Dilemma of teacher-student ties

Updated: 2014-10-15 07:41

(China Daily)

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The Education Ministry, in its latest move, has ordered teachers not to sexually harass or have improper relations with students. Although overdue, this is a welcome directive. But an article in Beijing News raises a pertinent question: How to define the "proper relations"? Excerpts:

If a teacher, despite being married, has a relationship with a student, he or she should indeed be condemned, and even detained. But how does one judge a single, young or middle-aged teacher in a university or college who has a relationship with a student? Can he or she still be accused of having an improper relationship with a student?

Harvard University banned teachers from having "relationship with students in class" way back in 1984. After that, many countries ruled teacher-student relationships illegal irrespective of whether the teacher was a direct or indirect instructor.

But before the Education Ministry issued the directive, only a few universities in China had banned such a relationship. The aim of banning teacher-student relationships is to prevent teachers from abusing their powers. But still the Education Ministry should clarify what constitutes proper and improper relationships between teachers and students. Or else, it should ban teachers from having love affairs with students.

In fact, cases of teachers sexually harassing students must be dealt under the judicial framework because, despite being a moral matter, sexual harassment is more of a legal issue.

Moreover, education authorities should also pay greater attention to teachers' sexual offenses against minors in primary and middle schools, especially in remote areas where the institutional protection of "left-behind" children is extremely poor.