Following a spate of demolitions of migrant children schools in Beijing in 2011, Bao Caolin (报曹林), a journalist of the China Youth Daily commented:
“Beijing has shut down some 30 private schools for migrant children. In contrast, nearly all the officials’ offspring have access to top quality kindergartens, primary and middle schools. They probably will never understand the predicament of the migrant workers’ children after their schools were closed. Why are all the affordable and accessible schools for migrant workers’ children illegal? Why are all the legal ones unaffordable and inaccessible?”
When the Ministry of Education announced a plan this year to allow migrant students to take the national university entrance examination (gaokao – 高考) in the city they reside, it sparked a heated debate.1 At the moment, most migrant children have to return to their hometowns to take the test. Very few are able to take the entrance exam in the city they live in as they need to meet strict criteria. Parents of children with local hukou oppose the plan fiercely and fight to maintain the status quo. They argue that opening the exam to rural children would put more of a strain on local education resources (according to the national census approximately 7 million migrant workers live in Beijing, accounting for more than 35% of all residents).
The exam has already been criticised for its bias in favour of urban children (chengshi qingxiangxing – 城市倾向性). Students who take the exam in Beijing and Shanghai can qualify for entrance with lower scores than those who take it in other places. In 2010, rural students represented just 17% of total students at Tsinghua University. The proportion of rural students gaining admission to Tsinghua and Pekin University oscillated between 15 and 22% on average during the 1990s.2
The Constitution guarantees primary education for all citizens (article 19 and article 46). Article 9 of the Education Law establishes that “citizens shall enjoy equal opportunity of education regardless of their nationality, race, sex, occupation, property or religious belief, etc.” Whatever the law says the reality is that migrant children suffer institutional and non-institutional discrimination. If the aim of the central leadership is to promote urbanisation of migrant workers, then it seems essential to facilitate migration of the family as a whole. Children left behind in the village often lack emotional support and care from their parents. They only have the chance to reunite once or twice a year. Migrant workers integration and identification with the host city would be easier if their children travelled with them. In order for that to happen, migrant children need to be given the same opportunities for education as their urban peers.
- Karita Kan – La nouvelle “generation perdue” – Perspectives Chinoises 2013/2