An elementary student’s viral essay questioned the teacher-student relationship in China

Alia | September 19th, 2013 - 2:24 am

What are teachers like? Most Chinese, without a blink, would answer “gardeners.” From day one of formal schooling in China, every student is repeatedly told that their teachers are just like gardeners, nurturing and cultivating “mother country’s flower buds.”  This deeply-rooted image, however, is recently questioned by one graduating elementary student in the southern city of Ningbo, Zhejiang province.

“Teachers are said to be like gardeners. And children flowers. Everyone knows such metaphors. But is gardener an appropriate analogy for teacher as a profession?”

3The student’s essay, titled “Gardener and Tour Guide,” was meant for China’s annual Teacher’s Day on September 10. Most netizens thought that the essay was very well written and argued. Some even believed that the student, with his non-conformity and critical thinking, represents “a true hope of a better China.”

But most importantly, the essay very straightforwardly points out what may be the biggest problem with China’s current education system, and what changes a student desires. Below are select paragraphs translated from the essay.

I wiki-ed “gardener” on Baidu. The second explanation of the term is “a metaphor for teachers.” That’s a meaning seldom seen in other terms. It shows how teachers-being-gardeners is a nailed concept in China…

One day, I realized that a gardener was all that we can think of to describe a teacher. I couldn’t help but wonder: “Aren’t there other words?” Of course, there are. I know it. A tour guide. It seems to be a good choice.

Tour guides are indeed an appropriate metaphor for teachers. A tour guide takes us to a place, where some of us may enjoy the trees, some enjoy the birds, and others the grass. Everybody has their own view of which part of the scenery is the most appealing. A teacher teaches us the same knowledge, which some of us may find helpful and others may not. With the same knowledge, we grow different talents for we interpret knowledge differently.

Gardeners and flowers, on the other hand, are a totally different story. The future of flowers is given. Peonies won’t grow into roses; and lilies won’t grow into China roses. With the gardener’s protection during winds and rains, all that the flowers need to do is to germinate and to absorb nutrients. They accept without independent thinking.

Therefore, I hope teachers are like tour guides, who take us to see different sceneries, rather than gardeners, who’d cut off our rebellious branches and grow us into obedient plants.


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4 Responses to “An elementary student’s viral essay questioned the teacher-student relationship in China”

  1. You have got one of the greatest internet sites.|

  2. [...] friend Shayna posted an interesting article on her blog about an observation a Chinese student made. She said that Chinese teachers often think [...]

  3. China Newz says:

    The gardener analogy seems to apply well to teachers no matter what they are doing. They are cultivating students in their entirety.

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