Friday, June 14, 2024

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Prosperity on the plateau – free education for 15 years, from kindergarten to high school

Deqen Wangmo, a student at No. 8 Middle School in Lhasa, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, couldn’t be happier. Since education funding increased in the fall semester of this year, school meals are even better than before. But the benefits go far beyond the lunch table.

“We now have milk between classes,” he added. “And the school also supplies us with stationery, which means our families don’t have to buy them.”

The funding is a preferential education subsidy policy conducted specifically for the Tibet Autonomous Region. This was designed to benefit students from rural agricultural and pastoral backgrounds as well as disadvantaged students from urban areas, covering all tuition, food and accommodation costs from kindergarten to high school.

Schools in the region are entitled to an average annual grant of 4,200 yuan (about $ 640) per student, 14 times more than that in 1985, when free education was introduced, according to the latest data from the regional department of education.

So far, the Chinese government has spent more than 20 billion yuan to support the region’s free education program, making it more accessible to nearly nine million students.

By shifting the financial burden of supporting students from families to the government, the prospects of children from agricultural, pastoral, and disadvantaged backgrounds have changed dramatically, said Prof. Bagor of the Tibet Vocational Technical College, adding that the quality of education in the region has also improved considerably.

Students of all levels can also benefit from additional support through a number of projects and initiatives under 40 Education Support Projects, which offer grants and scholarships, among others.

Before the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, the enrollment rate of school-age children was less than 2%, while the illiteracy rate reached 95%.

Today, the latest gross enrollment ratio data in the region show the progress that has been made. Tibet today has 84.42% of preschoolers in education; 99.71% in primary school, 102.88% in middle school (over 100% due to those who start school late or have to repeat a year), 86.62% in high school, and 47.65% of university students.

Odser Lhamo, 73, who lived in serfdom for 12 years, was among the first generation to benefit from Tibet’s education policies.

After the democratic reform in Tibet in 1959, she was able to enroll in the present-day Minzu University of Tibet. She then worked in a local court after graduation and now receives a monthly pension. These possibilities would have been unimaginable for a person of his background in the past.

Deeply inspired by Ms Odser’s story, her grandson enrolled, many years later, at the same university, with his studies aided by a monthly scholarship.

Mrs. Odser and her grandson are not the only ones.

The number of Tibetan students in universities increased by 15%, from 33,000 in 2012 to 38,000 in 2019, while the number of students in secondary schools increased by 17%, from 196,000 to 230,000 for the same. period.

Education policies in Tibet “are changing the lives” of students today and for generations to come, she noted.

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