Education Problems with Urban Migratory Children in China

By Yan, Fei | Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Education Problems with Urban Migratory Children in China


Yan, Fei, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare


In China, due to the Residence Registration System and Segmented Governmental Management of Education, the educational problems with urban migratory children have been overlooked for a long time. The results are, on one hand, these children have no access to Public-Funded School because they are not categorized as local residents; on the other hand the illegal Schools for Migrant Workers' Children exist in many cities. The satisfactory solution to the problem will be a win-win process: the promotion of migratory children's education will not only benefit this minority group and the communities in which they live, but also contribute to the healthy development of the society and country.

Keywords: children, education, China, urban, migrant

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In China, as the economy develops, there is an ever-increasing migratory urban population. It includes a considerable proportion of children. Of the approximately 120 million migratory individuals, 2.4-3.6 million are school-age children. Because this floating population is large, highly mobile, and difficult to control, educating migrant children is becoming a prominent problem. How to improve these children's educational environment and integrate them into mainstream education within the context of China's nine-year compulsory education policy is a challenge.

I made contact with these children for about half a year as a social worker. During this period I experienced their hardships and happiness, realized their agonies and expectations. I hope this article can conduct a meaningful exploration of the educational problems facing migratory children. When the problem is recognized and emphasized by more organizations, the solution will be closer.

All citizens of the People's Republic of China are required to complete nine years of education. However, migrant children are usually excluded from both the rural and urban education systems. This damages the principles of obligation, equality, and comprehensiveness of primary education (Hui Qin, 2001).

According to Article 2 of the Interim Measures on Schooling for Children Among the Floating Population (Chinese National Education Committee, 1998), migratory children are defined as follows: children between the ages of 6 and 14 living with parents or guardians in a temporary location for more than half a year, who have the ability to study. Migrant workers cluster in both rural and urban areas. They live in simple houses and tents, densely packed, with poor sanitary conditions, and often lacking basic safety. More important, the children have different expectations from their parents. Forced to live in the fringe of society, they may feel treated unequally. This could generate resistence to society.

Migratory families frequently have more than one child. The traditional belief in the superiority of boys over girls is deep-rooted, and awareness of birth-control is limited. This leads to larger families. I found that when a family has two or more children, one is usually a boy. Parents will spend most of their money on him and place high expectations on him. Girls will have less attention and opportunity to go to school.

Because compulsory education in China is carried out by local governments and follows a system of top-down administration, the distribution and scale of schools are based on the distribution of permanent residents in the locality. The influx of large numbers of migrant children exerts great pressure on local primary education. The number of planned admissions is greatly exceeded, thus increasing the local financial burden.

Currently, migrant children are admitted into schools in two ways. They either pay normal school fees and enter public schools or they study in unlicensed schools set up for migrant children (Ke Deng, 2001). According to Article 7 of Interim Measures on Schooling for Children among the Floating Population ((Chinese National Education Committee, 1998) migrant children should enter public primary or secondary schools. …

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