Rules for which migrants can study in their adopted cities anger families

Parents say tough criteria for deciding which children can apply for high school and university in adopted cities will penalise them

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 4:34am

Migrant parents are unhappy with new State Council guidelines that set harsh rules for deciding which of their children can sit high school and university entrance exams in the cities where they live.

They say the restrictions will deny their children the chance of an education.

Minister of Education Yuan Guiren said yesterday that aside from existing criteria that requires the migrants to have stable jobs, "stable residency" and contribute to social insurance, cities could also set rules, such as when the children attended school in those cities.

He said local governments would also set their own policies based on what type of skilled workers they were trying to attract.

Yuan's comments came just days after the State Council ordered local governments to enact their own policies to allow migrant children to take the exams where they live, rather than having to return to where they have permanent residency.

About 10 years ago the government allowed children of migrant workers to receive free primary and middle school education outside where they hold hukou, or permanent household residency.

Yuan acknowledged yesterday that many of those children were now old enough to sit high school or college entrance exams and where they should take those exams had to addressed.

But some parents and academics said the thresholds being put in place meant most migrant children would not be able to enjoy the benefits of the policy.

"There is no equality in education there," said Xu Juan, an Anhui native who runs an air-conditioner business with her husband in Shanghai. Xu has joined other parents to lobby for equal education opportunities.

"There are too many requirements for the parents, such as having social insurance in the city and a stable job and stable income," she said. "Would being a vegetable vendor be considered a stable job with stable pay? And how are we supposed to pay social insurance here if we don't have hukou?

"It is not fair at all. Why can't the policy just look at whether the students have been studying in a Shanghai school, regardless of their parents' situation?"

Xu's son attends a middle school in Shanghai. She said if he had to attend a vocational school rather than high school, she would take him back to their hometown in Anhui so he could attend high school. This would separate him from his father.

They are hoping more favourable policies are introduced by the end of the year so the family is not broken up.

Professor Chu Zhaohui , a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences in Beijing, said the restrictions would hurt the chances of poor people while aiding the well-off, as they could easily meet the requirements.