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A letter written to a Tibetan primary school principal

By Tenzin Yangjen Thar  See the original article in Chinese

In recent time, more primary schools have been built in Tibet and computer courses are even being taught in some primary schools, but many Tibetans think the new times have met with old issues such as the mother tongue language is almost being forgotten.  In the following open letter to a primary school principal, the author asserts “Some people say, history cannot be forgotten, I say mother tongue language cannot be forgotten!”.

 

Respected Principal:

How are you? Perhaps right now you are in the classroom putting in extra hours for this year’s graduating students, or perhaps right now you are running about for the school’s construction plans; or perhaps you are summing up the education and teaching work experience, or perhaps right now you are attending the (township) town-wide, county-wide, prefecture-wide, province-wide or even nationwide education work meeting. In brief, the busiest person in the school is the principal! You must see to the development of the school, you must be concerned about the troubles of the staff, you must also see to the food and drink of students; you also have to deal with inspection and supervision from each government department; a primary school principal, particularly a Tibetan primary school principal, who doesn’t have a special ability to endure hardships, a special ability to show restraint, a particular spirit of dedication, but has no choice but to fulfill the responsibilities of a principal well.

How many Tibetan primary schools there are in the nation, I haven’t done the statistics, its results are unknown, however, I believe there are many Tibetan primary school principals who are at this moment quietly serving as role models, selflessly dedicating and giving their beautiful youth to Tibetan education undertakings!

Respected and incomparably, extremely respected principal, I am also an old teacher who has great love for education, great love for the job of teaching, in the many years of my teaching career, I’ve encountered many different characters of principals, some principals liked to play basketball, so they do everything in their power to set up a school basketball team, of course school athletics flourish, and student uniforms are all very special; some principals like performing arts activities, the annual “June 1st” activities are absolutely grand and spectacular, students’ song and dance performances are top of the line in their area; some principals like to socialize and drink, and there is no lack of heavy drinkers among the staff, some principals are selfish, obstructing and restricting the will of the people for the sake of a little bit of benefit, and even forming cliques, its foul stench often enveloping the school grounds; some principals like to have all the power, whatever he says is what counts, he doesn’t like other people to interrupt, and likes even less the staff who talk back; there are still some principals who are extremely jealous, and don’t like people with arrogant personalities, for anything that exceeds his field of capabilities, he will give you a hard time, saying you are “devious”, and not attending to your proper duties. Still there are some principals who like subservient people, incapable and average, work that does not demand development but does not seek fault, …

Respected principal, perhaps you think I am scolding you. I am not, I truly am not. I like principals who possess a sense of ethnic responsibility, progressing with the times, a principal who is scientific and analytical is my model. Perhaps you would ask, why don’t I become a principal? Since I’m not a person who abides by the rules, having written drafts of criticisms, mentions opinions, and enjoys bickering with leaders, I’m still a person outside of the system. Respected principal, would you still say I could be a principal?

Respected principal, schools nowadays under the support of the state, school buildings have been built, computer courses are being taught, teaching facilities are even newer, teaching conditions have improved, according to reason, we should applaud and cheer. However, under this kind of historical background, the new times have met with old issues, our mother tongue language is almost being forgotten. Some people say, history cannot be forgotten, I say mother tongue language cannot be forgotten!

Respected principal, has your school attached importance to mother tongue medium education? Can your teachers and students speak pure Tibetan? As long as your teachers and students, one hundred percent can speak pure Tibetan, then, you are a principal rich in a sense of ethnic responsibility, you are a qualified principal, and your school equally is also a qualified school.

Some principals were never skilled in speaking Chinese, yet they toss their fluent and pure Tibetan to the side, and insist on speaking Chinese.  Running meetings in Chinese, teaching and researching in Chinese, reporting in Chinese, like a completely Chinese person. Regarding this, they have ample reasons: By mastering Chinese you can go about China, by reading English you can run around the world! Ah ah, so mastering Tibetan has become devoid of gratitude, forgetting one’s ancestors?

Some principals were never skilled in writing Chinese, yet they obediently relegate their perfectly good Tibetan writing skills to the backs of their brains. Running to typing offices to make Chinese language slogans. Rules and regulations are in Chinese, corridor signs are in Chinese, places for posting and writing are all in Chinese, from this, in this school you obviously can’t find culture that has ethnic characteristics; the mouths of teachers and students are full of language mixing Tibetan and Chinese, speaking pure and fluent Tibetan is on the contrary not easy. No wonder someone said: the main position for strengthening mother tongue medium education is the school, particularly crucial is primary school education.

Respected principal, our schools, since they are Tibetan primary schools, mother tongue medium education should be predominant. Even though at present all schools in Tibetan areas are currently being laid out and adjusted, yet there is something that can never be changed, and that is that Tibetan schools must strengthen mother tongue medium education.

