Three drafts of a teachers' code, recently released to solicit public opinion, have been lauded for highlighting problems in teaching methods and divulging the shortcomings of China's education system.
Early this month, the Ministry of Education published on its website drafts of codes for teachers in kindergartens and primary and middle schools. They will be the country's first official documents to define the professional skills and requirements of teachers.
Wang Xiao, an educational expert with Beijing Normal University, said the draft codes have responded to a series of controversial problems in the current education system and also reiterated the standards that constitute a qualified teacher.
In the drafts, an article banning teachers from mocking and discriminating against students has resonated with many people. On Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblog, Internet users have left more than 300,000 posts responding to this article and sharing their experiences of being laughed at by teachers.
"Deliberately mocking students is immoral for a teacher. In many cases, the teacher is simply unaware of the embarrassment or mental pain inflicted upon students when they're reproached," said Nie Yingyun, a head teacher at the NO. 9 Middle School in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province.
Praise and reproach are useful educational tools, but teachers need to learn how to administer these tools and employ good communication skills, said Du Wendong, a psychology professor at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine.
"Children are very sensitive to judgment, and even a single word or sentence might irreversibly change their personality. Many teachers fail to realize their strong influence on students," he said.
Du suggests that teachers should receive proper training on how to communicate with children.
The drafts also include articles requiring teachers to respect the personality of students.
Over the past few months, two schools have triggered controversy for dividing students into various groups according to grades or behavior.
A middle school in the city of Baotou in Inner Mongolia gave red uniforms to 50 students with good academic performance, while the rest wore blue, white or black.
A primary school in Xi'an of Shaanxi province required poorly behaved students to wear green scarves.
To single out students in this manner is inappropriate and a type of discrimination, and schools must avoid such radical measures, Du said.
The drafts also require primary school teachers to protect students' curiosity and foster creativity.
"Chinese students don't perform well in terms of creativity and research capability. We cannot rule out the effects that our teaching methods influence this," Wang said. "For a long time, schools and teachers put too much emphasis on exam results, which largely stifles curiosity, imagination and creativity."
Other teachers share this concern. Zhang Lan, a high school teacher in Nanjing, found her students rarely got the opportunity to create something with their own hands.
"I hope to find a more detailed and feasible plan to encourage their curiosity and creativity," she said.
Another recommendation for primary school teachers welcomed by critics is the implementation of appropriate sex education.
Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the country's primary and middle schools haven't adopted appropriate sex education, which has led to physical and mental problems among teenagers, such as pregnancy and risky sexual behavior.
This August, the introduction of a new sex education textbook in Beijing triggered a debate among parents and educators over whether a straightforward introduction to sex would have a negative impact.
"Of course, we need to further discuss what kind of textbooks are appropriate, but one thing is certain -- sex education is indispensable and should be compulsory," Li said.
"It would mean significant progress to agree on and implement a strong teachers' code, which would serve as an evaluation standard for teachers," Wang said.