The Fife branch of Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS (Educational Institute of Scotland), has voiced concerns about the potential impact of teaching Mandarin in Fife schools.
The union has reflected the concerns of some teachers who are worried about the potential impact of Chinese teaching on the uptake of traditional modern languages such as French, German and Spanish.
The concerns of Fife teachers were highlighted by the EIS after The Courier reported that Fife Council has come under pressure to review a “platform for propaganda” deal critics claim gives China power over teaching in schools.
Fife EIS branch publicity officer David Farmer, who is a teacher at St Andrew’s High School in Kirkcaldy, said: “Our national council proposed a motion put forward by delegates in Fife to investigate certain elements of the Confucius Classrooms programme, not just in Fife but across Scotland.
“Some of those things were how it affected traditional language teaching.
“The motion was passed. It went to our national education committee and will now come back to our national council meeting in September.
“I’m not aware that there were any concerns directly about the Chinese authorities in Tibet or Chinese human rights.
“The concerns were raised amongst staff, particularly those who teach other traditional European language in Fife who had concerns about the penetration of Mandarin teaching in Fife.
“I wouldn’t like to speculate on the reasons for the uptake of traditional modern languages. But one reason suggested is that there has been support for Mandarin at the expense of the likes of Spanish and French.”
The Courier reported last week that children are at risk of Chinese propaganda in schools amid fears of a “whitewash” of the nation’s “appalling” human rights record, a human rights group has warned.
Free Tibet has accused Fife Council of “nodding through” deals that could put agendas from the Chinese regime into classrooms.
The human rights group believes cash-strapped local authorities unquestioningly accepted Chinese money and influence to pay for and carry out teaching they could not otherwise afford as part of so-called Confucius Classrooms.
It now fears a whitewash of serious issues in China, such as its continued occupation of Tibet.
But Confucius Classrooms have been defended by education authorities including Fife as a positive way of giving pupils lessons in Chinese language and culture at a time when demand for fluent speakers of Chinese languages is increasing in the business world.