When it was introduced 26 years ago, Teachers' Day - which falls on September 10 - was meant to be a day of thanksgiving and gratitude for teachers. But it has increasingly become a day of dilemmas for pupils, parents and teachers. Instead of a simple greeting or a card, teachers at mainland schools, particularly primary schools, are often heaped with presents ranging from watches to pre-paid shopping cards worth hundreds of yuan in the lead-up to Teachers' Day each year. While few teachers overtly ask for presents, parents often feel obliged to buy presents on behalf of their children because of concerns that failing to do so might see their children singled out for unfair treatment. A survey of 100 parents and 100 teachers by the Yangtze Evening News in Nanjing earlier this week showed that more than 60 per cent of parents had bought teachers presents. Furthermore, the survey said that all the teachers admitted to having received presents at some stage. It's a trend that represents a major departure from the days when teachers were hailed as social role models for their unselfish contributions. The trend is an issue that has become a focal point of heated public debate in recent years. The debate about whether teachers should be given or receive presents has become so contentious that it has prompted 10 elite high schools to issue a joint appeal via the official website of the Ministry of Education for teachers not to abuse their position of privilege. The appeal particularly asked teachers to turn down presents given to them by students or their parents. Wang Xiong , a veteran history teacher from Yangzhou , Jiangsu province, said it was a reflection of the dilemma teachers faced in a society in transformation. 'People no longer abide solely by some moral principles, but also the rule of the economy in an increasingly market-oriented society,' Wang said. Wang said that parents who were willing to buy teachers presents were often the rich and powerful, keen to curry favours from teachers such as extra coaching for their children. 'So to accept presents does not necessarily mean an overall decline in teachers' morality, but conformity to a market economy,' he said. Wang said many teachers with a sense of social conscience began to realise the downside of the practice as schools could be increasingly hijacked by those with money and power. 'But it can not go away entirely as schools could not be separated from the wider community,' he added. Professor Xiong Bingqi , vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the practice came about because parents were trapped in a blind competition for teachers' attention or favours due to a flawed school system, which lacked parents' committees that would allow them to participate in school management. The professor said the joint appeal against presents for teachers would do little to eradicate the practice without a system - such as parents' committees - being put in place. 'Instead the appeal might just serve as a reminder for absent-minded parents that it's time to act.'