A Confucius Institute volunteer teacher in a NSW public primary school. (YouTube: NSW Department of Education – Learning Systems)
The South Australian Greens are urging a review into controversial Chinese Government-backed education workshops currently running at three Adelaide schools.
- The Confucius Classrooms program has proved controversial, raising concerns over foreign influence
- A review has led to the scrapping of the Chinese-backed program in NSW public schools
- SA Greens MP Tammy Franks wants the SA Government to conduct a similar review
The New South Wales Department of Education this week expelled the Confucius Institute program from its public schools, following concerns over potential propaganda in classrooms.
A departmental review into the Confucius Classrooms program — which is overseen by Chinese Government agency Hanban — found no evidence of political interference but acknowledged there was a perception it “could be facilitating inappropriate foreign influence”.
The program has taught Mandarin in 13 public schools across Sydney and on the mid-north coast.
In South Australia, the Confucius Institute is based at the University of Adelaide and currently runs lessons for students at Salisbury High, Plympton International College and Christian Brothers College.
SA Greens MP Tammy Franks said the program raised questions about “academic integrity” and said the New South Wales review should serve as an example.
“The contracts across the world have shown disturbing levels of control over content, curriculum and hiring practices,” she said.
“The expansion of those needs to be halted and they need an urgent review. We need to make sure the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] doesn’t have control.
“We’d be foolish to believe that South Australia is somehow different … from other countries, from other states.”
Chinese Government agency Hanban provides learning materials. (YouTube: NSW Department of Education – Learning Systems)
Ms Franks — who this week called for laws to be strengthened after fake Chinese police cars were spotted in Adelaide and Perth — said she had written to SA Education Minister John Gardner calling for the matter to be investigated.
However, South Australia’s Department for Education said its version of the program was different from what existed the New South Wales and said there were “no current plans” for a review.
“The Confucius Institute has no role within South Australia’s Department for Education and language assistants work under the direction and supervision of a registered teacher,” the department said in a statement.
“The South Australian approach is very different to the NSW arrangement.
“In South Australia, Mandarin is taught according to the Australian Curriculum.”
Institute not registered under foreign influence scheme
The University of Adelaide has also defended the program, describing it as a “small unit” within the Faculty of Arts and also insisting it was different from the NSW model.
It said the program had been established “in partnership with Shandong University in 2007” to reinforce SA’s “sister-state relationship with Shandong Province”.
“Adelaide’s Confucius Institute (CI) focuses on the enhancement of intercultural understanding through the promotion of Chinese language and cultural awareness in the wider community,” a spokesperson said.
“The Adelaide CI provides one Chinese language assistant to each school one day a week to support the schools’ teachers, working with teachers in their Chinese classrooms or activities.
“These workshops are run at the request of those school teachers.”
The university said the institute played no role in the courses it offered to tertiary students.
“Students who are studying Chinese language at the University of Adelaide do so through courses in the University’s Department of Asian Studies,” the spokesperson said.
“Teaching content and quality are determined solely by the university.”
The spokesperson added that the Adelaide Confucius Institute was not registered under the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, saying it did not “fall under the category of registrable activities”.
Australia has the third-highest number of Confucius institutes and classrooms in the world — behind the US and the UK — with 14 institutes and 67 classrooms across the country.