Do migrant children deserve better access to education?

Beijing residents and migrants debate education policy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 2:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 2:31pm

Beijing residents and migrants to the city from other parts of China are having a heated debate over the capital’s upcoming “Gaokao” – or China’s college entrance exam policy for the children of migrants.

It’s become a controversial topic after officials earlier announced that a new scheme, allowing migrant children to sit the test in Beijing, would be finalised by the end of the year.

The new plan is being welcomed by migrant families demanding equal rights to education and matriculation. But many Beijing residents say the city’s education resources can’t accommodate large numbers of migrant students.

Some bloggers denounced the plan. “Non-Beijing people already use all kinds of resources,” a netizen said on Sina Weibo, China’s twitter-like service. “We have even paid migrant children’s primary education. We cannot afford more.”

Others said Beijing owed a debt of gratitude to people from China’s provinces. “Let me remind you that the vegetables and fruit you eat every day are all grown outside Beijing – so be grateful,” a Weibo user said.

Under current policies, migrant workers’ children are only allowed to attend junior high school. They must sit the Gaokao in the province where their “Hukou” is registered. Hukou is China’s household registration system which identifies a person as a resident of a specific area.

This means migrant students have to leave Beijing after finishing junior high school and receive further education in their hometowns.

The current policy also allows students from big cities like Beijing and Shanghai to get into better universities with scores significantly lower than those of their counterparts in other provinces. Parents and students all over the mainland have been protesting the policy for years.

“Why is your child so afraid of fair competition?” said one user on Sina Weibo, in a debate with another blogger.

“Why is your child so afraid of competing with students in his own province?” replied the other user.

Figures provided by the Beijing education commission showed that about 400,000 migrant children studied at primary and middle schools in Beijing last year. Only about 10,000 stayed there to study at senior high schools, according to a report by China Daily in November.

China is wrestling with a number of issues caused by migrant children’s separation from their parents, who leave them for better-paid jobs in bigger cities.

The “left-over” children, who are usually raised by grandparents, often develop psychological problems due to lack of parental care. Juvenile delinquency and early school dropout rates have been rising among such children.