Khen Rinpoche Lobzang Tsetan, a Tibetan Buddhist monk and educator, founded the Siddhartha School in 1995 in his remote home village of Stok, Ladakh. What started in a one-room shed is now an exemplary private school with over 300 students in grades K through 10.
The Siddhartha School gives the children of Ladakh access to the highest-quality, thoroughly modern education in the region, while also honoring their life-ways and traditions in the curriculum and school activities. Children at the Siddhartha School learn four languages (English, Hindi, Tibetan and Ladakhi), computer skills, sciences, math, creative arts and social studies.
Unique in Ladakh, no child is denied admission to Siddhartha School on the basis of need.
Located in the high Himalayas of northern India, Ladakh is among the last places on earth where a traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture remains unrepressed. But rapid modernization and the global market economy threaten Ladakh’s sustainable, communal and deeply peaceful way of life.
Why is a private school that accepts poor children so important? Ladakh is far outside the Indian cultural mainstream. Few teachers speak Ladakhi, a dialect of Tibetan, and there are no local-language textbooks. A focus on rote-learning in government schools further weakens the curriculum. More than 70% of the students in Leh, the region’s commercial hub, fail the crucial government exam that is required to move beyond 10th grade. Outside Leh the failure rate is much, much higher.
Created and led by local people, Siddhartha School is in the vanguard of Ladakh’s educational reform initiative. In 2008 and 2009, 100% of the first two graduating glasses passed the government exam. A female student in each class, set and then broke the highest exam records ever achieved in all of the Jammu Kashmir region.