Gov’t shouldn’t try to regulate teacher-student relationships

The China Post news staff

For a jaded, hard-to-shock world, a romantic relationship between a teacher and student is only scandalous if there are unexpected elements thrown in — if the people involved are high-profile and famous, if the student is extremely underage, or if any of the behavior involved deviate from that of regular, loving couples. Despite its ubiquity, the age-old affair between an educator and learner is rarely encouraged. In many cases, it is downright criminal as the relationship is often accompanied by outside accusations of statutory rape. In today’s progressive society, however, is the relationship itself, provided that both parties are of age, still a taboo? More importantly, does it make society as a whole uncomfortable enough to warrant government admonishment and interference? On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education (MOE) publicly urged teachers nationwide to refrain from engaging in romantic relationships with their students, citing such conduct as a violation of professional ethics. What came out sounding like an official directive was quickly backtracked by the MOE, which claimed that what was meant to be a “public warning” had been taken out of context by local media and hence, never meant to be legally binding. Of course, the “warning” primarily targets post high-school relationships; it is safe to say that on the primary and secondary school level, teachers are prohibited by law from becoming sexually and romantically involved with students under the age of 18.

But once the student is of age, common sense would assume what goes on between two consenting adults is their own business. Granted, a college professor should not get involved with someone over whom he or she has direct supervision; such codes of behavioral conduct are detailed explicitly in many universities overseas, as Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基) pointed out. Wu’s reasoning, in his own words: “It is a general belief that, because of the unequal power relationship between instructors and their students, the two parties should not engage in romantic relationships.”