Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dr. Sangay's 10,000 Tibetan Professionals: A General Survey

“Education will be our number one priority... We will strive to reach 10,000 professionals among 150,000 in exile and appeal to Tibetans inside Tibet to reach 100,000 in the next two decades”
- Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay in his Inaugural Speech, Dharamsala, India.

The need of professionals for any given society is undisputable. The election of Dr. Lobsang Sangay for the post of Kalon Tripa (chief executive) of Central Tibetan Administration confirms the general agreement of Tibetan people on the need of professionals. Undoubtedly, this need was clearly reflected in the inaugural speech noted above. The policy of producing 10,000 Tibetan professionals (hereafter the policy) received wide spread support across the Tibetan Diaspora. This piece therefore takes a general survey of the policy by examining few of the critical aspects of Tibetan professionals. This piece may also benefit the forthcoming Tibet Policy Institute to envision, develop, and execute the policy. In this piece, first, I discuss the definition of a professional followed by a critique on the role of Tibetan professionals in Tibetan communities. Finally, I share my two recommendations.

Definitions of Professional

Generally, Governments are often criticized for the vagueness in its policies whether it is Chinese Twelfth Five-Year Plan or the US foreign policies. Vague policies are sometimes created with a number of positive as well as negative intentions. The vagueness in the above policy may not be an outcome of negative intentions. However, the term “Professionals” is vague with no clear definitions.

As any individual, the first destination to look for a definition of any words is the dictionary. In Oxford and Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a professional is a person engaged or qualified in a profession. This definition in no way helps to define a professional. Next, lets look at how Global Tibetan Professional Network (GTPN) defines a Tibetan professional. GTPN is the most prominent Tibetan professional organization that provides a platform where Tibetan professionals from diverse backgrounds can network with each other and find creative ways of contributing to the community ( GTPN defined a professional as “a person who is into a body of knowledge which requires a certain skill-set and which has been acquired through, either academic qualification or experience over a period of time”. This definition makes you wonder, “Am I a Tibetan professional?”. Interestingly, a Tibetan can register himself as a professional on the GTPN Website. Furthermore, I looked at several North American and Indian Professional Organization’s Websites for a more definite look at the term professional. My endeavors result in the same conclusion i.e., no clear definition of “a professional”.

Tibetan Professionals Role-play

Though the definition of a professional may be unclear, the Tibetan communities including Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has been identifying Tibetan professionals in general from a person’s academic background. However, the role assigned to Tibetan professionals, especially in CTA, is often criticized for its lack of flexibility as well as professional support. The rigid Central Tibetan Administrative Service rulebooks and the feeling of “on-the-wrong-job” often shy away many current and future professionals from the Tibetan jobs.

However, the role assigned to Tibetan professionals by the GTPN seems attractive minus pragmatic. The forum (GTPN conference) promotes the idea of a 'virtuous circle', or mentoring system, and defines the collective power of Tibetan professionals as a weapon in the "struggle against Chinese government and efforts to save unique cultural heritage". Beyond its economic and professional programs, it also aims to tackle political and social issues, and so help to build "a new type of Tibetan society and a new generation of Tibetans in diaspora and inside Tibet" (, in Tibetan Professionals Develop Global Vision). It’s attractive because it covers social, economic, and political dimensions of the Tibetan people. However, it’s less pragmatic with visions such as saving unique cultural heritage and building a new type of Tibetan society.


The definition of a professional in general may not be clear in the literature. However, Central Tibetan Administration needs to define “a Tibetan professional” to not only help draw a plan of action for the next two decades but also to help evaluate (measure) the success of the policy periodically. In addition, the need of a precise definition is important for two reasons: first, if we go by the GTPN’s definition of a Tibetan professional, the Tibetan exile community may already have 10,000 Tibetan professionals; and second, a clear definition will help to focus/provide the required resources and support to achieve the magical number of 10,000 Tibetan professionals.

Second, the policy of producing 10,000 Tibetan professionals is as important as the question of how these professionals will contribute to Tibet and Tibetan people. Central Tibetan Administration, for example, may institute an official internship/training opportunities for professionals, relaxed rules and regulations for professionals, professional freedom, and project-oriented and grant-based jobs. Moreover, I see a need of a professional unit within or outside CTA such as Institutional Review Board for Research on Tibet and Tibetan (IRBRTT). This institute may administer all human and non-human related research on Tibet and Tibetan in exile. This not only helps to obtain professional research works but also to connect with scientists (high level professionals).

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