China expunges unapproved, foreign content from school textbooks

FILE PHOTO: A child holds a book during a Chinese language lesson in a school at Namtit, Wa territory in northeast Myanmar November 30, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s education ministry has launched a “comprehensive” inspection of school textbooks to remove unapproved alterations or foreign content, state media reported late on Wednesday, amid a push to combat Western influence in China’s schools.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a drive to re-assert the ruling Communist Party, its ideology and its history at the center of education, and to promote patriotism in the place of ideas that the party considers Western.

The sweep by China’s education ministry, running until Oct 15, will “correct and dispose of” illegal foreign or self-written courses used instead of state-approved materials in China’s nine-year compulsory education period, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“Recently, it has been discovered that some companies that write and publish textbooks have without permission altered the content of certain textbooks, and certain schools are using their own textbooks in the place of national textbooks,” the ministry’s teaching materials bureau told Xinhua.

From the 2019 Spring term onwards, the ministry will continue to make follow up checks and random inspections and any serious cases of schools still found to be using unapproved content can be held accountable by law, Xinhua said.

Attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to make love of the motherland and its own history and ideology a core part of the country’s education system have increasingly come up against a flourishing private school sector and an interest in alternative or foreign education among middle class families.

In response, the Chinese government has ramped up oversight of schooling with new regulations guiding textbook content and private schooling.

Xi has called for greater “ideological guidance” in Chinese universities and has launched efforts to re-vamp mandatory ideology classes that teach about Marxism, Mao Zedong Tought and Xi’s own signature ideology.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry