Author Biography

Alice Travers (PhD, history, University of Paris-Ouest Nanterre La Défense, 2009) is a researcher in Tibetan history at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), working at the East Asian Civilisations Research Centre (CRCAO) in Paris. She is also teaching Tibet history at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO, Paris). She specialized in social history and wrote her PhD dissertation on the aristocracy of Central Tibet (1895-1959). She is now researching the “intermediate classes” of Tibetan society within the project “Social History of Tibetan Society” (SHTS), as well as the history of the Ganden Phodrang army.


The idea that there was no other type of education in pre-1951 Tibet than the religious education delivered in monasteries is common, as the idea that education in private schools—when their existence is acknowledged—was the preserve of a small social elite. This socio-historical study pursues three main goals: first, to highlight and document the existence of a rather important network of private schools in the first half of the 20th century in Lhasa and in other areas of the Ganden Phodrang territory; second, to describe this system of private schools and the education it provided; last, to illuminate the relationship with government schools and the questioning of the Tibetan concept of “private education”, by analyzing the socio-professional profile of most teachers of these private schools and their mode of students’ recruitment. The paper is based on secondary literature, as well as on my own research through interviews in Tibet and India and the reading of autobiographical accounts published in Tibet and in India.

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