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I. Education in Old Tibet Under Feudal Serfdom


Tibetan education enjoys a history of more than 1,000 years, beginning with the creation of a Tibetan written script during the Tubo Kingdom. Under the Feudal Serfdom characteristic of the temporal and religious administration, however, Tibetan society was underdeveloped. Naturally, Tibetan educational progress was severely impeded. In 1951, when Tibet was peacefully liberated, its education level compared extremely unfavorably with world progress and even lagged far behind China's hinterland.

Before its peaceful liberation in 1951, Tibet had no regular schools in the modern sense. Monastic education was the chief form of education. In major cities towns, there were a few small, low-level schools to train future lay and monk officials. Statistics show that, in addition to monastic education, there were about 20 schools run by local governments, and nearly 100 private schools, with a total enrollment of less than 1000 students.

The right of education in old Tibet was in the hands of serf owners. The education contained strong class nature and religious flavor. The schools, aimed at nurturing lay and monk officials for every field of Tibetan life, enrolled pupils mainly from monks and the children of the aristocracy and government officials. The subjects taught ranged from the morality of the noble class to the knowledge and techniques required to be a ruler. They included Tibetan language, calligraphy, document composition, calculation. Sanskrit language and religious etiquette. There were no courses in natural sciences, such as mathematics, physics and chemistry. The schools boasted neither qualified teachers nor unified teaching materials and proper classrooms. Instead, monks served as teachers, scriptures were used as teaching materials, and sutra halls and dorms served as classroom. There was no special management organ, and no plan for regular terms. Students were taught mainly to read and write. Even this kind of education was not available to the ordinary Tibetan people. The government stipulated, for example, that children of blacksmiths and butchers were not allowed to school; and children from the families of common people, who were lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend school, could not sit with aristocratic students, And after graduation they could not take a job, but went back home. Therefore, less than 2 percent of school-age children attended school and the illiteracy rate amounted to 95 percent on the eve of Tibet's peaceful liberation in l95l.

In a nutshell, Tibetan education under feudal serfdom was backward and declining, as was also the case in politics, economics and social development. Modern education did not exist. The following is a brief introduction to education in old Tibet.

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