EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

The mission of teachers

Writer: Winton Dong  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2020-09-14

Sept. 10, 2020 was the 36th Teachers' Day in China. The Chinese Government initiated this special day in 1985 to show respect to teachers.

As the most populous country in the world, China now boasts 17.32 million full-time teachers, who provide teaching to 280 million students across the nation. Moreover, millions of rural teachers and thousands of volunteer teachers are also working in the country's most remote and least developed regions.

In his greetings to teachers nationwide ahead of Teachers' Day, President Xi Jinping commended the country's educators for making important contributions to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. He again urged governments at various levels to care more about teachers in order to make teaching the most respected and admired profession in China, and enable the whole society to give priority to the education of our next generation.

Chinese people have a long tradition of respecting teachers and attaching great importance to learning. In ancient China, people put the heaven, the earth, emperors, parents and teachers (天、地、君、亲、师) on an equal footing. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, teachers have played a pivotal role in eradicating illiteracy and enhancing the comprehensive quality of our fellow citizens. Especially in recent years, the Central Government has reiterated, for many times, that teachers should be paid no less than public servants with the same hierarchies in the same region. Two weeks ago, the Dafang County chief in Guizhou Province was sacked because the local government failed to pay the salary of teachers on time.

With the enhancement of social status and economic gains, teaching is becoming an esteemed and even highly competitive profession in China. According to Shenzhen Middle School, one of the best known middle schools in our city, it recruited 30 teachers in 2019. All of the newly hired teachers had master's degrees from famous Chinese universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University, and some even graduated from world-renowned higher learning institutions such as Harvard University and University College London (UCL).

My family has a special feeling towards teachers. My parents, my sister and sister-in-law are university teachers. Before transferring to be a journalist, I myself was also a college English teacher. Personally, I think that teachers should get better pay and higher status. However, in order to meet new challenges, teachers should try hard to beef up their professional expertise and professional ethics, and proactively explore new educational methods in the new era.

Especially in the face of the pandemic, teachers should brave difficulties, fight on the frontline of pandemic containment and give lessons online. Compared with traditional offline teaching-oriented methods, this is a difficult and painful transformation for teachers across the country, which means that teachers should accelerate research on the impact of new technologies on teaching and how they can quickly make full use of new technologies to cultivate talent and nurture the next generation.

Cultural roots are very important for any country to sustain. As a nation with a proud ancient civilization, the strong and vibrant traditional Chinese culture has been steadily evolving and developing over the past 5,000 years. While passing knowledge to students, it is the even more important responsibility of teachers to keep our cultural heritage alive and ongoing from generation to generation.

Keeping our cultural heritage does not necessarily mean curbing creativity and innovation. Excellent teachers can encourage students to get inspiration and innovative ideas from our rich cultural heritage. They should also teach students to have independent and critical thinking, never follow blindly, dare to challenge authorities and be open to different ideas in different countries. Only by doing so, can our offspring not only breathe new life into traditional Chinese culture, but also merge into the world.

(The author is the editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)