Saturday, July 25, 2020

Measures for the Appointment and Management of Foreign Teachers (Draft for Solicitation of Comments) [外籍教师聘任和管理办法(征求意见稿)]

Pix Credit: Precarious times for foreign teachers in China.

The Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China has distributed for comment (征求意见稿)  Measures for the Appointment and Management of Foreign Teachers [外籍教师聘任和管理办法]. Much of the legislation covers the usual issues in the usual fashion. With respect to these there are issues of efficiency and the connection between objectives and the administrative methods chosen to meet these objectives.  But these issues are little different from those facing an administrative apparatus anywhere. And the legislation represents the end of a process already well underway in 2019 (e.g., Precarious times for foreign teachers in China ("Another reason that authorities are cracking down on foreign teachers is ideological. China has long been wary of foreign influences in education, and in December 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping reminded education leaders that, “Adherence to the Party’s leadership is essential to the development of higher education in the country”, emphasising the need to “build universities into strongholds that adhere to Party leadership”.")).

And indeed the two sets f provisions that are the most interesting for foreigners are those relating to the legalization of the policy of Part leadership over education. These merit sustained consideration.  The first is Article 5:
Article 5 (Specific Obligations) Foreign teachers shall abide by Chinese laws and regulations, abide by Chinese public order and good customs and professional ethics of teachers, and abide by the principle of separation of education from religion. The educational and teaching activities and contents implemented shall conform to China's educational policies and basic teaching principles. It is required that China’s national sovereignty, security, honor, and social public interests must not be harmed. [第五条 (特定义务)外籍教师应当遵守中国法律法规,遵守中国的公序良俗和教师职业道德,遵守教育与宗教相分离的原则,所实施的教育教学活动和内容应当符合中国的教育方针和教学基本要求,不得损害中国的国家主权、安全、荣誉和社会公共利益。]
The second are Articles 27-32 (Chapter 4 Supervision and Responsibility [第四章 监督与责任]).  Articles 27 and 28 establish an administrative structure for the supervision of the obligations imposed by law on relevant national and local governments. Article 27 requires the establishment of deep cooperation between the science and technology depart and the education departments of the State Council.  The Science and Technology Department is charged with sharing a list of foreign teachers, and the education department is required to deliver to the science and technology department lists of foreign teachers prohibited from employment "in real time." Article 28 charges the education administrative department of the local people’s government, the administrative department of science and technology, the entry-exit management agency of the public security organ, and other relevant departments shall strengthen the daily supervision of the employment of foreign teachers by educational institutions with the daily supervision (日常监管) of foreign teachers for violations of law relating to their hiring and work. 

