A Chinese woman has been told that she is unable to graduate as a teacher – because she is too short.
The woman, identified only as Ms Li, failed to qualify as she was under 150cm (4ft 9in) tall, according to the official Shaanxi News Online.
Height restrictions still exist for people seeking teaching qualifications in many Chinese provinces.
Social media users have reacted angrily to the news – saying the rules are discriminatory.
Many also say the case highlights wider problems in China’s education system, with too much attention paid to things like height and not enough to other indicators.
Dreams ‘have been shattered’
Ms Li is an English-language major studying in her final year at Shaanxi Normal University, having first enrolled in 2014.
However, it took until May this year, shortly before graduation, for her to be told she would not be able to qualify as a teacher.
In northern Shaanxi province, men must be over 155cm and women must be over 150cm in order to receive their full teaching qualifications. Those wanting to teach at nursery are able to apply for special accreditation if they are five centimetres shorter.
Ms Li, at 140cm, or 4ft 6in, did not qualify for either.
“In four years, no one has noticed that the teacher qualification certificate has a height limit,” she told Shaanxi News. “My dreams of becoming a teacher have been shattered.”
The university has not responded to the criticism, but Shaanxi is not the only province with restrictions. Many regions across the country have similar rules, arguing they are in the students’ interest because teachers need to be tall enough to reach blackboards.
But they have been heavily criticised in recent months. As a result, the Sichuan, Jiangxi and Guangxi regions in China have lifted their restrictions. – and now Shaanxi is in social media users’ crosshairs.
‘Not a beauty contest’
Thousands on the popular Sina Weibo microblog are sympathising with Ms Li’s situation and are criticising the country’s height restrictions for teachers, with many saying “morality” and “talent” should be valued over seemingly trivial requirements.
“It should be clearly stated in the college entrance examination medical, rather than allowing students to work hard for many years,” one user wrote.
“Being limited by your height in having the ability to educate people and spread knowledge – the education department should review this,” another added.
“Teachers should be chosen based on their ability and quality; it’s not a beauty contest,” another added.
Others said that the rule was effectively “discrimination” against shorter people, and people with dwarfism.
“No one is born wanting to be a dwarf,” one user says. “Do they not have rights as human beings?”
The case also has reignited concerns about the ways in which China selects teachers, questioning why height is so important in the face of an apparent lack of screening process for people working with children.
These concerns had initially been fuelled by a number of cases in the last six months, starting in November 2017, when there was nationwide protest after video footage surfaced showing toddlers being mistreated at a Shanghai day-care centre.
The same month, a Beijing nursery was accused of giving injections and feeding drugs to toddlers.
And fears were further inflamed in May after surveillance footage was shared online of a preschool teacher forcing a child to swallow scalding water as a punishment for bad behaviour.
“To be a preschool teacher nowadays, the threshold is too low,” one user said at the time. “How do these people become teachers?” another asks.
“It is this kind of teacher that gives the teaching profession a bad name,” a third said.