Negotiating contexts: a case study of a Tibetan boarding class in inland China from a Tibetan learner's perspective

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Jin, Tian
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This thesis presents a case study, exploring a Tibetan boarding class in inland China from a Tibetan learner’s perspective. As one of a number of forms of Chinese minority education, Tibetan boarding schools/classes are little known internationally (Wang & Zhou, 2003). To respond to the need for more research in this area, this case study gives voice to a Tibetan learner who experienced the boarding class. An attendee of a Tibetan boarding class in Jiahe served as the particular “case” in this study. Underpinned by a theoretical framework of language ecology, this study centers on a learner, considers the impacts of his referential contexts, and explores a particular Tibetan boarding class as an example of Chinese minority education in practice. Data collected through interviews, observations, and document review reveal that language learners constantly negotiate with multiple identities and interact with their referential contexts. Meanwhile, the multilayered and multifaceted referential contexts play an influential role in learners’ experiences and learning outcomes. Tibetan Education, as exemplified by the Tibetan boarding class, facilitates and encourages minority learners to participate in the mainstream education and the majority cultural practice. However, Tibetan education also impedes the maintenance and preservation of their indigenous languages. In conclusion, Chinese minority education endeavors to ensure that various ethnic and linguistic learners have educational opportunities and qualities to develop individuals’ ability; to strengthen their competence; to upgrade their social, educational, and economic situations; and to invest in what they define as worthwhile and valuable in a way that they view as effective. The present study is informed by multicultural education, a notion grounded and well studied in North American discourse. In addition, suggestions for further improvement of Tibetan boarding classes are also discussed. Yet in view of the variations between North American discourse and Chinese context, the notion of multicultural education can not be entirely applied to Chinese minority education. Therefore, future studies could aim to develop theories grounded in Chinese minority education context.
Tibetan boarding class, Case study, Chinese minority education, Multicultural education, Language ecology