The Mayul School (also called the Hungkar Dorje Multi-Disciplinary Technical School) is a new vocational school for Tibetans in Gande County, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, China. The school is located in one of the poorest regions of one of China’s least developed provinces. Historically, Golog was part of the Amdo region of Tibet, and 90% of the population of this region is Tibetan. Building of the school began in April 2008 and it is nearly complete. The facilities, which include dorms, a cafeteria, classrooms, library, and an administration building, will eventually serve 600 students. Approximately 200 students, boys and girls ages 10-21, studied at the school in the fall semester 2009, and more are expected to enter in spring 2010.
The Tibetan population of China is historically underserved in terms of education. Rates of high school graduation remain in the single digits (2% according to one 2002 report) and the public education that is available demands Mandarin Chinese as the language of instruction, meaning that many educated Tibetans are unable to read their own language. Recent Chinese government policy directed toward the Tibetan nomadic population in Qinghai and elsewhere has made the need for educational training more acute. To preserve the fragile rangeland, which is undergoing rapid desertification due to decades of failed agricultural policy, the Chinese government is forcing the settlement of Tibetan nomadic populations. This has meant the loss of the nomads’ traditional livelihoods of raising herd animals and threatens the destruction of their culture.
The Mayul School aims to sustain Tibetan culture and provide vocational training for the local nomadic population within and beyond Qinghai. The students study math, Tibetan language and literature, Chinese language, and English. There are plans to develop training programs in computer use as well as traditional Tibetan arts including thangka painting, weaving, and Tibetan medicine.
With a Nagwang Choephel Fellowship, faculty and graduate students from the Center for East Asian Studies from the University of Kansas (KU) are assisting the Mayul School in developing a curriculum in the arts as vocational training, particularly by supporting instruction in thangka painting. They traveled to the school for a month in the summer of 2009, where they taught English daily and met with Mayul School faculty regularly to discuss pedagogy and long range planning. The same group plans to return to Golog in the summer of 2010. In fall semester 2010, five students from the Mayul School will study at KU’s Applied English Center. After their studies are complete, they will return to Golog to become instructors at the Mayul School. More information about the University of Kansas’s involvement can be found on the project website: http://mayulschool.wordpress.com
Eric C. Rath, University of Kansas