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Public schools to extend reach
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About 70 percent of the children of migrant workers in Shanghai will receive free primary and middle-school education at public schools by 2010, the Shanghai municipal education commission said.

There are about 140 million migrant workers nationwide, and their choices for how they look after their children are reduced to either leaving them behind or bringing them to live in their rented homes in the cities.

However, those who study in cities do not enjoy the same tuition policies as actual city residents because tuition benefits are considered a form of public welfare for permanent residents.

Given its large migrant population, Shanghai has been pursuing multiple policies to help the children of its non-permanent residents.

As of last September, 379,980 children of migrant workers were receiving compulsory education in the city.

Of that number, nearly 220,000 were in public schools. The rest were in private schools.

"This year, more children of migrant workers will be enrolled at public schools," Yin Houqing, vice-director of the Shanghai municipal education commission, said.

"All districts in the city will leverage their own education resources and allocate adequate room at public schools for migrant workers' children. Meanwhile, the local government will also provide education subsidies."

"Since junior middle school education requires more attention from teachers and education equipment, most of the schools built specially for the children of migrant workers fall short of what is needed," Yin said.

Migrant children who study at public schools are treated the same as other children when it comes to school registration, government subsidies and exemptions from tuition fees.

The Ministry of Education asked its local departments at the end of last year to ensure that all children of migrant workers are enrolled in public schools and enjoy the same tuition policies as permanent residents do.

However, limited resources have made it necessary for educational authorities to look beyond public schools.

"Crowded classrooms at public schools have made it difficult to enroll all the children of migrant workers. Private schools should enroll more of them," Yin said.

Shanghai has set up 258 private schools for the children of migrant workers. More than 160,000 such children study in private schools.

"The city will provide more support and services to private schools, and special funds will be earmarked to ensure that migrant children have access to quality education and lower tuition," Yin said.

(China Daily February 13, 2008)

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