At least 20 million youngsters in rural China have quit school to follow in the footsteps of their migrant worker parents and find work in cities, according to a study.
Nearly 1,000 young villagers in 66 villages across six provinces were polled, of which about one in ten were found to have dropped out of school.
Based on the findings, sociology professor Liu Chengbin of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, who conducted the research, estimated that the number of school dropouts across the nation could be somewhere between 20 to 30 million.
“This shows school dropouts are quite prevalent in rural areas,” he concluded in the study on rural youths’ development.
But surprisingly the financial situation of students is not the major reason contributing to the dropouts, which have been widespread since rural areas introduced the nine-year compulsory education, the study pointed out.
Nearly half of the dropout students surveyed said they had quit school to go to work in cities so they could “broaden their horizons and enjoy new experiences”. And another 30 per cent said it was because “everyone else is doing it”, according to the study.
“This finding shows that most dropouts decided to quit schools themselves instead of being pressured to do so out of financial concerns regarding tuition or living costs,” said Liu in a conclusion that defies the common public perception.
He added that the prevalence of pragmatism among village residents had contributed to this social phenomenon.
“From their [the parents] point of view, continuing the pursuit of college education for their children not only costs a fortune, but also does not guarantee securing a job.”
Liu urged the government to change its “economic growth-orientated approach” in designing its rural policies.
“The bottom line is to ensure all the underage do not quit their schools to pursue work … this is key to both maintain social stability and sustainable social development,” he said.
The large scale of school dropouts has posed serious social problems, such as mounting crime rates among the dropouts.
Last month, three unemployed teenage dropouts in rural Beijing made media headlines for brutally beating up a 14-year old boy. It was later revealed that a group of underaged youngsters like them had been roaming outside local schools, bullying students and robbing them of their pocket money.