Migrant children face education divide

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, July 14, 2010
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Giving a choice

Despite growing calls for the government to reform the hukou system, though, some education chiefs say cities like Shanghai would be unable to handle the inevitably large influx of migrant students, who would all stand a better chance of qualifying for the top universities.

Such a move would only put extra pressure on educational resources, said Zong Weirong, head teacher at Luoxi Primary School, one of the 16 private schools taken over by Baoshan officials.

However, Gu Jun, a professor of sociology at Shanghai University, insisted the opening-up would not result in a substantial surge in the migrant population as many would be deterred by the high cost of living.

Even if it did attract more people, it is the responsibility of the central government, not the local government, to allocate more funds for a city to expand its educational resources, he said.

That way, authorities would not come under financial pressure, he added, and "in time it may even help a city to develop into a world-class center famous for its quality education".

Gu did agree, though, that the separation of students in public schools is fairly rational under the current national conditions, which are likely to exist for the next 20 years. Given the hukou system and the huge gap between China's urban east and rural west, both in economic development and education, it is "impractical" and "impossible" for schools to integrate the two groups, he said.

"Separation is the last resort," he said, "but it can at least act as a buffer zone to help children to adapt to the changing environment."

However, once migrant students manage to catch up with natives or prove themselves capable, they should be given a choice where they want to study, he said.

"We must ensure migrant students enjoy the right to compete," added Gu.

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