China eyes stricter oversight of foreign teachers
China issued Tuesday draft rules to toughen oversight of hundreds of thousands of foreign teachers who could be fired for acts such as "words and deeds" considered harmful to the country's sovereignty.
Foreign teachers also will be banned from "illegally engaging in religious education or preaching", according to the guidelines drawn up by the education, foreign, public security and science ministries. The rules have been submitted for public comments until August 21 before final approval.
In recent years Beijing has tried to make China's education system more patriotic, eliminating what it perceives to be immoral foreign influences. The new guidelines would require teachers to undergo at least 20 hours of training on topics such as the Chinese constitution and teachers' ethics when they take up employment.
They follow a spate of detentions of international teachers in recent years for sex abuse and taking drugs. The guidelines say teachers should be fired for such criminal offences. Those found to be violating the rules must be reported to educational authorities.
The guidelines also require all foreign teachers to possess a bachelor's degree or higher, at least two years of teaching experience and relevant language teaching qualifications. Schools that illegally hire foreign teachers without the right qualifications or approval, or mislead the public about teachers' qualifications, can be fined up to 10,000 yuan ($1,400) per teacher.
Teaching in China can be a lucrative career path for foreigners, especially if they are young graduates. Demand for foreign English teachers in particular remains robust, and many command salaries that are much higher than average teachers. There were more than 400,000 foreign teachers working in China, according to a 2017 survey by state media, but only one third were employed legally.
High-profile criminal cases have put foreign teachers' misdeeds in the spotlight. A Colombian national was sentenced to five years in prison last August for molesting a four-year-old at the kindergarten in Shandong province where he taught. In July 2019, 16 foreigners including seven teachers at the Xuzhou branch of language school franchise Education First, were arrested for allegedly taking drugs.