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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Agenda item 3
Interactive Dialogue: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to Education (A/HRC/20/21)
Statement by Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN), delivered by Mr. Ngawang CHOEPHEL
Thank you, Madame President,
We welcome that the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education has noted that many countries stress the importance of humanist values in education by promoting the values of a culture of peace, mutual understanding and international solidarity as such additional teaching-emphasis on “secular ethics” can help produce a more understanding world wherein respect for other views and concerns are tolerated without discrimination.
The report also noted that in China, article 3 of the Compulsory Education Law, amended in 2006, stipulates that State policy on education shall be implemented and quality-oriented education shall be carried out to improve the quality of education. China’s National Education Plan (2010-2020) sets improvement of quality in education as one of its main tasks, stipulating State standards for quality along with a policy framework to guarantee it.
While this approach could be considered good on paper, as to the ground realities when it comes to the quality of education for Mongolians, Uyghurs and Tibetans, the situation shows an alarming illiteracy rates, total lack of adequate educational facilities in rural areas and even new restrictions being imposed on the use of their languages.
In 2003, in the mission report on China, the Special Rapporteur “was dismayed at the illiteracy rate in Tibet, 39.5 per cent, and asked the Ministry of Education whether one reason might be the fact that the literacy test was in Tibetan, while Mandarin is used in political, economic and social life.” The Special Rapporteur recommended full integration of human and minority rights in education policy, law and practice.
Six year later, in 2009, CERD expressed its concern at reports that in practice Mandarin is the sole language of instruction in many schools in the autonomous minority provinces, especially at secondary and higher levels of education. We also know that CRC had urged China to ensure that all teaching and learning materials for the primary and secondary level are also available in ethnic minority languages and with culturally sensitive content.
Coming to the quality education China aspires, we alert the Special Rapporteur on the right to education that the overriding goal of Beijing's education policy for Tibetans is to instill loyalty to the "Great Motherland" and the Communist Party. Speaking at the "Tibet Autonomous Region » Conference on Education in Lhasa in 1994, the then regional Party Secretary, Chen Kuiyuan, said, "The success of our education does not lie in the number of diplomas issued to graduates from universities, colleges...and secondary schools. It lies, in the final analysis, in whether our graduating students are opposed to or turn their hearts to the Dalai Clique and in whether they are loyal to or do not care about our great motherland and the great socialist cause."
In conclusion, Madame President, this type of «quality» education imposes an alien political ideology upon the Tibetans who wish to ensure that quality education actually preserves their right to receive instructions in their own rich language while grasping the opportunities to master other languages. We, therefore, urge the Special Rapporteur to support our call for the withdrawal of all the restrictions being applied on the promotion and preservation of Tibetan language as the medium of instruction in Tibetan areas of the People’s Republic of China.
I thank you, Madame President.
19 June, 2012
 Two educators and a school official have been removed from their posts following widespread language-rights protests earlier this year by Tibetan students in northwestern China, as Chinese authorities continue to clamp down on assertions of Tibetan cultural and national identity, according to a local resident: http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/fired-06062012154114.html?searchterm=Language%20protests
 The Tibetan language is fundamental to Tibetan identity, culture and religion, and is one of the four oldest and most original languages of Asia. At a roundtable discussion in Washington, DC, scholar Nicolas Tournadre, professor of linguistics from the University of Provence and an expert on the Tibetan language, said: “There is a real threat of extinction or very serious decline of the Tibetan language and the Tibetan culture within two - or at the most three - generations. […] During the last 15 years, I have personally witnessed this decline. […] Languages are not neutral. They convey very specific social and cultural behaviors and ways of thinking. So, the extinction of the Tibetan language will have tremendous consequences for the Tibetan culture. The culture cannot be preserved without it. […] It is important because the Tibetan language and culture are extremely original. Forget about linguistics, medicine, or architecture; just take literature. Tibetan is one of the four oldest and greatest in volume and most original literatures of Asia, along with Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese literatures. So, that is a very good reason for the heritage of humanity to keep this culture: http://savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/protests-students-against-downgrading-tibetan-language-spread-beijing