Headline News


Children of migrants deserve equal education

Source: China Daily | 03-01-2007 16:38

Special Report:   2007 NPC & CPPCC

BEIJING, March 1 -- According to the Beijing Bureau of Statistics, currently there are more than 130,000 children of migrants attending 297 migrant schools in Beijing. Only 58 of these schools have government authorization.

There are historical reasons and social conditions for the hundreds of unauthorized schools. The reasons are closely related to the distribution of resource during the process of reform. Government departments need to respect the facts and take a pragmatic attitude in solving the problems.

The 239 schools without permits are in poor condition. Teachers receive meager pay. There are hidden safety risks in the schoolhouses, food and transportation. Last summer the municipal government issued a circular on enhancing the safety at these schools and closed some of them. But the results were less than successful.

In some places conflicts broke out between law-enforcement personnel and school staff as well as parents. The action even led to the appearance of some tiny and shabby underground schools in Fengtai and Haidian districts. These schools are much worse than the openly operated schools for children of migrant workers.

Why did this happen? First, it was vacation time when the schools were informed that they would be shut down. Schools and parents were unprepared. Second, related departments rigidly implemented the decision to shut the schools but offered no alternatives. Third, government departments are under great financial pressure to improve the condition of those schools. Fourth, the fees collected by public schools are too high for migrant workers to afford. Fifth, it is difficult for the parents to obtain all five certificates and papers required for their children to attend public school. In addition, these parents do not know how long they will stay in Beijing so are less likely to undertake the paperwork.

While China continues in a period of rapid urbanization, an increase in migrant population can be expected for a long time in medium and large cities. As part of this pattern, the education of migrant workers' children will be a continuing issue, which requires thorough consideration by the authorities. It concerns the harmony and stability of Beijing and other cities to guarantee the right of education to children of migrant workers. Prompt measures should be taken.

First, private migrant schools in poor condition should be shut down with students transferred to approved schools for these students or public schools. The authorities should include migrant schools in the management of non-public education and provide support and guidance in sites, funds and teacher training. The operation of these schools should be regulated.

According to statistics, there were about 375,000 children of migrant workers in Beijing in 2006. An estimated 62 percent of these children were studying in public schools. Obviously the current 58 authorized schools for children of migrant workers were far from enough for the other 142,500 children.

The government's policy target should be to guarantee migrant children's schooling in qualified schools. When the government cannot afford to build more schools, it is important to nurture and improve schools run by the migrant population and encourage social capital to invest in non-public migrant schools.

Second, a mechanism can be established to let government at different levels share funding responsibilities. County-level governments are in charge of managing China's compulsory education. Beijing's migrant children mainly live in a few townships within a few districts. The high concentration has financially strained local education departments. Therefore, a mechanism can be set up to let the municipal, district and township governments share the responsibilities and provide sufficient resources for equal educational opportunities for migrant children.

Third, the government should give more support to migrant schools. Compulsory education for migrant children should be included in local education development plans and budgets. Following the example of other regions, Beijing can give financial aid to migrant schools at one-third to two-thirds the level of public schools. Teachers at migrant schools should enjoy the same training and study opportunities as their counterparts in public schools.

The main steps taken so far are government investment in public schools enabling them to expand enrollment and take more migrant children plus building unsophisticated schools in communities with high migrant populations.

It is proper and necessary for the government to play a major role in promoting equal education. At the same time, non-public schools for migrant students should be encouraged. Public schools, non-public schools and schools run by the migrant population can all provide opportunities for these children who are part of China's future.


Editor:Du Xiaodan