Respected principal, in the process of transforming school models, we must set up good education and teaching plans, school-based resources, use determined times and measures, and fully implement mother tongue medium education. Some schools don’t practice what they preach, and just require students and teachers to disregard their own capabilities; and still there are some schools, for the sake of gaining social prestige and praise from their superiors, take it upon themselves to add Chinese medium class time and shorten Tibetan language class time, going against state education guidelines, policies, and not benefiting the development of school-based resources; some school curricula have been reformed for ten years, but the curriculum set up doesn’t change for five or six years, curriculum arrangements have no direction, have no aim, are not scientific, the teaching instructor’s curriculum is scattered, the complaints of teachers are heard all about, there are no rules to follow, teaching and research emphasize format, after examining, without exception the case is closed, it is never put on the agenda; some schools’ physical education classes are continuously shepherd style, neglecting break-time calisthenics, music classes become homework classes, these outdated conventions and practices have brought a lot of negative factors to the development of schools, and greatly dampened the initiative of teachers.

Respected principal, you have also come to deeply understand the real issues faced by Tibetan mother tongue medium education. You also often say ‘what is from the mouth is from the heart’, you have also pondered solutions. Then, the first way I vote for is: starting from primary school education, from self-acting, from acting now.

Respected principal, perhaps right now you are worrying about this situation. It’s ok, I’ll teach you a support. In the year-end assessment add a subject, competency or incompetency in speaking pure Tibetan. Carrying out only this method in school is still not enough, there is the need to set up specialized organizations, in order to oversee the smooth development of this work.

Respected principal, you already know the reason I’m writing you this letter. Let us pick up the long-absent pure mother tongue language, let the great rhythm of the mother tongue jump in the joyful song and laughter of the school grounds, cultivate more and more mother tongue enthusiasts!

The work of a school does not differentiate between large and small matters, each starting point begins at zero, bit by bit, a few accumulating into many, an education that nurtures is formed like this. Speaking pure Tibetan in Tibetan primary schools is also an important component of an education that nurtures; a tripartite educational method made up of schools, families, and society must continue and persevere, a minor change in schools should make speaking pure Tibetan a homework assignment for students, requiring families to actively collaborate.

In today’s schools, some principals regard inspection and approval from superiors as the primary task to be accomplished, greatly weakening the content of much of the nurturing education, standardized education, and conventional education, the work of the school appearing to function for the sake of inspection work, some work is not inspected by higher levels, for instance: speaking Tibetan, schools have not done this work from the outset to the end. Some principals figure that for work that is not examined by superiors, schools have no duty or need to do them well, this thinking is simply absolutely ridiculous!

Respected principal, would you say these opinions are correct? You would certainly say they were incorrect.

There is still a type of phenomenon in schools that must be talked about. Some mid-level cadres, appear to know the ropes, but actually don’t, they don’t know how to do something but won’t find someone who knows how to do it, this is called sitting on a toilet but not shitting (taking up space but not doing anything), most of the mid-level cadres in some schools are close friends of the principal, more stubborn than the principal! In instances such as these, a principal with power should immediately resolve these issues, otherwise, it will obstruct the healthy development of the school!

Respected principal, if you’ve been able to listen to my tireless nagging, then you’ve given me, a nothing, some respect! Today I will write the letter to here, if you have any thoughts, please critique after this essay.

05 December 2009

[2009-12-25  11:26:00 | By: Wolf]

You said it well! Every Tibetan person says mother-tongue language is like one’s mother, you cannot be ungrateful. Mother-tongue language is like one’s father, the key to our nationalities’ development.

[ 2009-12-15 21:08:00 | By: 1212]

Thank you for the blog host’s article! You have voiced the aspirations of Tibetan educators!

[ 2009-12-10 21:48:00 | By: American Indian Person]

That trashy thing called xiaowen, what is ethnic and non-ethnic, ethnicity is something the Communist party self-righteously created, just like in the past with distinguishing between rural and urban residence registration, it is man made, ethnic difference and all of that, I want to be a Han Chinese why was I marked as a backward Tibetan.

[ 2009-12-10 15:32:00 | By: abanjiajiu ]

First, I greatly admire that you have a completely sincere devotion to ethnicity. Every person has their own ethnic pride and ethnic identification, this is inevitable, I’m afraid even Bacon who came up with the illusion of four types of caves is no exception. Secondly, I am also what you call of devious abilities (this is how I figure it) criticisms take up too much space in my heart, therefore I am also someone who likes to criticize. Education’s key is not in the issue of mother-tongue language as you view and describe it, in the short term this is not yet a crisis, we have a greater existing crisis, and no one has ever discovered this crisis. The backwardness of education, the biased nature of educational content, the outdated educational models, the outdated educational principles should be the potentially greater crises.

