International Teachers Day – Sri Lanka and Chinese approach
Posted on October 7th, 2009

Dr.P.A.Samaraweera, China

On the 6th of October, Sri Lanka along with many other countries celebrated the International Teachers Day. It’s unusual that some countries such as New Zealand and Australia still do not observe this. The Teachers Day is not so popular like the Fathers Day, Mothers Day or the Valentines Day because there is no brisk business in giving gifts, flowers , dinners etc. As there is no such commercialism the Teachers Day go unnoticed.

When I saw about the Teachers Day celebrations in Sri Lanka in an English Daily of 6th Oct. and as I was in China I inquired if this day is observed in China. So a friend of mine took me to two schools in the Guangzhou Province and introduced me to the Principals.

 More than in other countries, in China, teachers are revered both by the students and the community and by tradition they are assigned a higher status in the social strata. Therefore, I was told that on the ‘Teachers Day’ the principal walks around the school giving each teacher a bunch of flowers and a card thanking him/her for the services to the students and society, while the students chant ‘Happy teachers day’. In the past it had been the custom to put some money into an envelope and give it with the card because in China giving money at festivals bring good luck. Students give gifts such as box of chocolates, flowers, tea cups etc., to their favourite teachers. The days lunch for the teachers is provided by the school.

 While discussing the above, I also noticed some salient features with regard to student conduct. Chinese schools appoint a monitor as a leader to each class. His role is to see that the class is ready when the teacher arrives. For example, with things such as attendance sheets, names of absentees, behaviour of students in the absence of the teacher, writing materials for the white/black-board, functioning of equipment etc. The monitor has to wait at the door for the teacher and announce his arrival asking the students to stand up and wish him. The teacher returns the wishes and asks them to sit down. This may look strange but I was told all schools follow this tradition.

 As in most Asian countries, in China as well, students stand up to ask or answer a question. They use both hands to offer or accept anything from/to the teacher. But in the west, students speaking to the teacher while being seated is allowed. Then in the rural areas in Sri Lanka we still see the tradition of offering betel leaves and worshipping the teacher.

 An important feature in the Chinese educational system is that it is not commercialised. For example teachers do not offer private tuition for money after school. Also there are no mushroom tutories offering tuition causing stress to both students and parents.

 But which ever country, teachers command respect and are treated as supporting pillors of the nation as it is their task to raise a disciplined and a literate younger generation. From time immemorial, in every country teaching had been considered a dignified and a honourable profession. Therefore, the ‘Teachers day’ recognises the special role of the teachers and the dignity of the teaching profession.

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