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Crisis of Identity for Migrant Children
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About 70 percent migrant children feel satisfied with life and nearly 80 percent are confident about their future, according to Urban Life Adaptation of Migrant Children, a research report recently released by China Youth & Children Research Center (CYCRC).

Initiated in 2006, the survey covered 2,395 students from 13 middle and primary schools in six districts of Beijing.

"I have to admit that the result of the survey is unexpected. It also changed many experts' opinions," said the survey group leader, CYCRC Vice Director Sun Yunxiao. Over 70 percent of migrant children like to go to school, a higher level than urban kids. Eighty percent of them regard being a good student as a way to thank for their parents and enter university.

"The survey shows most of migrant students are propelled by the desire to have their life changed. We are also moved by their gratefulness for their parents," said Sun.

Compared to their urban peers, migrant students are usually praised for being tough, economical, diligent and confident. Over 50 percent of migrant children have a good relationship with their parents and 80 percent help parents with housework. They also like their teachers at school, with 60 percent describing teacher-student relationships as satisfactory.

Sun remembers clearly that when investigating Jushan Primary School of Haidian District, he was deeply impressed by clean floors and tidy classrooms as well as enthusiastic and polite students. Migrant students from 22 provinces and regions are studying with Beijing kids in this public school. They seemed to have fully integrated with their urban counterparts.

However, the survey also revealed tendencies that had been formerly neglected. Over one third of both migrant and urban students mix socially. But their parents do not share this sense of cultural bonding. About 10 percent of parents in each group don't encourage their children to make friends with kids from the other group. Some 12.6 percent of urban children and 20.2 percent of migrant children have no idea how to get on socially.

Sun observed that as an increasing number of migrant children live with their parents in cities, parents' attitudes towards urban people will have a great impact on their progeny's identity and adaptation to the city life.

In order to avoid conflict, some schools opened classes exclusively for migrant students, but Sun decried this practice: "This has a negative effect on children's development. Compared to those studying at private migrant schools, students at public schools studying with urban peers are more adaptive to campus life, teaching methods and curriculums. We can't raise children in a restricted circumstance, but create more communication opportunities for them."

According to the survey, almost 90 percent migrant children identified themselves as migrants. More than 10 percent felt torn between their Beijing identity and their place of birth. Moreover, about 40 percent felt discriminated against.

Sun explained that some migrant children have trouble adapting to urban life. Some have been living a long time in the city, but when asked which place they belong to, they usually identify themselves as migrants or "rural people".

Sun also called for migrant parents to better communicate with their children. Some children complained being scolded by parents. They look forward for more attention from their busy parents.

Another survey carried out by the China National Children and Teenagers' Working Committee showed that over 20 million children live with their grandparents or other relatives due to their parents seeking work elsewhere with some youngsters even being forced to live alone.

Although migrant children live a better life than those left by parents in their hometown, they still face a grim perspective as the current college enrollment policy restricts them from taking part in exams in the city they live in."

"Special social and family background has put unprecedented pressure on migrant children, which should attract attention and concern of the whole society,"said Sun.

(China.org.cn by Huang Shan, February 1, 2007)

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