Central School for Tibetans, Bylakuppe

Over 2,000 kilometers from Tibet, about 14,000 Tibetans live in exile in Bylakuppe, Karnataka which is a 2 hour drive from Mysore.  Today I visited their Central School for Tibetans in Bylakuppe (CSTB). The school was founded in 1961 shortly after the Karnataka state government gave land to the Tibetans who had fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama.

The school is in the state of Karnataka but funded by the federal government. There are 550 students from 6th to 12th Standard at the Secondary School. There are four primary feeder schools in the surrounding villages. Like all schools in India they have a tri-lingual system of instruction- the local language, English and Hindi.  Tibetan is the main language from 1st Standard to 5th with some English. From 6th Standard and up, English is the language of instruction. Students continue to take Tibetan in secondary school and Hindi is added to their curriculum. Students might also know some Kannada which is the local language of the Indian community of Bylakuppe.

Once I again, I witness what it is like living in this multi-lingual country. When I arrived this morning, there was some confusion about my entry into the camp.  The principal thought I might need a special permit from the local police station for the school visit.  Thankfully, Issac my taxi driver, was able to translate my purpose in Kannada to the local Indian police station. And then explained to the principal in his native Malayalam that the visit was fine. (Malayalam  is the official language of Kerela, his home state next to Karnataka.) I watched in awe and give Issac a nice New York tip.

The school was like many Indian schools I have visited except most of the children are Tibetan with a sprinkling of Indian students. The school follows the CBSE curriculum like DMS, Mysore and the 10th standard students have their CBSE exams coming up. Since the school is administered out of Delhi teachers come from all over India and are both Tibetan and Indian.  Many of the teachers have taught in other camps as well.  Like most schools there are portraits of Gandhi and other Indian leaders.  But at CSTB a smiling Dali Lama joined these men.  I meant to get a photo of this!

The sign reads, "A Hearty Welcome to the Tibetan Settlement Camp."

CSTB 9th Standard English Class- They all giggled when I told them I have students names Tsering, Tashi and Dolma back in NYC!

Sixth standard students having their free mid-day meal- rice and dal!

I will need my Tibetan students back in NYC to translate this sign.

Campus grounds with Tibetan pray flags. There is a pray session every morning before classes.


The Almighty Board Exams

On Tuesday, DMS had a send off celebration for the 10th graders.  It was time for them to go home for their “study holiday.”  The CBSE board exams start in the beginning of March and I am told that they must study, study and study!  Parents will watch over their children to make sure they are studying for hours every day.  These exams are not as high stakes as they once were but the intensity around them remains.

10th Standard students come back to school during their study holiday to work in groups and ask teachers for help.

Water Cooler Chat

6th Standard boys taking a water break. DMS has two walter filters. Some schools in India do not have this necessity.


Contrast DMS to this small village school in Coorg. The students in this one room school house just recently received a water filter though private donations.

At the village school there is no rickshaw or bus for the students. They walk between 3 and 5 kms home. I know I would need some water after that morning hike.

Indian English

Here are some new English words and phrases I have learned:

  • Britishers= the British
  • hotel= restaurant
  •  hostel= dormitory
  •  “What is your good name?”= What is your first name?
  • shift= to move As in: My father was shifted from London to Washington DC.
  • take the class= to teach the class
  • question paper= test
  • answer script= answer sheet
  • time table= schedule
  •  to bunk= to cut class
  • batch= group As in: Each batch of students took the test.
  • timings= store hours
  • Madame/Ma’m= Ms.        Instead of Miss I am “Madame” to my students and many other people.
  • Sir=Mr. If you do not know someone’s name just call them mam or sir! Or if you are in a more familiar situation use Auntie/Uncle. This is a life saver for me since many names are hard for me to pronounce!