Campaign group call for clarity

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A campaign group is calling for greater scrutiny of North Lanarkshire Council’s connections to the Chinese government.

Free Tibet has contacted the council with concerns about its “Confucius Classrooms” project, which teaches Chinese language skills to pupils.

Campaigners have asked the council to clarify its financial arrangements with the Chinese regime and ensure it does not “whitewash” China’s human rights record in occupied Tibet.

The North Lanarkshire Confucius Hub opened at Our Lady’s High School in 2009 and serves multiple schools in the area.

Free Tibet says the council’s answers to Freedom of Information Act requests show NLC is earning £10,000 each year from the Chinese government, which has also subsidised trips to China for council officials including the executive director of education.

Free Tibet is also concerned about the use of “Tianjin” teachers, who are Chinese government employees, and whether their lessons ignore human rights abuses and other issues.

Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:“Free Tibet isn’t out to condemn educators doing their best to provide opportunities for their pupils in a tough economic climate.

“But a secondary school pupil who studies China and is taught nothing about its occupation of Tibet, its denial of freedom to its own citizens and its appalling human rights record is receiving propaganda instead of education.

“If the price of Chinese-language teaching is a whitewash of China’s injustices, then too high a price is being paid.

“We’re offering our help to Our Lady’s High School to ensure that there is balance in the education its pupils receive - but the responsibility for ensuring that China does not have an undue influence on secondary education lies with the council.”

A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council insisted that the Confucius Hub programme is funded by the Scottish Government and SILT, that pupils are free to discuss any issues, and that there is no interference in lessons from China.

The spokesman added: “It’s important for pupils to learn about Chinese culture, language and history as the country is set to dominate global politics and the economy.

“The Confucius Classroom offers pupils and the community in North Lanarkshire a central point to access language courses, resources as well as professional development opportunities for teachers.

“It also provides an opportunity learn about Chinese culture and art, to develop links with China and to organise visits to China.

“Pupils are involved in a coordinated project including Chinese cookery, modern day China, business in China, ping pong, Mandarin courses and calligraphy to name but a few.

“The associated primaries of Our Lady’s are also involved and have attended the Confucius Classroom Hub. We do not shy away from discussing issues such as human rights.”