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IX. Development of Education and Culture

Education in old Tibet was very backward. There were no schools in the modern sense. Before Tibet's peaceful liberation, only some 2,000 monks and children of the nobility studied in government and private schools. The masses of serfs and slaves had no right to receive education.

Under the stipulation of the 17-Article Agreement concerning the gradual development of the spoken and written Tibetan language and school education, the Lhasa Primary School was founded in 1952 and the Lhasa Middle School established in 1956. this enabled Tibet to embark on the road to modern education.

To develop education in Tibet, the government has invested more than 1.1 billion yuan and introduced a series of special policies over the past 40 years. Education is free. All the study costs of Tibetan students, from primary school to university, are covered by the government. Since 1985, free food, clothing and accommodation have been provided for some Tibetan primary and middle school students, and boarding schools have been introduced in the vast rural and pastoral areas. The principle of "giving priority to local nationalities" has been carried out in recruiting students for various kinds of schools at different levels. Priority is given to candidates of Tibetan and other local nationalities in the recruitment of university, college and secondary vocational school students. Efforts are being made to establish more departments and schools of Tibetan culture covering Tibetan language, medicine, art and history.

Over the past four decades and more, Tibet has basically established an educational system with both special local flavor and national characteristics which includes pre-school, primary and middle school, secondary vocational and technical school education, plus higher education, and adult and television education. Urban residents, farmers and herdsmen now enjoy the right to receive education. According to statistics, by 1991, Tibet had established four modern universities (Tibet University, the Institute for Nationalities, the Agriculture and Animal Husbandry College and the Tibetan Medical College); 15 secondary vocational and technical schools involved in teacher training, agriculture and animal husbandry, public health, Tibetan medicine, finances, sports, art, and post and telecommunications; 63 middle schools and 2,474 primary schools. The total enrollment hit 196,000, with most being Tibetan students. Of the 16,000 faculty members, two-thirds were Tibetan teachers. The buildings of primary and secondary schools and institutes of higher learning covered nearly 1.5 million square meters, and audio-visual teaching had become an important means of instruction. In the last four decades and more in Tibet, 18,000 students graduated from universities and colleges; 510,000 from primary and secondary schools, including more than 40,000 from secondary vocational schools, senior middle schools and secondary technical schools; more than 15,000 cadres were trained in rotation; and nearly 7,000 people received certificates from secondary vocational and college-level self-study programs. A large number of professionals for all undertakings have thus been trained.

The development of education in Tibet has enhanced the cultural level of citizens, creating conditions for the Tibetan people to better exercise their right of regional autonomy as an ethnic minority and attain overall development. However, since the foundations of education in old Tibet were very weak and the population sparsely scattered, illiterates and semi-illiterates still make up a considerable proportion in Tibet's population, although they are now in the minority rather than in the majority, as they were in the past. Further development of education remains a strenuous and pressing task in Tibet.

Tibet has a rich traditional culture which covers language, literature, art, philosophy, religion, medicine and the celestial almanac. The Chinese government has always attached importance to protecting and developing the excellent traditional culture of the Tibetan ethnic group. It has adopted a series of policies and measures to honor, protect and ensure the flourishing of Tibet's traditional culture, enabling the legacy of Tibetan culture to be inherited and developed.

The Tibetan language is the common language for the whole autonomous region. In July 1987, the autonomous regional People's Congress adopted the Regulations on Study, Use and Development of the Tibetan Language in the Tibet Autonomous Region (for trial implementation), which clearly stipulates that both Tibetan and Chinese languages should be used in the Tibet Autonomous Region while first place is given to the Tibetan language. Today, all the resolutions, regulations and rules, the decrees adopted by the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and all the formal documents and notices issued by the autonomous regional people's government are in both Tibetan and Chinese. Newspapers, radio and television stations also use both languages. Of the books edited and published in the autonomous region, those in the Tibetan language make up 70 percent. Speakers of different languages are treated equally in the recruitment of workers, cadres and students, with priority always given to Tibetan speakers. Tibetan is used in large meetings attended by the masses. All work units, streets, roads and public facilities are marked in both Tibetan and Chinese script. The Tibetan language is the main subject of all schools at different levels.

The Tibetan people's traditional customs and practices have received wide respect. In the cities, towns and agricultural and pastoral areas in Tibet, most Tibetans still retain their traditional clothing, diet and housing. Each year, the Tibetan people celebrate the Tibetan New Year, the Sour Milk Drinking Festival, the Butter Lamp Festival, the Bathing Festival, the Ongkor (Bumper Harvest) Festival and the Damar Festival in their time-honored ways. The government has introduced preferential policies to encourage the production of necessities for minority nationalities.