Articles 29-32  then establish the parameters by which the Chinese Social Credit system is extended to foreign teachers in China. Article 29 requires that assessments relating to the foreign teacher's compliance with law, ethics, and quality of teaching be included in a national foreign teacher comprehensive information service platform.  Good social credit scores will ensure that regulatory hurdles relating to employment will be convenient. Article 30 then lists four key areas of activities that will reduce social credit scoring: (1) Serious academic misconduct; (2) Engaging in paid work in violation of regulations outside the appointed educational institution; (3) Dismissed in violation of the rules and regulations of the employment agency; and (4) Resigning without authorization after the appointment period has not expired [(一)有严重学术不端行为的;(二)在受聘任的教育机构以外违规从事有偿工作的;(三)违反聘任机构规章制度,被解聘的;(四)聘任期未满,擅自离职的。]. Lastly Article 31 lists those actions or activities that will result in dismissal of appointment. The resulting Social Credit score will require that such individuals be placed on a black list, which will make it impossible for educational institutions to hire them [教育机构不得聘任有前款情形的外籍人员担任外籍教师。]. The ten include:  
(1) Words and deeds that damage China's national sovereignty, security, honor, and public interests;
(2) Being held criminally responsible;
(3) Obstructing the implementation of the education policy;
(4) Violating public security management such as taking drugs;
(5) Sexual assault or abuse of minors;
(6) Engaging in religious education or preaching illegally;
(7) Engaging in cult activities;
(8) Sexual harassment of students or other serious violations of China's public order and good customs, teachers' professional ethics and codes of conduct;
(9) Providing false certification information in the process of applying to teach in China;
(10) The total number of untrustworthy records specified in Article 30 of these Measures exceeds 3. [(一)有损害中国国家主权、安全、荣誉和社会公共利益的言行的;(二)被追究刑事责任的;(三)妨碍教育方针贯彻落实的;(四)有吸食毒品等违反治安管理行为的;(五)有性侵害、虐待未成年人行为的;(六)非法从事宗教教育或者传教的;(七)从事邪教活动的;(八)有性骚扰学生或者其他严重违反中国的公序良俗和教师职业道德、行为准则的;(九)在申请来华任教过程中提供虚假证明信息的;(十)本办法第三十条规定的失信记录累计超过3条的。].
 Lastly, Article 32 provides that educational institutions that fail either to ensure the proper operation of the social credit system (by facilitating negative activity) or hire a blacklisted foreign teacher will "be handled by the public security organs of the local people’s government at or above the county level."
For foreign faculty from liberal democratic states, the changes require a conscious sensitivity both to supervision, and to the measurement of conduct by reference to values and markers that are not the same as in many of their home states.  This is particularly true with respect to "(1) Words and deeds that damage China's national sovereignty, security, honor, and public interests" [(一)有损害中国国家主权、安全、荣誉和社会公共利益的言行的] and "(3) Obstructing the implementation of the education policy" [(三)违反聘任机构规章制度,被解聘的] if only because they may no way of understanding where the conduct boundaries or expectations are.  In those cases, it will likely fall to educational institutions to closely supervise and guide foreigner teachers in the conduct of their classes. It is also likely that educational institutions that contribute foreign faculty to the black lists will likely find their own social credit scores dangerous lowered, and in the worst cases, may find themselves on a black list as well (likely, at a minimum, prohibited from hiring any foreigners).

None of this, of course, ought to surprise. And in many cases the net result of the provisions will hardly be felt--other than with respect for the need to cultivate a greater sensitivity of the context in which teachers operate.  Still, even when teaching very young children, it will be necessary to be conscious that an offhand remark, or a reference to baseline principles and concepts that are cherished in a home country (and not really thought about as problematic) may be sensitive in the context in which it is heard.  It is the inadvertent act that poses the greatest threat. 

Of course, much of this would be ameliorated if it is possible t understand the analytics that will go into the social credit scoring for foreign teachers, and more importantly, the way that black lists are constructed, and the rules for getting off a black list.  None of that seems to be available currently. In a sense, then, the value of social credit in this case is to provide guidance necessary to adjust conduct.  Thus rather than produce regulatory guidance, authorities might be able to produce a guide to how scoring will be measured (the value of data and its identification) for purposes of Articles 30 and 31.

Moreover, in certain circumstances, the rules may provide substantial challenges for educational institutions and their foreign faculty.  This may be particularly true at the university and graduate levels in those areas that touch on professional education, business and some of the disciplines in the social sciences, especially where the issues touch on necessary aspects of globalization or are connected to foreign and comparative study.  It is likely that substantial regulation and soime waivers  and a waiver system will have to be greater in those respects--but the price will likely also be substantially greater supervision of those activities. As a result, it is possible that except for elite institutions, and those otherwise designated for that purpose, the scope and conduct of teaching by foreigners will change. At a minimum, national and local authorities would do well to provide more specific guidance to avoid a situation where the law itsef serves as a series of traps for the unwary (and those otherwise not guided by savvy educational sponsors).  Otherwise the result will be to reduce the presence and impact of foreign educators in China. In that respect it may be necessary to carefully consider the Communist Party Basic Line respecting "Reform and Opening Up" in the New Era (e.g., "The Party shall implement the strategy for  invigorating China through science and education")

The entire provision in the original Chinese along with a crude English translation follows. Interested individuals and entities  are encouraged to send their comments to the Ministry.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Diversity in Silence: A Look Back To Diversity Reform Now Forgotten at Penn State University

I have not commented on the recent, and potentially quite profoundly transformative, movements to center diversity generally, and the African American experience in particular, in the American University. Penn State University, like many other similarly situated university institutions, has now sought to intensely engage with the issues that have become once again passionately current in the United States.  On 10 June 2020, "Penn State President Eric Barron issued a statement . . . outlining steps the university will take to address instances of racism, bias, and religious intolerance within its community." (President Barron Outlines Penn State’s Actions Against Racism, Hate Speech).

