The first day of school year 2014-2015, new students waiting in long line for registration, after registration new students must take the entrance exam so the school can place them in appropriate class. There were 146 new students registered.
New students waiting in line for registration (left)
The Hungkar Dorje Ethic Vocational High School is created to preserve and protect traditions and culture of Tibetan. All the students at Hungkar Dorje Ethic Vocational High School must study for 3 years. They must study all the core subjects in the first year:
In the 2nd year they must choose their major.
However the students who will take Tibetan medicine and thangka as their majors in their 2nd year will start to study some medicine and thangka painting in their first year.
Most students are from Golog but many others are one or even two days travel away. Approximately 90% of the students have never been to school before. When asked they have all said they chose a Tibetan school, this school, to study and preserve their culture. They knew of the school through friends, but mainly because it was Alak Hunkar Dorje’s school and he is a famous Lama. Others commented on the exams to enter the school being more accessible than other schools.
Each September the school will take new students from all Tibetan areas. The students must all come and register on a certain day in September. However if a student is interested in studying in the school they are allowed to come to the school before September and enroll. Last year a young monk came and enrolled in June and he started in September.
School usually starts on September 1st and continues until December 31st. Then spring term begins about March 9th. The school, as all schools in Golok, closes mid May to mid June to dig caterpillar fungus (Tibetan: Yartsa Gumbu, Vietnamese: Đông Trùng Hạ Thảo. This is the major source of income of people living in Golog.) Then the final term is mid June to August 1st or 2nd. However the graduate class usually graduates and leaves about July 25th. Last September approximately 160 new students, three new classes, started at the school. So that term there were approximately 310 students. This year, 2014, 32 students, the Tibetan major class, graduated. Next year, 2015, 4 classes will graduate: thangka, tailor, dance and medicine classes, with approximately 60 students.
Students typically get up at 6:00 am and quickly get ready to go down to study outdoors; each student bring their own stool and sits in the school courtyard to study (no acception for any season) until 7:00am. Then from 7:00am to 7:40am they go to their classroom to pray together, then self study. Breakfast starts at 7:40am to 8:20am. First class starts at 8:20am to 9:20am. Second class starts at 9:30am to 10:30am. From 10:30am to 10:50am is exercise which is running around the school and then a stretching routine exercise from a Chinese CD. Last year their exercise was Tibetan dancing. From 10:50am to 11:50am class time, then 12:00pm to 12:30pm a short class. Lunch is served from 12:30pm to 1:00pm in the school canteen. Some students who are from the village are allowed to eat at home. After lunch, from 1:00pm to 3:00pm the students have rest time. Then afternoon class starts from 3:00pm to 4:00pm, 4:10pm to 5:10pm and 5:20pm to 6:30pm. Dinner is served at 6:30pm. After dinner, from 7:00pm to 8:00pm all the students must study outside in the courtyard (in all seasons). Then from 8:00pm to 9:40pm is self study in the classrooms. Sometimes they will have extra tutoring in this time. Then lights out is 10:00pm.
School has class on Saturday, but from 10:30am to 11:30am is a school meeting where school rules and events are discussed. Then they are free from noon to Sunday evening at 7:00pm when they must return to school. But if a student is going to their home or to a friend’s home the adult picking them must sign them out and leave a phone number and finger print.
Each week there are 2 teachers who are school monitors and they are responsible for making sure the students don’t break rules and are studying hard. Punishments are cleaning around the school; if winter, preparing the coal for teachers and doing prostration, sometimes 10,000 prostrations, depending on what has happened. Students are not allowed buy or eat fizzy drinks or unhealthy food in school time. They are not allowed mobile phones during the school week. Also they are obviously given a punishment if they fight or steal. But they are always given another chance. Students are responsible for picking up rubbish in and outside the school and burning it.
There is also a Tibetan language organization in the school and each class has a member. This person will record each time that a student uses a mixed Chinese and Tibetan word in their conversation. Students are encouraged to speak pure Chinese or Tibetan but not mixing Chinese and Tibetan together. Each Saturday morning when all the school gathers for a meeting, the class who has the highest marks of speaking mixing Chinese and Tibetan words is given a black flag to hang in their classroom for the week. On this flag, it says in Tibetan, I am Tibetan, I don’t know Tibetan." The students must all study Khenpo Tsultrim Lodoes book of new Tibetan vocabulary. Then at the Saturday morning meeting, random students are often called up to be tested. Then sometimes the whole school must take a Tibetan mother tongue exam. In November 2013 and July 2014 they had 2 whole school exams. After each exam there is a big award ceremony the next week for all the students who got 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each class.
The school has two principals and 22 teachers. All are Tibetan except the English teacher who s from Ireland. This is a private school so the wages of the teachers are often 50 to 70% less than those who would work in a government school in Golok. However the teachers who have a degree can apply to do an exam and get a government wage.
The school provides free housing for all the teachers, the teachers pays for their own food and electricity. In the winter, the school provides a certain amount of coal for each teacher to use for heating in the teacher’s home stove. There are 2 dormitories, one for boys, and one for girls. Very few students sleep out of school, even those from the local village. There are up to seven students in each room, with bunk beds. This year new flooring and under floor electric heating has been installed in all the classrooms, teachers and students rooms. But it is not needed until October when it starts to get cold again.
After graduation at this school most students transfer to Lanzhou Nationalities University. The students from our school are given special compensation and are allowed study in the school even if they fail the entrance exam as they have only been to school 3 years, the other students maybe 11 or 12. However other students chose to apply to other universities like Chengdu where they must pass the entrance exams. This year's graduation class are hoping to study in Lhasa, Dartsedo in Kham, Chengdu and even Shanghai and Beijing to study Chinese.
The students are given a real chance to sing and dance, with Tibetan music and dance being really encouraged. Also this summer, 2014, the school is being represented by students singing and dancing at local festivals in Maqin and Gabde.
In 2014 the school installed a computer room with 40 computers that were donated by Blue Valley Foundation in the United States for computer classes. The school also acquired fiber optic for high speed Internet with wifi capability for online computer classes to be offered in 2014. The school has one Tibetan teacher to teach computer classes. An ESL certified teacher, Ava Fruin, will spend 3 weeks at the school setting up the computers and installing Mythware Language Labs for more advanced study in English and Mandarin.
There are outside restrooms at the back of the school, one for girls, boys, female teachers, male teachers. There are also two basketball courts, newly concreted. There is a large hall used for dance practice, meetings and exams.
Rinpoche giving blessing and certificate of recognition for outsanding students
Dance rehearsal for graduation (left), student taking exam (right)