The controversy over Confucius Institutes

October 2, 2014

As PSE institutions and school boards in Canada and the US reconsider their partnerships with Chinese-government funded Confucius Institutes, articles in theGlobe and Mail and the Toronto Star point to ways that these institutes can be beneficial while allowing minimal interventions from Hanban—the Confucius Institutes headquarters. In Edmonton, the Confucius program is used to help support the school board’s bilingual Mandarin program; Alberta teachers use AB curriculum, but Chinese instructors are hired as support staff to teach Chinese culture and help students with the language lessons. Hong Kong-based journalist Frank Ching writes in the Globe and Mail that even though the Confucius Institutes are touted as instruments of Chinese propaganda even by the Chinese government, China can improve these relationships by meeting the “issue of academic freedom head-on.” Ching also cautions Western institutions to be clear on the benefits, and risks, of partnering with Hanban. “There is an obvious need for Chinese language education around the world and China astutely stepped in to meet that need,” said Ching. Pennsylvania State University and the University of Chicago both recently announced they were closing their Confucius Institutes. The Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a news release last year urging PSE institutions to cut ties with the programs. Globe and Mail | Toronto Star | Inside Higher Ed