The School Today (2019)
Dagpo Thosam Ling School was opened in March 2004, a year before Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery was offically inaugurated, so great was the need for such a school.
It is affiliated with this monastic university and at the present time is still located on its grounds. The first ten years, children from the wide region came to follow classes. However, the conditions have changed and now the school provides the elementary education (8 classes) for at this moment eighty-six young monks between the ages 5-14.
The subjects taught are mathematics, biology, science, social studies, English, Hindi and Tibetan. There is a big focus on taking good care of the environment and sustainability. There are regular sports days.
There is a team of ten well qualified teachers and two ‘amala’s’ (care takers). The management consists of a teacher who has been teaching at the school since the beginning, as well as a member of the management of the monastery, venerable Sangya Lags. They are supported by an experienced school principal from a school nearby. They have the lovely tradition of celebrating teacher’s day every year.
The two most important reasons for establishing the Dagpo Thosam Ling school were:
- To provide the inhabitants of this region with education and an additional program where the children learn both the Tibetan language and culture. Thereby preserving Tibetan cultural values and, if required, further studies in Buddhism. This would also give the possibility to the children, in case of interest, to continue their education in the Tibetan language and culture and/or Buddhism.
- The location, near the monastery, was chosen to inspire the children and, at the same time, give the younger monks the same basic secular education. Bringing together the children and monks in a positive manner so they can learn from one another.
The school has been a resounding success. Student enrolment was increasing continually until 140 pupils in 2013. The academic achievement of the students have rated above average. However, ten years after the opening of the school, in 2013, it became clear that the school had to change its form:
- Firstly, the school was founded mainly for the local community, unfortunately, it turned out that very few students from the direct neighbouring villages actually enrolled. Although it was never the intention, the local community had fears that there could be pressure to convert. Most of the students come from the area of Meun (located further away), despite the fact that in the last three years monks from Drepung Gomang have founded schools in that area. The parents of these students, still attending Dagpo Thosam Ling School, are mainly interested in benefiting financially from the free education, housing and food provided by the school.
- The Indian government adopted a law that obliges free education, including books and uniforms, for the eight basic classes. (These are the same classes as in the school Dagpo Thosam Ling.) As a result, in the region of the Dagpo monastery, elementary education became accessible to everyone.
- Until 2013, very few students chose to continue their education in the Tibetan language or learning Buddhism.
Therefore, the principle reasons for the foundation of the school were no longer applicable and it was decided to not continue the school it that form, but to only offer elementary education to the young monks.
Concerning the land that had been bought to build a bigger school will not be used for the development of a study- and retreat centre for lay and ordained people.
The school has several challenges for the future:
- The building:
The school building is of a bad quality. The used building materials turned out to be of a bad material which causes the building to deteriorate quickly. The rooms are badly insulated and there is not enough functional ventilation. There is no heating and many rooms have moisture problems. Therefore, during winter, as long as it’s sunny, the classes are taking place outside, as with thick layers it is more comfortable outside than inside. We hope that with the help of the future renovation, this situation can improve drastically.
- Learning methods and tools:
In cooperation with the teachers, we are exploring how the quality of the education can improve and more modern teaching tools are considered. The teachers have also asked for a screen and a good wifi connection so that they can show educational videos to the students. The study methods for the three languages will also be assessed.