The following was taken from the book "Chinese Holiday Stories 中國節日故事." This book was published by ACME Cultural Enterprise Co., Ltd. 世一文化事業股份有限公司 in 2000.
孔子名丘, 字仲尼, 是春秋時代魯國人. Confucius' family name was Chiou, and his first name was Jong-ni. He lived in the kingdom of Lu during the Spring and Autumn period.
在孔子還很小的時候, 他的父親便去世了, 由於家境不好, 因此, 孔子小時候過得並不平順. 平日, 除了要幫忙家務外, 還得替人放牧牛, 羊等工作, 賺錢貼補家用. 一直到他十五歲那年, 才有機會入學讀書. Confucius' father died when he was still very small, and his family had a difficult time after. For this reason Confucius' childhood had its share of hardship. On most days, aside from helping with household chores, he had to work as a shepherd with cows and goats to earn money for his family. It wasn't until his fifteenth year that he was able to begin studying.
儘管起步比別人晚, 孔子卻十分好學, 不放過任何學習的機會; 因此, 奠定了他深厚的學問基礎. Although he began [study] later than other people, Confucius devoted himself to learning, and never forsook an opportunity for study. Because of this he built a firm foundation on which to build future learning.
除了學識豐富, 孔子更有崇高的政治理想, 主張以 "仁道" 來治理國家. Aside from his deep knowledge, Confucius also had an impressive philosophy of political administration, within which "humanity" was the key element of state power.
在孔子五十一歲那年, 他當上魯國的司寇, 類似今天的警政署長, 只可惜他的政治理念無法被君王所採納. 最後, 孔子只好辭去官職, 周遊列國, 四處提倡他的仁政思想. At the age of 51, Confucius became an official in the state of Lu, something like a modern police chief. It's only sad that his political philosophy was never adopted by the king there. In the end Confucius had to resign from office, and [afterward] he traveled to many countries where he expounded on his philosophy of humane government.
但是, 在當時的政治情勢下, 孔子的思想卻得不到諸侯的認同; 於是, 孔子又回到自己的國家 -- 魯國. 從此, 便致力於學術教育方面的工作了. However, given the state of governance at the time Confucius' philosophy was never accepted by any rulers. For this reason Confucius returned to his home country, the Kingdom of Lu. From this time on he committed himself to the cause of education.
孔子的學生一共有三千多人, 他所採用的方法是有教無類, 因材施教. Confucius had more than 3000 students, and his method of teaching could be described as "teaching without regard for type [social status], and "teaching in accordance with ability."
什麼是 "有教無類" 呢? 孔子認為不管富或貧, 聰明或愚笨等等, 人人都有受教育的權利; 這便是 "有教無類". What is "teaching without regard for type?" Confucius thought that whether [someone] was rich or poor, smart or stupid was unimportant, and that everyone has the right to an education. This is "teaching without regard for type."
那麼, 什麼又是 "因材施教" 呢? 孔子認為, 每個人的資質不一樣, 同一種方法絕對無法適用於每個學生; 因此, 必須依學生的個別差異, 採用不同的方法, 才能真正讓學生受益. And what is "teaching in accordance with ability?" Confucius thought that everyone's ability level was different, and that there was no single teaching method suitable for all students. Because of this, [a teacher] must use different teaching methods in accordance with the traits of individual students [if one wishes] to teach them correctly.
簡單的說, 孔子是中國歷史上首先實行 "平民教育" 的人. "至聖先師" 的尊號, 對他來說, 真是一點兒也不為過啊! To put it in still simpler terms, Confucius was the first person in Chinese history to use individualized instruction*. There was nothing this revered sage couldn't accomplish!
民國二十一年, 教育界人士覺得教師責任重大, 應該有一個專屬的節日才是, 便呈准教育部訂每年的六月六日為教師節. In 1932, those in the field of education recognized the great responsibilities teachers bear, [and decided that] there should be a special holiday to honor them. The Ministry of Education then declared that June 6 of every year would be Teacher's Day.
後來, 政府覺得孔子的教育精神, 正足以當所有教師的典範, 便明令以孔子的誕辰為教師節; 不過, 當時孔子誕辰是八月二十七日. Later on, the government decided that Confucius's educational efforts and contributions to the field of teaching merited the celebration of Teacher's Day on his birthday, but at the time [it was thought] that Confucius' birthday fell on August 27.
到了民國四十一年, 經過專家學者考據, 認為依孔氏家譜記載, 孔子誕辰為魯襄公二十二年八月二十七日, 換算國曆, 應是九月二十八日; 於是, 便改成用九月二十八日為教師節了. Then, in 1952, an academic studying the Confucian Family Annals discovered that Confucius' birthday occurred on August 27, during the 22nd year of Lu Shiang-gong's reign. Once the date was converted using the national calendar, it then fell on September 28. After this [discovery] Teacher's Day was moved to September 28.
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*Translating 平民教育 as "individualized instruction" is a stretch, but it fits the paragraph above. Educational sites I looked at all pointed back to Rousseau, and untangling his thoughts on education is a long, uphill climb.