China / Society

Debate rages over expensive gifts to teachers

By Deng Zhangyu ( Updated: 2012-09-12 19:54

A debate about the Chinese practice of sending gifts to teachers on Teachers' Day has been raging among netizens and education experts.

Some say the practice, that used to be an expression of gratitude and respect, should be banned as it has turned into a way to bribe teachers.

The debate was triggered after a photo circulated online showing a young girl carrying two Gucci bags to school on Teachers' Day on Sept 10.

Many netizens assumed the girl was taking bags to school to give to her teachers as a gift. The authenticity of the photo, however, cannot be independently verified.

"I just sent a basket of fruit to my son's teacher on the Teachers' Day," said a Li Xia, 33, mother of a 5-year-old boy in Beijing.

Li said many parents whose children study at key schools in Beijing sent expensive gifts, such as shopping cards and cash wrapped in red envelopes, to teachers.

Xiong Feng, an IT worker, said he has sent gifts to his son's teachers since his boy entered kindergarten. Xiong's son now studies at one of the best primary schools in Xicheng district in Beijing, a district known for its quality teachers.

"On the Teachers' Day, my son and his classmates just sent a box of chocolates. But I send gifts on other holidays such as Mid-Autumn Day and New Year's Day," Xiong said.

While sending gifts to teachers has become common, some schools and teachers have launched campaigns to stamp out the practice.

At Xingguang School in Northern New district in Chongqing, 133 teachers used the Teachers' Day to vow not to receive gifts from students and parents, according to Chongqing Economic Times.

"Our school bans receiving gifts from students and their parents. Teachers would receive an administrative penalty and even be fired if they violate the ban," school head Qu Yongjun said.

In Changchun in Northeast China's Jilin province, 11 headmasters at top schools spoke out, saying teachers should say no to gifts. A hot line and a website were set up to receive complaints, China National Radio reported.

Li Yandan, a chemistry teacher at Jiangqiao Middle School in Shanghai, said in the eight years she has worked at the school, receiving gifts from students has never been considered usual practice.

"Over eight years, I've only accepted greeting cards and flowers from my students. I won't give special attention to a student sending gifts to me. In my mind, they are all alike," Li Yandan said.

Guidelines recently released by the State Council said that teachers could be fired if they violate work ethnics, a rule that is widely seen as a tough warning to teachers who receive gifts from students.

"How to define teachers' ethics is complicated," said an official surnamed Chen with the department of moral education at the Ministry of Education.

"We only set a standard for local education bureaus. The specific definition is subject to schools and education bureaus according to their own situation," Chen said.

Some provinces have a blanket ban on teachers receiving gifts. In Northeast China's Liaoning province, the provincial education department and the discipline department prohibit teachers from receiving gifts.

Xiao Chuan, a professor of teachers' ethics at Beijing Normal University, said the rule in Laioning is too absolute.

"Chinese culture has long advocated respect to teachers. It's natural for students to send small gifts like greeting cards and chocolates to show respect," Xiao said.

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