Parents and teachers face gift dilemmas as festivals near

Updated: 2011-09-10 16:20


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HEFEI - As both Teachers' Day and Mid-Autumn Festival draw near, many Chinese parents have been racking their brains trying to think of gifts appropriate for the teachers of their children.

Some have turned to the Internet for gift suggestions, including a mother surnamed Yang from Anhui's provincial capital of Hefei whose child attends kindergarten.

"What should I send and what kind of gifts are appropriate? We are facing a dilemma as parents who can not afford very expensive gifts, but the teachers will not be impressed if the gifts are too cheap," Yang wrote on a website for parents.

In the country dubbed the "Nation of Etiquette," presenting gifts to others is considered a way of showing respect and love in traditional etiquette, especially during holidays and festivals.

Some parents, however, do not realize that some teachers are also stressed out about the gifts.

"No more gifts or I will run into bankruptcy!" complained a young teacher on Weibo, China's popular Twitter-like microblogging service.

"Many parents send me mooncake vouchers for celebrating Mid-Autumn Day and Teachers' Day. So I return them enclosed in a new dictionary and let their children bring it back to them," the teacher wrote.

September 10 is Teacher's Day in China and two days later comes the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Day, which is based on the lunar calendar. It is also early in a new semester, so parents want to take the opportunity to send gifts, hoping teachers will take better care of their children.

A teacher from the high school attached to Anhui Normal University, who only gave his surname Zhu, said he feels "worried" every time parents send him money or shopping vouchers.

"It is not whether to accept the gifts, but how to return them that worries me very much. I tried everything to persuade parents to take them back. But I will use the money or vouchers from the stubborn parents to buy books for the class," said Zhu.

According to a survey conducted by Lanxixiaowu, a website for local parents in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China's Sichuan Province, 58 percent parents send gifts to teachers.

Some said they choose to send gifts amid fears that their children will not be well cared for if no gifts are sent.

Netizen lqiw139 wrote that it is reasonable to send gifts as a show of respect, and, sometimes, they must do so.

"If all the parents except me give teachers gifts, how do you think the teachers will treat my children?" the netizen added.

But according to Zhu, gifts are meaningless.

"In fact, what teachers really care about is communication with parents. It is the students' performance that determine teachers' attitudes," he said.

Wang Kaiyu, a sociologist with the Anhui Academy of Social Sciences and a professor at Anhui University, said Teachers' Day is a festival based more on the spiritual dimension than the material level, and the emphasis on gifts has caused it to lose its original meaning.

Wang, however, said society can show respect for teachers by improving their social status and guaranteeing their salaries.

According to education regulations in China, the average wage of teachers should not be lower than that of civil servants, which hold very popular positions in China today.

In some western provinces, however, there is a shortage of teachers because they are poorly paid or, sometimes, not even paid for several years.

Wang also suggested establishing a teacher evaluation system to ease parents' concerns over inequalities in their children's education.

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