Chinese Regime Infiltrated US K–12 Education Through Deep Collaboration With College Board: Report

Cathy He

The College Board has partnered closely with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for over a decade, allowing Beijing to influence Chinese language and culture teaching in K–12 classrooms across the United States, according to a new report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS).

The report released on Sept. 6 found that the College Board, a New York-based nonprofit best known for administering the SAT and AP standardized exams for college admissions, worked with the CCP to develop an AP (Advanced Placement) Chinese language and culture course for high schools, helped China gain control over training for Chinese-language teaching in the country, and strongly promoted Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms.

Billed as Chinese language and culture programs, Confucius Institutes and Classrooms have drawn heavy criticism over its role in spreading Chinese propaganda and suppressing free speech on college campuses and K–12 classrooms.

“China has managed to build out an entire educational system before the public caught on to what has happened,” report author and NAS senior research fellow Rachelle Peterson said at the report’s online launch hosted by The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders” program.

“It co-opted a prestigious respected name, the College Board, gaining an access it could never have earned outright by working from within organizations that Americans knew and trusted,” Peterson added.

The findings come amid heightened scrutiny over the CCP’s efforts to influence American universities, as well as its aggressive campaign to steal U.S. research and technology.

According to the report, in 2003, the College Board worked with Beijing to formulate the AP Chinese-language course, with the Chinese government covering half of the $1.37 million development costs. In exchange, the regime was able to influence what was taught in the high school course, and push for instruction in simplified Chinese characters, Peterson said. After the CCP took power in China, it imposed simplified Chinese in the 1950s as part of an attempt to eradicate traditional culture embodied in traditional Chinese script. Traditional Chinese script is still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“As a result, American students of Chinese would be unable to read the older, more traditional literature that [Party chairman] Mao [Zedong] had sought to supplant,” Peterson said.

The College Board also helped the CCP train American instructors who taught Chinese by partnering with it to host the National Chinese Language Conference, the largest annual gathering of Chinese-language educators in the country. The chief sponsor of the conference, organized by the College Board, is Hanban, an office with China’s ministry of education that oversees Confucius Institutes around the world.

Peterson described this partnership as “perhaps one of the Chinese government’s most effective investments in American education,” and it has “effectively cornered the market on Chinese language instruction at the K–12 level in the United States.”

At the 2014 conference, College Board CEO David Coleman referred to Hanban as “the sun” whose light the College Board, “the moon,” was “so honored to reflect,” the report said.

The Board also collaborates with Hanban on its “Chinese Guest Teacher Program,” which creates “a pipeline of Chinese government-selected teachers flowing into American K–12 schools,” Peterson said. The visiting teacher program has brought more than 1,650 Chinese teachers to the United States since 2006.

In addition, the Board sponsored 20 Confucius Institutes and Classrooms. As of 2019, there were more than 500 Confucius Classrooms across K–12 grade schools, according to a U.S. Senate subcommittee report (pdf). There are currently around 67 Confucius Institutes at U.S. universities, according to the NAS' estimates.
The U.S. state department in August designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, a D.C.-based organization that promotes Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, a diplomatic mission, saying it formed part of the CCP’s “global influence and propaganda apparatus.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently expressed hope that all Confucius Institutes could be shut down by the end of this year.

The Chinese regime’s influence campaign involves “offering huge sums of money” to U.S. educational institutions, Peterson said.

“The College Board, colleges and universities, other institutions have found it incredibly convenient to be co-opted by the Chinese government because they’re being remunerated handsomely,” she said.

The College Board did not respond to a request for comment.

The NAS urged Congress to require the Board to cut ties with the CCP as a condition of it receiving federal funding. The Board has received $116 million in federal funding since 2008, the report said.

The report also called the closure of Confucius Classrooms, and the replacement of the AP Chinese Language and Culture Test and the National Chinese Language Conference. The NAS recommended the departments of education and defense to convene a working group to prepare an alternative Chinese language and culture test.

The two departments did not specifically respond to a request for comment about these recommendations.

Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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