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Legal Status for Migrant Children's Schools
Beijing, the capital city of China, is expected to give some non-state-run schools for children of migrant workers equal legal status with state-funded schools to offer more education opportunities for these children.

More than 10 non-state-run schools that have good management will be registered as legal schools and qualified to admit school-age children of migrant workers, an official with the Division of Elementary Education at the Beijing Municipal Education Commission told China Daily Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

Statistics show that at least 200 non-state-run schools of various sizes for migrant children have been established since the mid-1990's.

The largest one of these schools has more than 3,000 students while the smallest has less than 10 students.

These schools are mainly located in Chaoyang, Haidian and Xicheng districts where large numbers of migrant workers reside.

These non-state-run schools, which are different from those prestigious and expensive private schools in Western countries, have been popular among migrant workers for their lower tuition fees, however they have not gotten approval from local education authorities and some have unsafe schoolhouses and sub-par teachers.

Statistics show that with an influx of more than 3 million migrant workers flowing into the city, around 150,000 school age children accompany them.

"Much efforts have been made by the municipal government to provide more accesses for migrant children to schooling," said the official.

He added that the major move for getting migrant children access to schooling was to get them admitted by local schools funded by the government. State-funded schools have already enrolled around 100,000 migrant children, he added.

"Considering the low income of migrant families, many designated schools admit migrant children and offer to reduce their tuition fees, with 400 yuan (US$48.4) for a primary-school student and 1,000 yuan (US$121) for a middle-school student for an academic year," the official said.

Meanwhile, the municipal government has also added more investment for the establishment of special schools for migrant children in the city's Xicheng District, he added.

"My commission is mapping out a plan to offer schoolhouses by the government but the schools will be run by qualified migrant workers," the official said.

However according to the official, although the government's determination to regulate schools for migrant children is strong, the current situation is far from optimistic.

Li Sumei, the headmaster of the Xingzhi Migrant Children's School which is known as the biggest one of its kind in the city, voiced her support for the government's determination.

"The government should take workable measures to regulate migrant children' schools and take the low incomes of migrant worker families into account," Li said.

"But it is unfeasible to eradicate all private migrant children's schools since state-funded schools have no capacity to admit such a large number of migrant children," she urged, adding that non-state-run schools could serve as a supplement to state-funded schools to provide schooling to migrant children.

Li's school, which was founded in 1994, lies in the city's northern Haidian District and has admitted more than 3,200 migrant children.

Since many migrant workers are working in low-income fields such as pedaling goods, cleaning and growing vegetables in city outskirts, many can't afford to get their children enrolled in state-funded schools, Li said.

"So private schools of such a kind are in large demand," she added.

"No matter how they regulate migrant children schooling in this city, my single hope is that no child is left out of school," the headmaster said.

There are some 20 non-state-run schools for migrant children with more than 1,000 students in the city, reports indicate.

Many experts attributed the problem of migrant children's schooling to the current elementary education system and the system of residence registration.

Under the current elementary educational system, elementary schools are financed by the local government, and are usually only open to the children with registered local residency. The flowing migrant population has posed many challenges to such a system.

Experts suggest that the system include the development of private migrant children schools under the supervision of each local educational department.

Data shows that at least 80 million rural laborers across the country have moved to cities to make a better living and about 2 million children of school age accompany them.

(China Daily August 15, 2002)

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