The College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers AP and SAT exams, said it will end its partnership with a Chinese government agency at the end of the year amid growing concern about the Chinese regime’s influence in the U.S. education system.
The decision follows an Oct. 26 letter from seven Republican senators to College Board CEO David Coleman asking him to explain the group’s financial relationship with Hanban, an office under Beijing’s ministry of education that’s responsible for overseeing Confucius Institutes around the world.
Confucius Institutes have been criticized for spreading Chinese propaganda and suppressing topics critical of the regime under the cover of a language and culture program.
The senators also asked whether the Chinese regime has influenced test development and guest teacher programs in the United States.
In its response, the College Board said it has received an annual grant from Hanban since 2006 to “support the teaching and learning of Chinese language and culture in U.S. schools,” but won’t continue that relationship with Hanban after their agreement expires at the end of this year.
“2020 is the final year in which the College Board will receive or pursue any grant funding from Hanban,” College Board Senior Vice President Elissa Kim wrote on Oct. 30.
The board said its work with Hanban was limited to helping schools and districts build Chinese language programs.
“I want to state unequivocally: Hanban and the Chinese government has never had any influence on the content of College Board curricular or educational programs; indeed, no foreign entity has such influence, nor will they ever,” Kim wrote.
The senators cited a recent report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) that indicated the College Board has worked with Hanban since at least 2003 to develop the Advanced Placement (AP) Chinese Language and Culture exam. The report also said that the organization’s partnership with Hanban in its “Chinese Guest Teacher Program” allowed for Chinese-government selected teachers to flow into K-12 classrooms across America.
The visiting teacher program has brought more than 1,650 Chinese teachers to the United States since 2006.
Districts participating in the guest teacher program have “final review over all teacher candidates and maintain complete autonomy of how the program is implemented in their schools,” College Board stated in its response.
The NAS report also said the College Board sponsors 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), along with about 67 Confucius Institutes at U.S. universities, according to the NAS.
The U.S. State Department in August designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center, an organization that promotes Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, a diplomatic mission, saying it formed part of the Chinese regime’s “global influence and propaganda apparatus.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also expressed hope that all Confucius Institutes could be shuttered by the end of this year.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), one of the co-signers of the letter, in a tweet on Nov. 2 welcomed the entity’s severing of ties with the regime.
She added, however, that the Chinese Communist Party will “continue looking for other avenues to gain influence in the American education system, and we must remain vigilant and push back against Chinese influence.”