Given the nature of events, and the very short time cohorts of students have an intense engagement with the university, for many this may seem new and long overdue.  For faculty, many of whom have been insulated from events increasingly shunted behind the closed doors of "leadership teams" and the closed cultures of emerging university bureaucratic practices, the extent of university efforts to confront issues of inclusion may well seem somewhat removed fro their lives--and certainly from the center of their shared governance experiences.  

For the ever growing administrative superstructure, and its increasingly distinct and remote operational ideologues, the issue of diversity has been treated as one of many on a large platter of issues , the importance of which might have been measured by the risk it poses.  The reason for that, of course, is that at the heart of emerging ideologies of university governance is the framing principle of risk avoidance, implemented through the application of the secondary principles of prevention, mitigation, and remedy. Every challenge to the university (that is to the stability of the governance of the institution, and the avoidance of threats as those are understood by university administrators) is understood only within the parameters of risk, and the riskiness of choices among prevention, mitigation, or remedial measures. Diversity issues--like campus drinking, the registration system, the allocation of student fees, and the smooth running of dormitories, parking spaces, and events--are conceptualized first as a normative challenge (goal) but one that must be assessed for the risk it poses and the value of adopting policies that focus on prevention, rather tan on mitigation and remedy.  It has been, in that sense, nothing special.

And yet, it would be a mistake to believe that there have not been efforts to change the way that senior officials approached the application of these governance parameters, even within the logic of what they perceive their operational function to be. 

One such effort to bring greater focus on diversity started in January 2013  under my leadership of the Penn State University Faculty Senate when at my invitation students addressed the Penn State University Faculty Senate about the issue. (Diversity Awareness Task Force: Statement to the University Faculty Senate January 29, 2013). Following that intervention a Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force was constituted including elements from the major stakeholders of the University. Its charge included:
· Bring a diverse group of administrators, faculty and students together to work collaboratively to engage in dialogue and provide recommendations to the University Faculty Senate and Administration to enhance diversity awareness in the University Community.
· Thoroughly investigate practices that will be most effective to increase diversity understanding among the student body.
· Provide recommendations to the Faculty Senate Committee charged with reforming the general education curriculum as a whole.
This post chronicles both the achievement of that remarkable committee over the course of several years--and the ultimate marginalization of its work--now so long forgotten that it is not even a memory within the administrative organs of the university, much less among its stakeholders. Those efforts are worth remembering if only as a cautionary take for the current group of individuals and institutional representatives now bent on a similar task. The principal lesson was one that I pointed out in 2014, even before the full set of Joint Diversity Awareness Task Force Reports was produced:
This response provides an excellent illustration of the approach to diversity at many institutions--engagement and oblivion.  This is all the more important because of it collateral result--Marginalization.  Even as the University devotes a tremendous amount of resources to its reconstruction of General Education, even as it focuses substantial public time to experiential learning and other important elements of a public education--the education and practice of diversity is buried and marginalized. . . . The expectations appear simple enough--provide a formally responsive forum for meeting, produce a report well received but avoid robust interconnection to the vital life of the university, and then move on with a sense of satisfaction of having engaged with diversity. (Diversity in Silence--The Joint Diversity Task Force Report at Penn State University Becomes Less Visible).
That chronicling was set out in a series of Reports produced by the JDATF over the course of several years.  Now long forgotten (and effectively inaccessible except by university faculty senators "For agendas or records prior to 2016-2017, please contact the Senate office. Faculty Senators may access Agendas and Records through the Senate Archives.") they are reproduced below.