[ 2009-12-9 17:54:00 | By: xiaowen]

I strongly agree with your opinions ethnic culture is profound and extensive we should grasp it bit by bit any nationality has the duty and responsibility of passing on and carrying on the essence of their own ethnic tradition and culture the essence of the traditions and cultures of our 56 nationalities release splendor in this land of China

[ 2009-12-8 23:56:00 | By: Huarui]

Actually you are devious, don’t do honest work, another kind that leads young people astray. Without making a contribution you even pull people backwards

[ 2009-12-8 23:53:00 | By: 2]

Tibet is merely a place at the ends of development for China (the furthest west like Xinjiang, but more closed,), in today’s competitive world, for the sake of strengthening national power, and world competition between nations, China will only step by step develop this barbaric place that is Tibet

[ 2009-12-8 23:42:00 | By: Person]

In contemporary society, in the developed communications of today, it’s not the closed communications conditions of the past, each nationality will only more frequently live together with other nationalities, so you merely represent a short-sighted multitude, it won’t be so much like you

[ 2009-12-8 23:34:00 | By:Oppose]

You yourself can speak and write authentic Chinese, yet ask that primary school students learn less Chinese and study more Tibetan, your own thinking is narrow-minded, making a small group, viewing the sky from a well, without far-sightedness, lofty ideals yet criticizing an open-minded, far-sighted principal, how can you want to destroy the future of primary school students? Tibetans fall far short of the levels in concentrated populated areas, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan have a large number of Tibetans and Han Chinese, and other ethnicities living mixed together, perhaps their Chinese language level is more proficient than Tibetan language, perhaps their degree of exchange is more frequent than Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region, perhaps they identify more with their neighbors, you want them to cut out Chinese, is that realistic? Just like the dialects of Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi, Wu Yue, and Guangdong, the same as when you go out and speak Mandarin Chinese, your dialects have not disappeared! So you really don’t have to worry about the heavens and the people, Tibetan dialects (strictly speaking it’s not an independent kind) also will not vanish, get rid of your narrow-minded thinking, most of China’s peoples are of the same ethnicity, it’s just in history that each region’s culture has been relatively developed

[ 2009-12-6 21:59:00 | By: Wangdu]

I am also a Tibetan primary school principal and many of the shortcomings you raise in your letter currently remain and exist in myself, because of this it has reminded me how can I be a principal. Can I ask, is it better to be a person who quietly carries on their work? Or is it better to be a principal who drinks and keeps company with his superiors?

[ 2009-12-6 0:30:00 | By: Tibetan]

I fully agree with your views. I am also a Tibetan teacher in a Model 1 (Mother-tongue language as the primary medium, Chinese language as the supplementary medium education model) school. Our principal, even though he is Tibetan, he does not place importance on mother-tongue medium teaching. He has stipulated using Chinese language to evaluate classes after Tibetan language and literature classes are finished. What kind of ignorant method is this? Ngawa Prefecture’s Dzorge County has a lot of principals who do things like this. They disregard mother tongue medium teaching. I recommend people with insight to publish the famous intellectual of Tibetan regions, Mr. Trowo Gyaltsen’s “Eight Great Principles” and “Ten Rights” on Tibetcul.com, to let more Tibetan region educators raise their thinking and knowledge.

The following is a reply from Tenzin Yangjen Thar:

This year I have encountered this problem where I am, Tibetan teachers teaching class, Chinese teachers participating in evaluating classes, it’s truly laughable–but I hope these kinds of principals can wake up!

[ 2009-12-5 21:53:00 | By: Drolma]

The best shortcut is to strive to be a principal yourself!

The following is a reply from Tenzin Yangjen Thar:

This is also a kind of effective way to resolve the issue! Those with noble aspirations and promising youth, strive to be principals, save mother tongue from the midst of danger!

[ 2009-12-5 17:10:00 | By: Snowy jail dirty person (xue yu zang ren)]

Grasping mother-tongue medium education from primary school education, carried out by oneself, carried out from this moment is definitely worthy, in the primary school period, we should study Tibetan language, as well as encourage students to speak their mother tongue. However, generally speaking, in order to develop mother tongue language, to develop Tibetan language and script, the most important part is still that the civil servant employment exams for ethnic autonomous areas need to have a firm, foremost condition, that is the examination in the ethnic language, the country should place importance on this aspect, each level of ethnic minority government officials in ethnic autonomous areas must effectively implement this condition, success or failure depends on this.

The following is a reply from Tenzin Yangjen Thar:

I think: the position of schools is of the utmost importance.

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