On Teacher’s Day in China, Parents Get Stuck with the Bill

September 14, 2010 9:13 pm Last Updated: September 15, 2010 11:37 pm

[xtypo_dropcap]C[/xtypo_dropcap]hinese parents say they feel trapped and burdened by the gift-giving obligations that come around every year on National Teacher’s Day, which just passed on Sept. 10.

As Teacher’s Day neared this year, the Internet became laden with thousands of gift ideas including bracelets, laptops, digital cameras, and other luxury items. Parents grumble about the costliness of the thinly-veiled collective bribing, but continue to participate for the sake of their children.

Originally meant to promote respect for teachers, the 26-year-old tradition has now deteriorated into a gift-giving competition and a financial burden for parents. Many fear their children may be discriminated against if they don’t send gifts to school.

A Teacher’s Day forum for parents was recently established on Baidu, a popular Chinese web portal. Many parents reported that their child received cold treatment or was assigned to a less comfortable seat in class because they failed to give presents to the teacher.

In the city of Dongguan, Guangdong Province, one girl’s family could not afford more than a phone call to thank the teacher on Teacher’s Day. As a result, the girl was made to sit in the back row of the classroom, despite her being one of the more petite members of the class.

Another parent said that her friend had a daughter who was very cute and did quite well in school. However, the girl’s teacher often told the parents that the girl was performing poorly, and advised them to have the child’s IQ checked and consider transferring her to another school. In desperation, the parents bought a jade pendant for the teacher, who never mentioned the subject again.

China News Service reported the case of three-year-old Youyou who attends a public nursery school in Beijing’s Haidian District, where many pupils come from families with privileged backgrounds. To secure for her daughter equal treatment, Youyou’s mother solicited the help of friends in England to purchase Burberry lambs’ wool scarves for the child’s four female teachers.

Gift giving is endemic in the education system and can be particularly extravagant in elementary and high schools.

A survey conducted by the Yangzi Evening News shows that out of 100 local teachers surveyed, all said they had received presents on Teacher’s Day; only 35 said they would return expensive gifts.

Popular gifts for teachers include gift cards valued at thousands of yuan (at least several hundred U.S. dollars), while some parents are even willing to lend their cars to their child’s teacher.

Liu Yonghe, the director of Nanjing Institute of Education told Yangzi Evening News that as gifts increase in extravagance, the expectation for a quid pro quo from the teacher also becomes apparent.

In a survey conducted by China Youth Daily, 65 percent of parents said that they give gifts so that the teacher will take care of their child better, and 50 percent said they do so because they were concerned that their children would otherwise be mistreated.

Internet users have also led calls for an official repeal of Teacher’s Day. “Schools are rife with corruption because of [it],” one user wrote. “Shouldn’t the holiday be abolished?”

Sun Wenguang, a retired professor of Shandong University, told Voice of America: “Repealing the holiday is not the main issue. The problem is the bribery involved with getting into top junior high and high schools. Graduate students also bribe professors to receive passing scores on essays or acceptance into graduate programs.”

Teachers have their own complaints: “Some parents are so enthusiastic that you don’t know how to refuse,” was one comment; “They may even be concerned if you don’t accept the gifts,” another teacher said on the same blog.

Another survey in Henan Province shows that 75 percent of Internet users disapprove of giving gifts on Teacher’s Day. More than half of them, however, according to Yangzi Evening News, admit that they’ll continue to do so.

Read the original Chinese article.