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September 11, 2012

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Pricey Teachers' Day gifts create anxiety

A PICTURE of a pupil carrying two Gucci bags to her school as gifts for teachers yesterday has created a stir online, where people liken the yearly gift-giving custom on Teachers' Day to bribery.

Before the country celebrated the festival yesterday, some parents had heated discussions about what to send to their children's educators. Parents now suffer great anxiety after the semester begins as they painstakingly pick suitable gifts for teachers.

The most popular gifts are prepaid gift cards worth between 300 yuan (US$47.30) to 1,000 yuan. Other choices include high-end green tea, cosmetic products, expensive watches, luxury jewels and overseas trips.

A survey said more than 70 percent of parents will send gifts to teachers on Teachers' Day, according to China National Radio.

Parents want to maintain a good relationship with teachers, who wield considerable influence, such as appointing class leaders or recommending students for higher education.

Some parents just fear their children won't get proper care if they don't send gifts to teachers because other parents do so.

"I just expect more attention and encouragement toward my son from the teachers," said Ge Min, a local father who sent 1,000-yuan shopping cards to teachers.

However, parents have found themselves in a dilemma. They teach their children to be honest and upright, while they don't know how to explain to their kids the reasons for elaborate gifts.

The prepaid gift cards, hidden in Teachers' Day celebration cards by Ge, accidentally fell out and were seen by his five-year-old son.

"He asked me why I was putting them in the cards," Ge said. "I told him it's none of your business. All you need to do is to send the cards to the teachers."

Some students even demand their parents send gifts to the teachers after they found other students do so.

A mother, out of town on a business trip, loaded 1,000 yuan in credits to the cellphone of her son's teacher, after the son called her to ask her to offer gifts to the teacher.

Many people worried that the gift-sending custom is a bad influence on children, who may learn bribery is an effective tool to realize goals.

"I miss the time when we sent simple flowers and self-made cards to teachers," said Li Li, a local mother born in the 1980s. At that time, daily commodities such as bacon, rice and cooking oil were common gifts, and in the 1990s, flowers and cards were popular gifts.

In the past decade, the cost of gifts to teachers has grown 30 to 50 times and many stores deem Teachers' Day a good opportunity to cash in.

Education authorities in China, who noticed what they considered an unhealthy trend, decided to act.

In December 2010, the Ministry of Education issued a notice to strengthen ethics and self-discipline in the education system. It forbids teachers from receiving gifts of value such as cash or shopping cards.

Local education authorities have said teachers who violate anti-corruption rules will be punished in their yearly ethics assessments.

Some teachers also find Teachers' Day a headache as they don't know how to reject gifts without putting himself and the parents or students in an awkward position.

"If I returned the gifts, some parents feel that I don't like their gifts and will replace them with more expensive ones," said Mario Hu, a local teacher.

A student's father immediately loaded money onto the teacher's cellphone after he declined to receive prepaid gift cards offered to him.

He said he had to explain repeatedly to parents that he will treat each student equally no matter whether they send him gifts or not, while parents still don't quite believe him.


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