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Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay addressing the conference of the presidents of the Tibetan communities in Europe in Boldern, Switzerland. Photo:Tibet Bureau

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Dharamshala, January 10 – Standing at a podium within the lower Tibetan Children's Village school, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay offered words of support and hope to a crowd gathered at the 6th Tibetan General Conference on Education.

"Education is the only means through which Tibetans can improve our human resources and capacity for the administration as well as the Tibetan cause."

According to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Prime Minister concluded the successful three-day conference by expressing his gratitude to the teachers who have continued to make progress by the standards of the Basic Education Policy of Tibetan exiles. "We have done pretty well as far as the literacy rate is concerned because Tibetan community's literacy rate is 84 percent. Having said that, we need to really improve the quality so that after they graduate from high school they can go to IIM (Indian Institute of Management), IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) and the leading universities around the world."

Sources report this event was the largest ever Tibetan-in-exile gathering for education, with over 200 teachers representing 37 schools across India and Nepal attending the conference. These participants, reported the CTA, were divided into 10 sub-committees which held in-depth conversations on various aspects of the Tibetan educational system, culminating in the passage of three resolutions. The first stressed the importance of primary education, the second focused on teacher professional development, and the third explicitly supported the efficacious implementation of the Basic Education Policy.

Although the literacy rate for the Tibetan Autonomous Region is estimated at around 55 percent, the exile population's programs have been responsible for a steady increase in Tibetan-in-exile education. Dr Sangay compared this current situation to those of other populations: ""The literacy rate of Tibetans in exile is 84 percent and comparing that with Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal, our condition is better... It is all because of the hard work of teachers and principals."

The CTA established the Basic Education Policy to fulfill the Charter of Tibetans in Exile. The charter stated, "Towards enhancing the imparting of education, an ideal education policy meeting the real basic needs of Tibet shall be formulated." The policy itself includes comparisons of the Tibetan educational system and more recent educational programs, subjects of study, and details on how examinations should be used to promote students throughout the educational system itself.

This content, alongside other relevant details and descriptions, aims to fulfill the CTA's desire of a holistic education for Tibetans. The 'holistic' model includes many factors, one of which is for education "to be recognised as a means of achieving temporary as well as long-term welfare for the self and others. In particular, it is to be recognised as a vehicle of social welfare and service."

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