Free Tibet ‘whitewash’ fears for East Dunbartonshire Confucius Classrooms

East Dunbartonshire Confucius Hub Chinese New Year Showcase 2014.
East Dunbartonshire Confucius Hub Chinese New Year Showcase 2014.

A campaign group has raised concerns about a Chinese teaching programme being used in schools in East Dunbartonshire.

Free Tibet says the council has received £28,000 from the Chinese Government to support ‘Confucius Classrooms’.

The campaign group is calling for reassurances that this won’t buy “a whitewash” of China’s human rights record and occupation of Tibet.

East Dunbartonshire’s Confucius Classroom hub opened in 2009 in St Ninian’s High School, in Kirkintilloch, and serves other schools across the district.

In her letter to the council, Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said: “Free Tibet appreciates the challenges schools face in providing Chinese-language teaching and we strongly believe that increased contact between the people of China and the people of Britain is a positive thing.

“Our concern is that, in the case of Confucius Classrooms, councils are facilitating that teaching and contact on terms effectively determined by a government that suppresses free speech inside its own borders, and which is responsible for widespread human rights abuses, particularly in Tibet.

“In engaging in a financial and educational relationship with China’s government, the council risks allowing that government a negative influence over the education its pupils receive and places itself at risk of a conflict of interest”

But Gordon Currie, the council’s director of education and children’s services, defended the scheme, which he said was jointly funded by the Scottish Government and Hanban (an organisation affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education), in partnership with the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools .

He explained: “We have been successfully involved with the Confucius Hub project for six years and the feedback from teachers and pupils has been extremely positive.

“The focus is language learning for both primary and secondary pupils and as with any modern language taught in our schools, the teaching of Mandarin is governed by national frameworks.

“All Hanban exchange teachers receive training on the Curriculum for Excellence prior to working in our schools and at no point can they impose the Chinese system or use their position to expound any particular political or religious opinions”