Gansu shuts down Arabic school over regulations

By Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/4 20:53:40

Education authorities in Northwest China's Gansu Province ordered the shutdown of a 34-year-old Arabic language institute before December 17 for the lack of educational qualifications.

The school, established in 1984 in the city of Pingliang aims to teach Arabic to people from 17 to 25 years old. Authorities in Pingliang's Kongdong district ordered it closed before December 17, Guan Wenlong, the school's principal, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The decision was made because the institute does not have the authorities' approval to run a school, an official from the Pingliang education bureau, who requested anonymity, told the Global Times.

Meanwhile the incident has sparked discussions on Sina Weibo, with some netizens suspecting the shutdown was ordered because the school has been teaching religious content to the students.

Guan denied this claim, saying that such misunderstanding was caused by teachers having to walk the students through cultures of the Arabic-speaking world while teaching the language.

He added that the school is the only school in Pingliang that teaches Arabic, and the majority of the students and teachers are from the ethnic Hui minority.

More than 100 graduates from the institute have gone to Egypt, Malaysia, Jordan, Pakistan and other countries for further studies, and many work as interpreters at international companies in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the institute said on its WeChat account.

The teaching of Arabic sometimes arouses public concerns because some private institutes cannot draw the line between teaching the language and preaching religious content, said a professor, who requested anonymity, from the Central Institute of Socialism in Beijing.

The Gansu education bureau released a notice in May 2016 banning religious activities at its schools after a video of a girl in Muslim clothing reciting the Koran went viral.

China's Education Law reads, "The State separates education from religion. No organization or individual may make use of religion to conduct activities that interfere with the educational system of the State."

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