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Reviewed by:
  • Teaching and Learning in Tibet: A Review of Research and Policy Publications, and: State Growth and Social Exclusion in Tibet: Challenges of Recent Economics Growth
  • Gray Tuttle (bio)
Ellen Bangsbo. Teaching and Learning in Tibet: A Review of Research and Policy Publications, NIAS Report no. 46. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2004. vii, 150 pp. Paperback £12.99, ISBN 87-91114-30-6. E-book £6.00, ISBN 87-91114-31-4.
Andrew Martin Fischer. State Growth and Social Exclusion in Tibet: Challenges of Recent Economic Growth, NIAS Report no. 47. Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, 2005. xxvi, 187 pp. Hardcover £42.00, ISBN 87-91114-75-6. Paperback, £14.99, ISBN 87-91114-63-2.

These two recent titles in the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press's collection on Tibetan topics are an important addition to scholarly knowledge of contemporary Tibet.1 The two works share some features, such as being brilliantly informative on their respective topics given their narrow use of English language source materials. They differ in that Ellen Bangsbo conducted a straightforward literature review, full of insights but without a developed analysis, whereas Andrew Fischer deeply analyzed Chinese statistical yearbooks to illuminate, often with clear graphs and figures, the world of current Tibetan development and economics.

Bangsbo has done the fields of Tibetan studies and minority education in China a great service by collecting and summarizing the state of scholarly knowledge about education in Tibet up to 2003. Teaching and Learning in Tibet is properly described as a working paper (p. vii) with the circumscribed goal of surveying the English language literature on education in Tibet, including some fourteen articles by Chinese and Tibetans translated from Chinese and collected in four issues of Chinese Education and Society. Her work is distinguished from other major studies of Tibetan education, such as Catriona Bass's 1998 Education in Tibet (limited to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, or TAR) or Åshlid Kolas and Monika Thowsen's 2005 On the Margins of Tibet (focused on the Tibetan areas outside the TAR), by its survey of the entire Tibetan cultural region. Bangsbo has divided her book into two sections: Part One outlining critical topics and findings on "Teaching and Learning in Tibet" and Part Two consisting of an annotated bibliography.

A major contribution of Bangsbo's study is her division of the current knowledge of education in Tibet into five main topics and their impact on education in Tibet. Thus, the first section is organized as a finding aid and summary of the literature around these five topics: (1) educational policies, (2) teaching and curriculum, (3) teachers' education and training, (4) access and participation, and (5) international development aid and the implications for educational projects in Tibet. She introduces each topic at the start of its respective chapter, then proceeds [End Page 338] to extract the most pertinent information from the wealth of her sources, which she often cites at length one after another (pp. 22-25). One weakness of this style is that Bangsbo's voice is sometimes difficult to hear, though the logic of her selection of passages becomes clear by the end of the first section. A selected bibliography at the end of each chapter directs readers with specific interests to the annotated bibliography at the end of the book.

Part Two, the full bibliography, serves as another admirable tool for researchers interested in Tibetan and minority education in China. Excluding the selected bibliographies, after reading less than 100 pages of the main text and the annotated bibliography, the reader has a broad sense of the state of field of English language literature on Tibetan education, an impressive feat indeed. Bangsbo's choice of topics and issues revolves around a concern for improving education for Tibetans, and her two main recommendations are for introducing "a policy of 'child-centered schools' and 'quality teaching' (from an international perspective)" oriented toward getting all students to actively participate, think critically, ask questions, and voice opinions (p. 81). This is opposed to the domestic definition of quality education, which is focused mostly on selecting the best students from those who perform well on standardized tests...


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