- Language Tips
BEIJING - As Teachers' Day approaches, many parents in China are debating giving gifts to their children's teachers, an issue widely viewed as a test of teachers' ethics and parents' confidence.
Teachers' Day falls on September 10 every year in China. It is an important occasion in the country, where a high value has traditionally been put on education and where teachers are widely respected.
People use the day to show respect for teachers in various ways, and it is also a good chance for parents to show gratitude to their children's teachers.
However, good intentions have soured as the practice has become an unspoken rule for some.
A mother of a nine-year-old student in Beijing said she was considering whether to send a gift to her daughter's teacher, especially since she found that many parents have given gifts.
"I'm worried that if I do not send a gift, my daughter will perhaps suffer unjust treatment by her teacher," said the mother on condition of anonymity.
She heard a story from a friend about a student whose parents did not send gifts to a teacher and later failed to win the Outstanding Student title when the teacher decided to hold elections while the student was on sick leave.
"I do want to show my gratitude to teachers, but my feelings have changed if I have to do it for the interests of my daughter," said the mother.
The woman's attitude represents that of many parents in recent days as similar stories have surfaced.
Giving gifts to teachers has been a tradition in China, and the phenomenon is growing every year. On Monday, Beijing traffic police said on its official microblog account that on Teachers' Day, traffic around schools will be very heavy, implying that many parents will drive to schools to deliver gifts.
The Ministry of Education has reiterated many times that teachers are prohibited from receiving gifts or money from students or their parents, but the behavior is difficult to monitor and enforce.
Experts believe the problem is inevitable in today's China due to unequal distribution of educational resources. All parents want their children to enroll in good schools and good classes, and parents hope money can provide a favorable study environment for their children in the face of fierce competition.
A type of gift card allowing teachers to shop on popular websites has become popular in China. On major shopping sites such as Taobao.com, JD.com and others, one can easily find hundreds of Teachers' Day gift cards with credit of 200 yuan ($33) to as much as 1,000 yuan.
Although many people condemn the practice, others disagree. On the Twitter-like Sina Weibo community, a user under the name "qingjianduoyun" said it is parents who have an incorrect attitude and compare themselves to others when giving gifts to teachers.
"Their children are overprotected. Parents have no confidence in their children so they hope teachers will care for their children more. Giving gifts helps parents rest assured," said the Weibo user.
The user said she once gave roller skates to the daughter of her son's teacher. The teacher returned the gift, insisting on friendship instead.
Teachers have also weighed in on the issue. Du Jinxia, a teacher at a privately-owned primary school, said she received cosmetics last year and gift cards this year.
"Parents will be more worried if I decline the gifts. They may think that I look down on the gifts. If I accept gifts I will feel uncomfortable," said Du.
"In my eyes, those vulgar gift cards are no match for greeting cards made by the students themselves," said Du, "I feel delighted when I receive them."