Greens Want to Axe Chinese Cultural Classes

October 13, 2011

By Tyron Butson
Inner West Courier (Australia)

Greens MP Jamie Parker with the 10,000-signature petitiTyron BuInner West Courier

LANGUAGE and cultural classes in NSW schools funded by the Chinese government will be axed if the Greens get their way.

MP Jamie Parker (Greens, Balmain) is leading a chorus of opposition claiming the Chinese Communist government will ban “sensitive” subjects such as Tibet, Falun Gong and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

China has spent more than $200,000 in conjunction with the Education Department on the Confucius Classrooms programs in NSW schools.

But Mr Parker has petitioned the state government to dump the classes.

“The Confucius Classrooms are funded by and under the direct jurisdiction of the Chinese Government – the Chinese Communist Party – though its Ministry of Education,” he said. “What our teachers teach our children and what values are upheld in NSW schools should not be determined by foreign governments,” he said.

The Beijing-funded Confucius Institute opened in April at the department’s Ryde office.

Seven school are running Confucius Classroom lessons and there are plans to operate the program statewide.

NSW was assigned seven bilingual staff from China to assist with lessons on Chinese language, culture and history.

Mr Parker’s petition, signed by more than 10,000 people, calls for the program to be removed from NSW schools.

He has also called for the government to ensure any Chinese language or cultural courses are free from “Communist Party censorship or propaganda”.

A department spokesman said there had been no complaints.

The Confucius Institute’s Sydney director, Dr Shuangyuan Shi, denied the Chinese Government interfered with the classes.

“We do not involve politics too much, (but) we welcome every topic,” he said. “The teaching focuses primarily on language … if a student asks something, the teachers are not there to come to any conclusions, just guide them.”

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli is due to respond to the petition on Monday.

* The Confucius Classroom project aims to support Chinese language and cultural studies as part of regular curriculum language studies
* Secondary students in NSW are required to undergo some sort of language study
* The Confucius Institute has sparked controversy since its establishment in 2004, mainly amid claims that the agenda was forced to toe the Chinese Communist Party’s official line
* There has been organised opposition, including protests, at universities in Melbourne, Stockholm and Chicago