Foreign English teachers face scrutiny after sex alerts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 3:20am

Foreign English teachers on the mainland face tighter supervision in the wake of two child sex scandals in Beijing and Nanjing .

The State Administration of Foreign Experts has issued an "urgent notice" on regulating the teachers' "daily activities" after two foreigners, one with a criminal record for child pornography and the other on the run from child-sex charges, were able to get jobs as English teachers.

In a brief notice on its website, the administration urged local foreign experts bureaus to enhance their co-operation with local public security and education departments in order to beef up precautions and improve the supervision of foreign teachers hired by training institutions and primary and middle schools.

Beijing police detained Neil Robinson, 46, on Friday night for overstaying his visa. The Briton taught at the Beijing World Youth Academy, an international school, for almost four years without anyone being aware that he was wanted for questioning by British police in connection with child sex offences.

In a separate case, a 63-year-old American, twice convicted of child pornography offences in Illinois, was found to have worked as an English teacher in Nanjing - first at a language-training school and then at a university - between 2007 and early this year, the Modern Express reported on Sunday, without identifying him.

Nanjing police confirmed that the American had left the mainland about two months ago, the daily newspaper said.

Education experts said the scandals highlighted major loopholes in the management of foreign teachers after a surge in demand in recent years, with mainlanders developing "blind trust" in Westerners in the hope of building their oral English skills.

Xiong Bingqi , deputy director of the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute, said although a set of regulations on hiring procedures for foreign teachers was in place, "they are never observed properly".

He said mainland regulations stipulated that only schools with special qualifications could hire foreign teachers, who had to go through rigorous background checks before getting registered as "a foreign expert" and granted a work permit

"But supervision loopholes are prevalent at almost each link," Xiong said.

In the Nanjing case, the American man was registered as a foreign expert by a local foreign experts bureau, the Modern Express reported.

Michael Thai, who taught at a language-training school in Beijing, said he was never asked to submit official documents to prove he did not have a criminal record, nor did the school carry out any background checks.

"All they asked for was my résumé … and in some cases, employers even don't ask for a résumé as long as you look like a Westerner and speak English," he said. "Most foreign teachers in Beijing I know don't expect a background check."

A retired middle school teacher in Beijing said public and private schools in Beijing try to use foreign teachers as a hook to attract students because their parents believe native English speakers are better teachers.