibetan autonomous prefecture. Each has regulations to protect the public's right to use and learn the Tibetan language.

To facilitate language learning, the education authority has translated more than 130 sets of books from Mandarin to Tibetan. The province spends 17 million yuan a year publishing books on mathematics, physics, chemistry, art and physical education in Tibetan, and provides them free of charge to students.

"The channels for learning Tibetan are more diverse than before," said Tashi Dawa, a resident of Gonghe county in the Hainan Tibetan autonomous prefecture.


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