A kindergarten teacher in east China raised the hackles of Chinese netizens on Thursday after photos of her abusing children were posted online.
One of the photos depicts the woman grabbing a boy's ears, with the child making a pained face. Another photo shows a child whose mouth was apparently taped shut by the teacher.
The woman was later identified as Yan Yanhong, a 20-year-old unlicensed private kindergarten teacher from the city of Wenling in Zhejiang Province.
Yan was detained by local police on Thursday after the photos went viral.
Similar scandals have been reported in increasing number in recent years, exposing a lack of supervision and public investment in preschool education.
Government investment in preschool education accounts for just 1.2 percent of its total education expenditures, far less than the average of 6 to 8 percent in developed countries.
Kindergartens are not part of China's nine-year compulsory eduction system, which enjoys strong government funding. A shortage of public kindergartens has led to the proliferation of private schools, which often lack the supervision implemented in public schools.
Cost-cutting and financial pressures lead many private kindergartens to pay their teachers less than their public counterparts. An education official in Wenling said private kindergarten teachers earn about 20,000 yuan (3,172 U.S. dollars) annually, just one-third of the average salary for public teachers.
The low pay has had an effect on recruitment, as qualified teachers are reluctant to take private kindergarten jobs. Unlicensed teachers have filled the void -- only 40 percent of Wenling's private kindergarten teachers are licensed.
Legal support is also lacking. Under Chinese law, teachers who harm their students cannot technically be charged with abuse, according to Shanghai-based lawyer Ding Jinkun, who proposed that the law should be amended to apply to teachers.
Current laws regarding the protection of minors rely on school administrators and education authorities to punish teachers. However, these laws are not always strongly enforced.
Experts have called for the government to spend more money on preschool education in order to pull it away from business interests.
Education authorities have been urged by experts to increase financial investment in the area, expand public kindergartens and support private ones, as well as improve employment conditions for kindergarten teachers.