Qinghai will not rush over language reform
The Qinghai government said it would not rush to implement a policy of using Putonghua as the main teaching language in Tibetan-populated areas after protests broke out in several prefectures.
However, official documents show that the government set a timetable to use Putonghua as the key teaching language in all primary schools by 2015.
Xinhua confirmed that protests took place in several prefectures including Malho (Huangnan in Chinese), Tsolho (Hainan), Tsojang (Haibei) and Golog (Guolo) against the new education policy from last Sunday to Wednesday.
Under the 'bilingual education policy', Putonghua will replace Tibetan as the main teaching language in all subjects except Tibetan and other foreign language classes in Qinghai's Tibetan schools.
The protests spread to Beijing on Friday, as hundreds of Tibetan students staged a demonstration in Minzu University calling for the protection of minority languages, according to London-based Free Tibet and online postings.
Xinhua said the protests were sparked by misunderstanding about the new policy.
It cited provincial education official Wang Yubo as saying the government would not hastily implement the policy unless conditions were satisfactory.
'We will fully listen to and respect all opinions and suggestions raised by students and their parents,' Wang was quoted as saying.
The policy would 'only be implemented in areas where conditions are ripe and not otherwise'.
However, Beijing-based Tibetan activist Tserang Woeser said Wang's remarks were not an indication that the government had come to a compromise.
According to a blueprint of Qinghai's education policies for the next 10 years issued last month, the government aims to have all primary schools use Putonghua as the teaching language by 2015. It also lays down targets to set up kindergartens mixing Han and minority children and send at least 6,000 minority students to study outside Qinghai by 2015.
An open letter to students and teachers, which was posted on the government website on Friday, said the government had decided that all schools should use Putonghua as the teaching language and all students should be able to master Putonghua. It urged all teachers to promote the policy.
Woeser said the so-called bilingual education reform was politically driven.
'After the massive protests in Lhasa on March 14, 2008, the authorities found that many young Tibetans taking part in the protests were those studying in ethnic schools (schools especially for Tibetans).'
She believes the government wanted to marginalise the Tibetan language among young people in Horder to dilute their anti-Han sentiment.
The reform was aimed at 'diluting Tibetans' ethnic consciousness and their sense of belonging to their mother tongue', Woeser said.
'It is an experiment in Qinghai's Tibetan-populated area. But it will be extended to other ethnic minority areas if the central government finds it successful.'
She said the government and businesses should not use fluency in Putonghua as a criterion to hire Tibetan civil servants and employees if it really wanted to improve their job opportunities.