Cultural relics in Tibet are put under full protection. The Potala Palace, the Jokhang Monastery and some other monasteries and temples have become national or regional key cultural preservation centers. Since the mid-1970s, systematic plateau archeological studies have been carried out and several dozen cultural sites of the Stone Age excavated. All the unearthed cultural relics are carefully kept by the regional cultural relics management department, and these discoveries provide valuable materials for the study of primitive and traditional Tibetan culture.

The traditional cultural heritage of Tibetans has been systematically investigated, collected, collated, published and studied. The tibetan Ancient Books Publishing House has collected more than 200 rare ancient books in Tibetan and collated and published a number of them. The Tibet People's Publishing House has pooled efforts to collate and publish a number of classics and booklets of historical archives. By the end of 1990, more than 1 million copies of 200 ancient Tibetan books had been distributed. Tibetan classics, which only existed in hand-written and engraved forms and were neglected for several hundred years, now, for the first time, have been printed in copies with exquisite binding.

Marked achievements have also been made in the collection and collation of Tibetan folk literature, drama, music and choreography. More than 20 writings and books on Tibetan folk culture have been published. King Gesar, the world's longest epic created by the Tibetan people, existed only in oral memory among the Tibetan people and was performed using dialogue and singing. Today, the retrieval, collation and study of this epic has been included in the state's key social science research projects, and a special institution has been founded to take charge of the project. Up to now, more than 3,000 cassette tapes recording the epic have been made, and 62 volumes in the Tibetan language published with a total circulation exceeding 3 million copies. The 600,000-word History of Chinese Dramas: Tibetan Volume has been compiled, filling in a blank in theoretical writings and monographic studies on drama in Tibetan history. Materials are being garnered on the basis of surveys for the compilation of books about Tibetan dance, folk rhymes, music in Tibetan opera and folk art, instrumental music, folk art history, folk songs, folklore and proverbs.

Tibetology is a comprehensive branch of learning which embraces all areas, including Tibetan history, religion, culture, economics, politics and sociology. More than 50 Tibetan studies institutions have been founded in Tibet and other places, and the China Tibetan Studies Center was inaugurated in 1986 in Beijing. These research institutions have taken up numerous research projects, such as the strategy for socio-economic development in Tibet, a concise history of Tibet, the collation and study of Pattra in Sanskrit, and the study of the origin of Tibetan religions and religious sects. They have also launched nearly 30 journals in the Tibetan, Chinese or English languages, including Tibet Research, Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan Social Development Study, Tibetan Art Study, Snowy Land Culture, China's Tibetan Studies, and China's Tibet. Since the 1980s, with the expansion of international academic exchange concerning the study of Tibet, 130-plus scholars from a dozen of countries and regions and Tibetan scholars residing abroad have visited Tibet, made academic surveys and conducted negotiations on joint scientific research projects. Some Tibetan experts and scholars were invited to go on tours, give lectures and participate in academic meetings abroad.

Tibet's traditional culture and art, which only entertained high officials and noble lords in the past, now serve all Tibetan people, enriching their cultural life. The autonomous region has ten professional art and dance ensembles and Tibetan opera troupes, 20 county-level art troupes and more than 350 amateur performing troupes. There are six multi-purpose people's art centers equipped with modern facilities and 25 county-level cultural centers. Tibet now boasts a contingent of nearly 5,000 professional cultural workers, with Tibetans accounting for 90 percent of the total. They have created a number of literary and artistic works and programs which have a strong national flavor and reflect the features of our age, and some of their works have won international prizes. Over the past decade and more, 14 Tibetan art troupes composed of close to 300 artists were invited to give performances abroad. Cultural activities are very much in evidence during each traditional festival in Tibet. The Sour Milk Drinking Festival has expanded from performances of Tibetan operas to the largest annual art festival featuring all kinds of cultural and artistic activities. TRaditional sports have been held extensively in Tibet too. Since the 1980s, more than ten traditional sports have been tapped and included in formal competitions. Tibetan athletes captured quite a few prizes at the National Sports Meet for Ethnic Groups. During traditional festivals, time-honored games and performances are held in all parts of Tibet. The modern athletic level in Tibet has been enhanced constantly and mountaineering, in particular, has attained internationally known achievements.

While traditional cultural activities are flourishing in Tibet, modern cultural facilities have also made their way there. At present, Tibet has 137 television and TV video relay stations and television transposer stations, 297 ground satellite stations, 26 radio broadcasting, relay and transmitting stations, and 74 wire broadcasting stations at prefectural and county levels. A broadcasting and television network which covers the whole region and combines satellite and wireless transmission with wire broadcasting has initially taken shape in Tibet. The region now has 82 film distribution and projection agencies and 553 film projection teams. Nearly 200 new films are shown each year, and residents in agricultural and pastoral areas enjoy free film shows. Many modern recreational facilities have been built in Tibet to prosper both traditional and modern cultural activities.

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