Historical Background of Tibetan Education in Exile
Following the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, about one thousand Tibetan refugees followed HH The Dalai Lama into exile. Most of them settled down in India. Tibetan Education in Exile owe a huge debt of gratitude to HH The Dalai Lama and the early Tibetan leadership in exile for their vision, dedication and commitment. With great support from the Government of India and other nonprofit organizations, they established close to a hundred Tibetan schools in exile. Aside from catering to the education of the Tibetan children in exile, these schools also helped to transmit the Tibetan culture to the children. Together with the monasteries, they became sanctuaries for an endangered culture.
Current Trends and Issues
Sadly, at this time, Tibetan schools in India are facing a declining enrollment trend. There are a couple of reasons for this:
For starters, the Tibetan population in exile in India and Nepal is shrinking due to interesting social and economic pushes within the Tibetans in Diaspora. While the influx of escapees from Tibet has slowed to a trickle, there is a persistent push for Tibetans in the subcontinent to find ways to migrate West.
Many Tibetans in the subcontinent are happily moving ahead economically. Families that can afford it are now seeking admission for the children in quality Indian private schools.
The Way Forward for Tibetan Education in Exile
While migration trends of Tibetans might not be in the control of Tibetan educators, TCEF feels that everyone connected with Tibetan education in exile must try to raise the quality of education in our schools so that Tibetan schools continue to be first choice of all Tibetans. We cannot stress enough how important this is – not only for Tibetan schools in exile, but also for the transmission and survival of our culture. Tibetan schools have been sanctuaries of our culture, a place for Tibetan children to learn about our history and spiritual heritage. If the cream of our children migrate to Indian schools, we lose the opportunity to teach them our culture and we may possibly lose them as cultural Tibetans.
Improving the quality of education is going to take a multi faceted effort – involving quality teacher training, building an exception cadre of Tibetan education leadership and then transforming Tibetan classrooms with education technologies. And right here – transforming Tibetan classrooms is where we feel TCEF can make a vital difference – maybe not for all Tibetan schools, but at least in a few select schools.
At TCEF, we feel strongly that is high time we bring the internet and related technologies into Tibetan classrooms in exile. Sara Tellman Veloz, TCEF board member, also an education consultant who works with the states of California and Arizona point out that the use of internet and related education technologies has increased dramatically in American classrooms. She has no doubt that this in indeed the way forward for Tibetan Education in Exile.
TCEF will partner with select schools to implement this project. Participating schools will commit to this program, offer relevant training to teachers, explore available Open Education Resources (OERs) resources and procure ‘smart classroom’ software developed specifically for the curriculum taught in the Tibetan schools in exile.
TCEF’s role will be to help build the ICT infrastructure in the schools – procuring lap tops is a key component of this project. With the present trends towards increased online learning, this project becomes all the more important for Tibetan students in exile.