New Richmond private school to `tread lightly' on China concerns
Teachers at the new Chaoyin International School in Richmond will be “treading lightly” on “sensitive” issues like Tibet, Tiananmen Square and the Chinese Communist Party when classes begin this fall.
Teachers won't censor those topics, school principal Greg Corry told Richmond News reporter Maria Ratanen. But they will be told to “redirect” the conversation.
“We don't have any strict guidelines about those three topics,” Corry said. “But our staff will be told — explained by me — to tread lightly.”
Because of the “sensitivity” of the subjects, parents might have a differing view from the teachers. And, he said, “Next thing you know, they're pulling their kid out of the school.”
With annual tuition rates for kindergarten to Grade 7 ranging from $15,000 to $23,000, it makes sense from a business perspective. The question for the B.C. government is whether it makes sense from an educational perspective. Chaoyin has already been given interim accreditation as an independent school, pending an inspection this fall.
Chao Yin Canada Group Inc. became a B.C.-registered company in 2016 with Yi Shuai (Billy) Zhang its only listed director.
It appears to have replaced Chaoyin International Education Group, which also had Zhang as its sole director and was registered in 2014 and dissolved for failure to file documents in 2018.
According to the Richmond school's website, “Chaoyin emphasizes (sic) on its expansion in education sector while also diversifying its investment in other areas with its core spirit of `teaching, innovation, respect, and win-win.'
“All colleagues of the group are hardworking, perseverant (sic), exploring and in solidarity, so that the Chaoyin team can accumulate strength and seek futher (sic) development.”
The Canadian school's parent company is Qingdao Chaoyin Industrial Co. Ltd., a conglomerate that includes a travel service, a law firm, an “international department” and Qingdao Chaoyin Education Development Group.
The education group's general manager is Zhang, who has a bachelor of education from the University of British Columbia, according to a Chinese business registry website. The group was established in 2015 with a focus that includes “youth psychological consultation and research” as well as property management.
In 2015, Zhang signed an agreement with UBC that has resulted in fourth-year UBC students doing internships at Chaoyin schools in China, which strictly follow the Chinese curriculum.
He also signed a “strategic memorandum of understanding” with Qingdao Academy of Intelligent Industries in 2019 for Chaoyin to become a “demonstration school” for the iStream artificial intelligence curriculum.
The “sensitivities” of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as Chinese-owned companies, is something Corry is no doubt well aware of, having worked in Vietnam and China as a head teacher for the past 12 years.
Even before, Corry would likely have been aware of them as a high school principal in Coquitlam, which has one of the highest number of international students in B.C. and was the first Canadian school district to host a Confucius Institute.
The institute is funded by the Chinese government and provides culture and language training at more than 500 sites worldwide using textbooks and other educational materials vetted by the Chinese government.
While Coquitlam has retained its program, others across Canada have closed after complaints about censorship, propaganda and discriminatory hiring practices. Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress passed legislation denying federal funding to universities and other post-secondary institutions that host the Confucius Institute unless they meet certain conditions.
Britain, meanwhile, is contemplating pulling its international accreditation for schools in Hong Kong where the government recently imposed new educational guidelines to reflect the revisionist history promoted by the Chinese Communist Party.
Here, British Columbia has long had a rather slim list of accreditation requirements.
To get full accreditation, Chaoyin will be inspected in September or October. Among the key things that evaluators will be verifying is the safety and suitability of the building, that the B.C. core curriculum is being taught and that the teachers all have either provincial certification or a special permit issued by the independent school inspector.
(Requirements for special teaching permits aren't onerous and are usually granted when special skills are required for things like language or religious instruction.)
Since Chaoyin promises up to 35 per cent of the teaching will be done in Mandarin, including “language, fine arts, physical and health education,” I asked whether the ministry has inspectors who can read Chinese or speak Mandarin and are able to sit in on classes or review the course materials.
I didn't get a direct answer, only an emailed response that said: “The ministry has communicated its requirements that all course planning materials — including art, physical education and Mandarin — be developed and maintained in English.”
In other words, the ministry does not have independent knowledge of what's being taught in Mandarin, any more than it knows what's being taught by the Confucius Institute.
“Give me a child of seven and I can shape him for life,” is the maxim attributed to Jesuit founder Ignatius Loyola that echoes what Aristotle said before him and teachers and psychologists have known ever since.
What children learn early in their lives matters.
Chaoyin's website says that the school “encourages students to develop an independent and confident attitude towards learning, as well as a positive and responsible attitude towards life.”
So at a time when it seems more important than ever that children learn how to tell the difference between facts and propaganda, it's hard to understand why independence and confidence aren't also being valued by the head teacher and required by the B.C. government.