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Teachers at new Richmond private school told to 'tread lightly'

A company that has eight private schools in China is opening one in Richmond.
Gary Corry is the head of school at Chaoyin International School in Richmond.

Teachers at a new Chinese-owned private school in Richmond — set to open in September — will be told to “tread lightly” around topics such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Tiananmen Square and the Dalai Lama. 

Regardless, students will be credited with a B.C. education.

The Chaoyin International School on Bird Road was granted its interim certificate to operate from the B.C. Ministry of Education in March and is now open for registration with tuition fees between $15,000 and $23,000. 

Greg Corry, head of school, said teachers won’t censor these three topics, but they will be told to “redirect” the conversation.  

“We don’t have any strict guidelines about those three topics … but our staff will be told — explained by me — to tread lightly,” Corry said. 

Because of the “sensitivity” of the subjects, if teachers express appreciation for the Dalai Lama, for example, it could get back to the parents, said Corry. 

“That could be a very sensitive topic and next thing you know, they’re pulling their kid out of the school,” he added.  

He said the ownership group understands that the rules and regulations are different in Canada than China. 

Regardless, teachers will be told to redirect and find out why students are asking those questions, he explained. Corry compared it to students asking about sensitive topics like drugs and alcohol.

Teachers are role models and have to be careful what they say and post on social media, so it isn’t misinterpreted, he added. 

But when asked whether it’s a good role model to challenge anti-democratic movements, Corry said “that’s a political question that I don’t want to get into.”   

Chaoyin Education Group has eight private schools in Qingdao, China, owned by the Zhang family, and this is their first school outside of China, Corry explained. 

At the “group 4” kindergarten-to-grade-7 school, 50 per cent of students need to be international.    

The school is currently recruiting from many countries but China is a big market for Chaoyin because of its connections there.

Corry said B.C.’s education system’s good reputation makes many Chinese and other foreigners want to come here, and, furthermore, it opens up opportunities both in Canada and China for their kids.

“For a family, that gives them the versatility to say my son or daughter can go the western route… or if they want, they can come back to China and they’ll get a pretty good job,” Corry said.

For now, the school is kindergarten to Grade 7, but Corry said they hope to expand it later for secondary grades as well.

The construction was delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside, didn’t respond to multiple requests for an interview.