MINISTERS have come under pressure to review a deal critics claim gives China power over teaching in Scottish schools.


There are now nearly 30 Chinese language instructors operating in Confucius Classrooms across the country with officials claiming they have taught more than 20,000 children.

The scheme - much praised by politicians of all parties - comes under an agreement which explicitly makes China responsible for teaching quality.

The Scottish Government and education authorities have denied this clause in their deal with China's Communist dictatorship threatens academic freedom in schools.

They stress they are "sharing" responsibility for teaching in Scottish schools rather than relinquishing it.

But human rights groups and Scottish China watchers believe their agreement - formally between Strathclyde University and the Hanban, the controversial headquarters of the international network of Confucius Institutes, warrants major scrutiny.

A copy of the agreement was obtained by campaigners from Free Tibet under Freedom of Information laws,

A spokesman for the human rights group said: "This deal allows Beijing a lot of power to determine what happens in Scotland's schools.

"China provides teachers, China evaluates teaching, China determines success criteria and, of course, China holds the purse strings.

"It's Strathclyde's responsibility to show how - or if - it is ensuring that Scottish values, standards and principles are determining what gets taught and what doesn't get taught about China in schools with Confucius Classrooms."

Free Tibet does not oppose the teaching of Chinese - quite the opposite. But, like a growing number of human rights groups and academics around the world, it fears that China may be using its financial might to impose how its language and culture are taught - while whitewashing its appalling human rights record.

The deal in question was signed in 2011 and oversees the running of the Confucius Institute for Scottish Schools (CISS), based at Strathclyde.

Scotland has five other Institutes that provide language instructions at universities.

The agreement stipulates: "CISS must accept the assessment of the Headquarters [Hanban] on the teaching quality."

Education Scotland, the quango responsible for curriculum development and schools inspections, signed off on this wording.

However, a spokeswoman insisted the reality would not be as blunt as the clause appeared to suggest.

She said: "We recognise the shared responsibility of all our partners to ensure the quality of learning and teaching within Scotland's schools, including Hanban."

A spokesman for Strathclyde University said: "The agreement does not compromise academic freedom and nor does it impact on the control that Education Scotland and local authorities have over the quality of teaching in Scotland."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: "CISS has not surrendered academic freedom to the Chinese Government. Any assessment of Chinese teachers is what they would be subject to already by their employers in China."

Hanban has made no secret of the fact it expects its teachers - who it recruits, pays and monitors - to toe party lines on issues like the continued occupation of Tibet or the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square.

Its most powerful official made this clear in a landmark BBC interview late last year. This came after several major international universities - most recently Stockholm in Sweden - pulled out of agreements precisely because of Hanban's control.

Many educationalists acknowledged that academic freedom would be less of an issue in schools, especially primary ones, than in universities.

John MacDonald, director of the Scottish Global Forum think tank, stressed that Scotland needed to be wary of Chinese "soft power" in Scottish schools and universities.

He said: "In Scotland, teachers of any subject would face censure and possibly disciplinary action if they were to deny the Holocaust.

"Why, therefore, should we be comfortable accepting teachers - even language teachers - who are politically instructed to deny the Tiananmen Square massacre?

"In Confucius Classrooms we should surely expect the same oversight as we would expect to see for other subjects.

"Do we have independent experts in Chinese language and culture who are in a position to raise flags if high school pupils are being taught in a questionable manner?"

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said: "It will surely make many educationalists uneasy that we have a sector of our education system which appears to be run by a government on the other side of the world."