Earlier this year, Holly H. Ming (senior researcher at the Youth Foundation, Hong Kong) published an interesting book on migrant children’s education in China.
This book is actually adapted from her PhD dissertation that she prepared at the Harvard Kennedy School.
This book is structured in four parts. Each of them starts with a migrant’s story and educational aspiration. The author has chosen to adopt an empathic tone; it is clear she cares about these people and their issues. It would be misguided to think that her approach is not academic enough. Actually, Holly Ming’s demonstration is backed with strong references, and she conducted numerous interviews to prepare this book.
She first introduces readers to the status of migrants and their children in cities, and then in a second part, described migrant children’s quest for identity. Most migrant children do not remember their early life in their mother province, but still need to find their own place in their host city.
In a third part, the author studies the career decisions of migrant students and the obstacles they face in pursuing their professional ambitions.
According to her findings, some progress has been made toward the integration of migrant children in public schools (although migrant schools – private schools for migrants delivering low quality courses – still exist in several cities). Several host municipalities reduced paperwork and so more migrant children can attend these schools. But the persistence of the hukou system still prevents many of them from taking the senior high school entry examination. Most migrant children have to choose between taking this exam in their home province, where the syllabus is different from the one followed in their host cities, or leaving school and searching for low-wage jobs, repeating their parents’ fate.
She ultimately presents several policies that could help second-generation migrants to get the education they deserve.
After reading this book, written with heart, we can argue that China does not properly nurture talent. This second generation of migrants faces too many obstacles to succeed. Without proper policies, they will suffer from the same social exclusion their parents experienced.
These children and their families show an incredible thirst for education; they know education is the key to social advancement. More funds and programmes need to be allocated to migrant children to reduce social inequalities and insure a real meritocracy where second-generation migrants and fuerdai (富二代) (the second generation of the upper class) will receive the same education and compete for high social status.