|Neil Robinson, a convicted pedophile who worked in Beijing|
The guilty plea and prison sentence of a British pedophile in the United Kingdom have triggered discussion in China over expatriates' professional qualifications and oversight.
Neil Robinson — who had worked in Beijing as a schoolteacher before his arrest — was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Friday for sex offenses and possessing indecent images of children, the BBC reported.
Robinson, 47, worked for Beijing World Youth Academy, an international school, from 2008 to 2012. The sexual offenses with which he was charged took place before he fled the UK in 2002.
Ada Jen, the government affairs manager of International School of Beijing, a prestigious international school in the capital, said uniform standards are absent from international-school management, and said she hopes the hiring process can become stricter.
"Some schools hire whoever has white skin and blond hair. However, not every foreigner is qualified to be a teacher. Some speak 'ghetto language', which is not appropriate in the education environment," Jen said.
China has a variety of international schools — those that take only children with foreign passports, international departments attached to public schools, and private schools with an international name. The schools have different standards for accepting teachers as well as students, she said.
International School of Beijing starts hiring every November, encouraging about-to-leave faculty members to hand in their notice as soon as possible so that the school can find substitutes.
Jen said the school works with a few reliable international agents that provide candidates. Application materials, including identification and reference letters, are required. The applicant cannot have a criminal record. "We go through reference checks on each candidate and examine the identification documents thoroughly," she said.
International education has been booming in China.
Until the end of 2012, China has 116 international schools for children with foreign passports, according to the Ministry of Education.
A large number of international departments attached to public schools and private schools with international faculties have also been established since 2008.
International schools have a high turnover of faculty members in China.
"Many stay two years," Jen said, adding that schools hire teachers constantly, and being rigorous and strict is the key to the hiring process.
Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank in Beijing, said authorities should simplify the process through which expatriates can come to work in China, enhancing the pool of qualified candidates.
"Many international schools are short of foreign teachers because it is too difficult for them to find someone with the legal status to stay. The fact is, many expatriates are working in China illegally, which gives people an impression it is OK to stay and work without legal documentation," Wang said.
He said that many Western countries such as the US and UK provide internship opportunities for foreign students, and China should follow suit. "If an easier application process is established, it will help foreigners obtain a working visa to work in China," he added.
A staff member at Beijing World Youth Academy who declined to be named told China Daily earlier that Robinson handed in his resignation in early 2012, saying his father was "seriously ill and he had to return to Britain to take care of him".
The arrest warrant for Robinson was revealed during an episode of BBC Television's Crimewatch program, which highlights police appeals for information involving wanted people in Britain.
The program had reported that Robinson may be abroad, and possibly in Beijing. Robinson turned himself in to Beijing police in April after media coverage. He was extradited in May and put under British police custody at the airport, the BBC said.
Robinson pleaded guilty in September to three counts of sex with a girl under 13, one count of making an indecent video of a child, and three indecent assaults. He was later charged with 25 offenses related to making and possessing indecent images of children, to which he pleaded guilty.
Robinson was ordered to sign the UK's Sex Offender Register indefinitely, will have a Sex Offenses Prevention Order for life, and be disqualified from working with children indefinitely, according to the BBC.