The government is planning to raise the higher education gross enrollment rate in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region to 30 percent in less than five years, meaning that three out of every ten Tibetan students will enter college by 2015, local officials said Monday.
Tibet’s current gross enrolment rate stands at 23.4 percent, slightly lower than the national average of 26.5 percent, according to Song Heping, head of the regional government’s education department.
The government has earmarked 3 billion yuan (461.5 million U.S. dollars) for boosting enrollment and development in all six of Tibet’s higher education institutes between 2011 and 2015, Song said.
One-third of the funds will be invested in infrastructure, while the rest will be used to improve the quality of teaching and academic research in the six institutions.
More than 31,000 students, mostly ethnic Tibetans, currently study in Tibet’s six universities and junior colleges. Of them, 718 are pursuing post-graduate degrees. In addition, many students from Tibet are studying in universities outside the region, officials said.
The figures, though not impressive compared with other parts of China, are remarkable for Tibet. The country did not have a single school within its borders before being peacefully liberated in 1951. Education at that time was taken care of by the region’s monasteries, with limited educational access given only to monks and officials.
Between 1951 and 2010, the central government spent 40.73 billion yuan to build educational facilities in Tibet. The region’s illiteracy rate for young and middle-aged people has fallen from 95 percent to 1.2 percent over the last six decades, according to a white paper issued by the State Council Information Office in July.
While the government’s main focus has been placed on primary and secondary education in the past, higher education is about to receive a major boost.
The government will help Tibet University, the region’s top university, to grow into an internationally-recognized university, officials said.
“The school is not yet a leading university in China, but is becoming one,” said Professor Tubdain Kaizhub, head of the university’s economics and management department. “The school’s developmental momentum is so strong that we often feel great pressure,” he added.
The professor, who has been working at the university since 1985, described the changes that have taken place in Tibetan higher education over the past two decades as “tremendous.”
He said that when the university’s economics and management department was founded in 1987, there were fewer than 100 students enrolled in the department, and only ten teachers available to instruct them. Today, the department has over 800 students.
About 90 percent of the university’s graduates stay in Tibet to work, the professor said. “As Tibet is in its prime time for development, I am confident that the demand for college-educated workers will keep growing,” he said.