Tibetans Fight to Salvage Fading Culture in China

Donnerstag, 14.01.2016, 21:31 Uhr | Kategorie(n): News Allgemein

YUSHU, China — When officials forced an informal school run by monks near here to stop offering language classes for laypeople, Tashi Wangchuk looked for a place where his two teenage nieces could continue studying Tibetan.

To his surprise, he could not find one, even though nearly everyone living in this market town on the Tibetan plateau here is Tibetan. Officials had also ordered other monasteries and a private school in the area not to teach the language to laypeople. And public schools had dropped true bilingual education in Chinese and Tibetan, teaching Tibetan only in a single class, like a foreign language, if they taught it at all.

“This directly harms the culture of Tibetans,” said Mr. Tashi, 30, a shopkeeper who is trying to file a lawsuit to compel the authorities to provide more Tibetan education. “Our people’s culture is fading and being wiped out.”

China has sharply scaled back, and restricted, the teaching of languages spoken by ethnic minorities in its vast western regions in recent years, promoting instruction in Chinese instead as part of a broad push to encourage the assimilation of Tibetans, Uighurs and other ethnic minorities into the dominant ethnic Han culture.

The Education Ministry says a goal is to “make sure that minority students master and use the basic common language.” And some parents have welcomed the new emphasis on teaching Chinese because they believe it will better prepare their children to compete for jobs in the Chinese economy and for places at Chinese universities.

But the new measures have also stirred anxiety and fueled resentment, with residents like Mr. Tashi arguing that they threaten the survival of ethnic identities and traditions already under pressure by migration, economic change and the repressive policies of a government fearful of ethnic separatism.

The shift away from teaching Tibetan has been especially contentious. It is most noticeable outside central Tibet, in places like Yushu, about 420 miles northeast of Lhasa, in Qinghai Province.

Many schools in these areas — home to nearly 60 percent of China’s Tibetan population — had taught mainly in the Tibetan language for decades, especially in the countryside. Chinese was taught too, but sometimes not until later grades.

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By Edward Wong

Read more at nytimes.com

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