Head refuses to kneel in filial-piety teacups storm

A primary school activity in which pupils were asked to kneel while serving tea to parents was supposed to teach kids about filial piety and respect, its principal said, after photos of the event sparked criticisms online that the school was pushing blind devotion to parents.

Fukien Secondary School Affiliated School principal Eva Charisa Hsu said some 70 pairs of students and parents voluntarily took part in the "filial piety ceremony" on the first day of the school year on Thursday. Students were asked to clip parents' nails, massage them and kneel to serve them tea.

Some people online questioned the intention, saying kneeling down while offering tea encouraged foolish filial piety.

Hsu said yesterday the activity did not teach students they must always kneel and that the school "had never thought the event would create such a controversy."

"We didn't consider it a serious matter, and we are not the first school to hold this kind of activity."

Hsu said the intention was to draw pupils' attention to filial piety and motivate them to learn to be grateful.

She said serving tea is not a rare ritual, citing as an example some of her friends who still "kneeled down for tea to receive lai sees" during the Lunar New Year.

As for asking students to clip nails, she said it is to teach children that "love should be spoken and also acted upon," thus the school designed some activities that "children can simply handle".

In addition, students were required to dress up as expectant mothers for three days to help them understand through role-playing the inconvenience caused by pregnancy.

Regarding a teacher who said "I will take good care of you and do as you say," Hsu said the teacher borrowed the phrase from words grooms use during wedding ceremonies and wasn't intended to teach students to be obedient to parents or to be foolishly filial.

If parents ask children to obey thoroughly, teachers and schools will intervene.

Hsu stressed that, after reading online comments and articles, she has learned that "people have different ideas toward filial piety" and "filial piety can be so controversial," calling it a "special experience."

With this controversy, the school knows how to improve, she said, admitting initial planning was not considered in such detail.

Founded in 1951, the school, run by the Fukien Chamber of Commerce, became a direct subsidy school in 1991. It now has one of the highest ratios of native-speaking English teachers among DSS schools.