Spotlight: Australian universities, teachers' associations defend Confucius Institutes

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-27 15:00:48|Editor: xuxin
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SYDNEY, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Multiple Australian universities and teachers' associations recently issued statements defending Chinese language education programs jointly conducted by China and Australia under the Confucius Institute.

"The Confucius Institute is like the Alliance Francaise or Goethe-Institut. It teaches Chinese language and culture," said Michael Spence, vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney.

He supported the university's decision to continue hosting the Confucius Institute on campus, saying it is no different from other language-teaching bodies funded by foreign governments.

Spence's words came after Australia's New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education decided on Aug. 22 to end a Chinese language education program jointly conducted by the two sides.

The decision followed a review ordered by the department in May last year of foreign government or organization support for language education in NSW government schools.

"During the 15-month-long review, no one came to our schools to see what we were actually doing. We want to tell you that when we support Chinese teaching here, our only concern is to have our students learn more Chinese characters and to see them enjoy learning Chinese," said a statement issued by all volunteer teachers at the NSW Department of Education.

Though no evidence of "actual political influence" was found by the review, the department still decided to end its cooperation with the Confucius Institute at the end of the 2019 school year, which will lead to the end of Confucius Classroom programs in 13 public schools across Sydney and on the mid-north coast.

"Many teachers in Confucius Classroom schools felt shocked by the sudden termination. It is because of Confucius Classroom Programs that many parents choose to send their children to schools with Confucius Classrooms rather than private schools," the statement said.

In fact, no teachers' professional associations were given an opportunity to provide advice from a language teacher's perspective in the review, according to a media release from the Chinese Language Teacher's Association of New South Wales (CLTANSW).

CLTANSW expressed grave concern over the review, saying that the "association values and anticipates that all education-related decision and policy-making should be based on evidence instead of perception or perceived possible consequences."

Many Australian universities also expressed regrets over the NSW Department of Education's decision and decided to continue their cooperation with China.

"Confucius Institutes, throughout Australia, are working very effectively and efficiently with our respective Confucius Classroom schools, providing essential Chinese language and culture teaching to a large number of young Australians in our school system," said Antoine Barnaart, director of the Confucius Institute at the Queensland University of Technology, in an open letter to the Confucius Institute Headquarters.

Barnaart said that "this NSW decision should not affect our good work and the substantial outcomes we are achieving for the young people of Queensland."

"The cooperation between us will provide better Chinese language learning opportunities for Australian students and will continue to broaden international perspectives and more diverse development opportunities," he added.

China's Consulate General in Sydney said in a press release last Thursday that it hoped the NSW side would change its view of the Confucius Institute and do more to enhance friendly bilateral cooperation instead of politicizing everyday people-to-people and cultural exchanges.

The Confucius Classroom is a program under the Confucius Institute, which was established after the NSW Department of Education signed an agreement with the Confucius Institute Headquarters in 2011.

The Confucius Classroom aims to support Chinese language and cultural education at the local level.