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  Plan to name Confucius's birthday Teacher's Day stirs debate  

  

 

Debates have sprung up across China over plans to move Teachers' Day, which currently falls on Sept. 10, to Sept. 28, believed to be the birthday of Confucius.

JINAN, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Debates have sprung up across China over plans to move Teachers' Day, which currently falls on Sept. 10, to Sept. 28, believed to be the birthday of Confucius.

The idea was made public Thursday when the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council, China's Cabinet, released a draft amendment on a package of education laws in order to canvass public opinion.

Confucius, whose philosophy emphasizes personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity, has been a philosophical and ideological icon throughout Chinese history, but his role was played down during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

The Teachers' Day change is considered a landmark of Confucianism's revival.

In Qufu City in east China's Shandong Province, where Confucius was born 2,564 years ago, hundreds of thousands of the philosopher's descendants are excited by the news.

"It is an acknowledgement of Confucius's status as China's earliest educationist," said Kong Lingshao, a 76th generation grandson of Confucius.

"Choosing Confucius's birthday as Teachers' Day reflects the return of Chinese traditional culture," said Kong, a civil servant who has been a Chinese language teacher for seven years.

Confucius was criticized during a certain period of time, but our country has rationally realized his value to the Chinese nation, he said.

Confucius, who started China's private education system, has been regarded by Chinese for millennia as "best teacher in ancient time" and "model teacher for generations."

Yang Mingchao, head of the China Confucius Research Institute, proposed setting up a "Teachers' Respect Day" along with three other Confucianism experts in 2010 at the Third Confucius World Congress.

"It has been a universal agreement among Confucianism experts around the world to set up a teachers' respect day," said Yang.

Confucius's principles have a basis in common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor worship and respect for the elderly by children. Confucius espoused the well-known principle, "Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself."

In Taiwan, Sept. 28 has been set as Teachers' Day for decades in commemoration of Confucius.

Since 1985, Teachers' Day has been designated as Sept. 10, only a few days after the school year begins. It is an important day in China, where high value has traditionally been put on education and where teachers are widely respected.

For some years, experts and legislators have been promising to change the date of Teachers' Day. Li Hanqiu, a scholar in traditional Chinese culture, suggested in 2004 that Teachers' Day should have historical and cultural associations and should fall on the birthday of Confucius.

Although many applauded the change, some are still skeptical of the possible effects.

In an online survey at Sina.com, one of the country's major web portals, 66 percent of people support the change as of 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, as it avoids the hectic beginning of the new school year. The 30 percent who oppose the change mostly believe it is nothing but formalism.

"Compared with the date change, improving teachers' well-being is far more important," said Yan Jialong, principal of Yinshanfan Middle School in poor, mountainous Jinzhai County in east China's Anhui Province.

Two new college graduates get only 1,500 yuan (243 U.S. dollars) every month teaching in the township school, far less than their peers in urban schools, said Yan.

Yu Lu, an instructor at Yangzhou University in east China's Jiangsu Province, said it is hard to accept the new date psychologically, as Teachers' Day has fallen on Sept. 10 for almost three decades.

Meanwhile, Yu doubted if Confucius could receive general acceptance, as Teachers' Day should also be an international holiday.

The rising trend of parents and students sending gifts to teachers on Teachers' Day over the past decade has soured the holiday.

"I suggest canceling Teachers' Day, as it only tells children to give presents to teachers," said Qin Lan, an Internet user who posted on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging service.

The essence of respecting teachers is respecting them in heart and in action, said Qiu Puzhong, another netizen.

Improving teachers' wages and benefits is a top priority for the government.

Salaries vary for Chinese teachers according to school level and the cities they teach in.

Teachers in a top middle school in Beijing can earn as much as 10,000 yuan (1,621 U.S. dollars) a month, while their counterparts in poor village schools get less than 1,000 yuan a month.

 

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