For a Tibetan child, it is enviable to be selected for an educational program in a big city like Beijing, but Goinqog Lozhoi said he felt equally lucky to have the chance to hear lectures by teachers from big Chinese cities without leaving his schoolroom in the mountainous Bomi County.
The 13-year-old boy said he and his schoolmates owe the chance to the distance-learning network in Tibet.
The project launched in 2002 targets at all schools in the southwestern region of China, and so far has networked over 300 schools.
Goinqog's school, the Songzong Township Central Primary School, which is some 700 kilometers from the regional capital of Lhasa, now has a satellite receiver and eight 34-inch color TV sets for its 205 students. Goinqog and his schoolmates can listen to lectures by teachers from Beijing and other big cities of China on the TV sets.
Children from herding families in Tibet like Goinqog are also enjoying improved schoolhouses.
Lu Shicheng, an official in charge of schoolhouse construction and renovation, said they are usually the best buildings in herding areas in the autonomous region.
Lu said that in 2002 alone, the central government allocated 425 million yuan (some US$51 million) for the reconstruction and renovation of the mud-brick schoolhouses in these areas.
Altogether, 14,500 square meters of schoolhouses were constructed or renovated in the past two years, Lu said. However, some 472,000 square meters are still left untouched, accounting for over 17 percent of the total areas of schoolhouses in the region.
Song Heping, director of the region's department of education, said that educational investment from both the central and regional governments has been increasing and it seems likely the rest schoolhouses will be rebuilt or renovated.
Since 1998, both governments have injected a total of 500 million yuan (US$60 million) toward educational development in the region. The money has been used to build and renovate schoolhouses, purchase teaching facilities and train teachers in 60 counties of the autonomous region. As a result, some 300 primary schools have seen improved teaching conditions.
Wu Degang, an educational expert in Tibet, said that before 1951, there were no modern schools in Tibet except six old style schools for monks and officials and a few private schools, which could only provide schooling to about 1,000 students.
At that time only one percent of school-aged Tibetan children could attend school, and the illiteracy rate was 95 percent, the expert said.
The central government established the first modern school in Tibet, the Qamdo Primary School, in March 1951, Wu said, and ever since it has made great efforts to build a modern educational system in the region, including kindergarten education, elementary education, higher education and vocational education.
By the end of 2002, there were 3,009 schools in Tibet, which provide education to over 410,000 students. Nearly 89 percent of primary-school-aged children receive education.
In the autonomous region with a population of 2.62 million, the national nine-year compulsory education program is now enforced in eight out of its 74 counties, cities and prefectures, covering 433,000 people, and illiteracy is basically eliminated in 28 of the counties, cities and prefectures, covering a population of 1.14 million.
Statistics show that at present, out of every 100,000 Tibetans,1,262 have college education background, as against 565 in 1990.
Colleges and universities in the autonomous region have also launched their own master's degree programs and the first batch of these masters have graduated.
Yadie, a teacher of the Lhoba ethnic group in a school in Lilong township of Mainling county in eastern Tibeta, said students from needy families can all get government subsidies for food, clothing and lodging at school.
The teacher said that the six-year compulsory education program is available to all Tibetan and Lhoba children near the school seat.
The nation adopted a policy in 1985 which stipulates that the expense for food, clothing and lodging of Tibetan students from needy families be covered by government subsidies.
In the 2001-2005 period, the government will provide 640 million yuan (US$77 million) in subsidies for the schooling of 180,000 Tibetans in farming and herding areas.
Colleges and universities in comparatively developed provinces and municipalities in China launched a program recruiting Tibetan students in 1985, and so far, 47,640 Tibetan students have graduated from the program.
(Xinhua News Agency March 28, 2003)