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Tibet boarding schools good for education

By Li Jin | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-26 07:56


The right to education is key to a person's overall development. For underdeveloped regions and minority groups, education plays an important role in fostering their development. And building more boarding schools in impoverished areas will create more educational opportunities for the children from poor families.

Boarding schools primarily enroll students from rural, pastoral and remote mountainous areas. While students are admitted to primary schools on the basis of geographical proximity, a relatively centralized approach is adopted for admissions to middle schools.

When it comes to admitting Tibetan students, priority is given to children from low-income or nomadic families, and those from extremely remote areas. To meet the needs of education for such students, the government has built boarding facilities, recruited qualified teachers, and provides living allowances to ensure they complete the nine-year compulsory education.

Since the 1950s, Tibetan parents, like the rest of the parents in China, inspired by the modernization of Chinese society, have been paying greater attention to their children's education. Despite the extremely limited national resources during the 1950s, the central government established many boarding schools in remote areas where building materials were not easily available, not least because the local people wanted their children to be educated.

Given the limited educational resources, the number of boarding schools built at the time was not enough to meet the demand. Yet the government recruited qualified teachers to teach the students, built the needed infrastructure, and provided students with basic living allowance. Many children of farmers and herdsmen from remote areas who received education in boarding schools later became managers and professionals, which promoted the cause of education nationwide and prompted many Tibetan parents to send their children to boarding schools to seek education.

The number of boarding schools in the Tibet autonomous region started increasing, and running schools became easier following the launch of reform and opening-up in the late 1970s. It is heartening to note that Tibetan parents, in general, now realize the importance of boarding schools. In many parts of Tibet, especially in Lhasa, parents hold celebratory banquets for friends and relatives when their children enter a boarding school.

In boarding schools that Tibetan students attend, both the national language and Tibetan language are taught, and students who complete their studies have the opportunity to pursue higher education in college. As for Tibetan parents, they know that children who receive quality education are better-placed to succeed in life.

For example, Gonpo from Zayu county in Tibet completed his middle school and high school education in a boarding school. He went on to study at China University of Political Science and Law and Minzu University of China to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees. He then returned to Tibet University to teach. At present, he is a doctoral candidate at Sichuan University. While his ability to use a foreign language and Tibetan historical materials for research has been lauded by the academic community, his personal development trajectory encourages Tibetan parents to send their children to boarding schools to seek education.

Due to the establishment of a Tibetan language teaching and research system from the primary school to the university level, the majority of teachers and administrators in boarding schools are from the Tibetan ethnic group. They not only impart knowledge to students but also cultivate among them a positive attitude and encourage them to preserve traditional culture.

Ngodrup is a leading figure in the Lhasa Ngari Hebei Complete Middle School's history department. Born in Gongbo Gyamda county in Nyingchi, he completed his middle school and high school education in boarding facilities, and then got admission to Beijing Normal University for his undergraduate education. After graduating, he has been teaching in a school near Shiquan River for seven years, and often uses his own personal development experience to motivate students to pursue higher education.

Since 2000, due to continuous investments, Tibet now has enough boarding schools to meet the education demand of students' parents. Tibetan parents usually consider three factors when choosing a school for their kids: quality of education, the school's ability to enhance students' communication skills in both Chinese and Tibetan languages, and school fees and other education costs.

Since the autumn semester of 2018, Tibet has been providing annual living allowances of 3,000-6,000 yuan ($425-850) for students studying in boarding schools depending on the altitude of the area where the students live and the category of the school and students. These allowances alleviate the financial burden of the parents and help students from poor families to acquire quality education.

Overall, the education choices made by Tibetan parents for their children have been influenced by social trends. So they prefer that their children acquire modern education, instead of traditional Tibetan monastic education.

Boarding schools are relatively inexpensive and provide quality education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as poor families, nomadic families, and students from remote mountainous areas. Such schools have also been beneficial to students in terms of personal development. And the rising expectations of parents have prompted the boarding schools to continuously raise their teaching standards and improve their education resources.

The author is a professor at the Center for Tibetan Studies of Sichuan University.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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