Chinese interference with the Tibetan education system has gained pace since Xi took office. “Xi has not only continued Beijing’s Tibet policy, but is enforcing it more strongly, including by introducing restrictions that prevent Tibetans from attending China’s best educational institutions,” says a Tibetan scholar.
Writing in Taiwan Times, Tenzing Dhamdul laments that China has meticulously worked to dismantle the Tibetan education system ever since it occupied Tibet.
Barring a few modern schools set up in Lhasa by the late 13th Dalai Lama, the
Tibetan education system was mainly centered on monastic institutes. It has a rich monastic tradition which attracted students from various countries.
Initially, Beijing mainly targeted primary education, including by preventing Tibetans to even linger near monastic institutes but now it has shifted attention towards higher Tibetan education, with the ultimate goal of depriving Tibetans of their identity and language, says Tenzing Dhamdul, himself a refugee.
The latest onslaught on Tibetan education is the decree that students must state their “political attitude and ideological morality” to be considered for admission to Tibetan Universities.
A circular issued this April stipulates that student should not be involved in religious movements and students who are proficient in Marxist theory should be preferred, according to Tenzing Dhamdul, who is a research associate at the New Delhi-based Foundation for Non-Violent Alternatives, a peace studies institute focused on Tibet, China, India and the larger Trans Himalaya region.
He writes: “The initial attack on the Tibetan education system began during the Cultural Revolution, when the monastic system, recognized as the cornerstone of Tibet’s education system, was wiped out in terms of its physical structure and personnel. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized on this vacuum to indoctrinate and culturally assimilate Tibetans”.
In the initial years of Chinese occupation many young Tibetans were forcefully indoctrinated.
The CCP was to an extent successful, but its strategy proved to be a double-edged sword, as Tibetans now know that they are different from Chinese, says Tenzing Dhamdul.
The schools Beijing set up schools instead of educating Tibetans, brain washed them and indoctrinated them with Marxist thought, which morphed first into Mao Zedong thought and later on into Xi Jinping thought.
78 percent of Tibetans have attended Beijing-run boarding schools where classes are primarily taught in Chinese, depriving them of their identity and language, he says quoting a report of the Tibet Action Institute in December last year.
Another area of concern is that Tibetans who complete their higher education are looked down upon, creating an apartheid-like environment where Tibetans are largely unemployed and remain segregated, even in Tibet, Tenzing Dhamdul wrote in Taiwan Times.