New Scoring System on Entrance Exams Raises Bar For Tibetans Pursuing Native Language Studies

The reduced weight of Tibetan language scores means fewer Tibetans will be accepted at top tier secondary schools.
New Scoring System on Entrance Exams Raises Bar For Tibetans Pursuing Native Language Studies Students sit at attention in a classroom during a government-organized media tour at the Lhasa Nagqu Second Senior High School in the regional capital Lhasa, in China's Tibet Autonomous Region, on June 1, 2021.

A new edict reducing the weight of Tibetan language scores on entrance exams for students in Tibetan areas of China has made it more difficult for them to gain admission to top tier secondary schools where they can pursue formal study of their native tongue, according to sources.

According to a notice issued last week by the Ministry of Education in the Malho, Tsolho and Yulshul Tibetan areas of Qinghai province—a copy of which was recently obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service—Tibetan language scores on the 2021 New School Admission Entrance Exam will now be weighed equally to those for Chinese and English.

In prior years, Tibetan language scores were weighed the most heavily among all other subjects in grading the exam and placing students in middle and high schools, sources told RFA.

Tibetan students often seek placement in national-level secondary schools that offer studies in Tibetan as well as Chinese and other languages, but the bar to acceptance in these institutions will now be more difficult because in the change of exam scoring, said a Tibetan from Qinghai, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“National middle and high schools are considered more reputable, and the grades obtained in these schools carry greater significance upon graduation,” the source said.

Tibetan language instruction is largely phased out in Tibetan areas of China beginning in secondary school, leaving Tibetan students few options to pursue formal studies in their native tongue.

A student in Yushul told RFA that the new scoring system had dashed his dreams of pursuing education at a top tier secondary school and continuing to learn Tibetan.

“Due to the increase in the score margin this year, I was not able to gain admission to the national middle and high school,” they wrote in a text message.

“But if you are admitted into any other general or Chinese middle and high school, they don’t teach Tibetan, and I love my language—therefore I am considering returning to junior high school.”

China’s constitution enshrines the languages of its minority groups on paper, but authorities have increasingly placed restrictions on their usage in the education system, while those with limited proficiency in the national language often encounter barriers to employment and other services offered by the state.

Karma Tenzin, a researcher at the Tibet Policy Institute in Dharamsala, India, told RFA that the new scoring system will have a chilling effect on native language proficiency among Tibetans living under Chinese rule.

“Due to the requirement of a high score margin to gain admission to these national schools [which are the only that teach Tibetan], many Tibetan students who wish to enroll in them are not able to make it,” he said.

“Instead, they have to enroll in schools where more than 90 percent of the instruction is in Chinese and that poses a long-term threat to the Tibetan language.”

Reported by Sangyal Kunchok for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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