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Equal Access to Education
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The government should step up efforts to ensure compulsory education for the children of migrant workers in cities, says a signed article in Beijing News. An excerpt follows:

A recent shutdown of a primary school for students from migrant workers' families in Beijing aroused hot debate in the capital.

Shortly afterward, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said that the state would step up its management and assistance to private schools for children of migrant workers in cities: the education authorities would offer more professional guidance to these schools, and the central government would earmark special capital to subsidize such schools.

His remarks are really encouraging.

The education of children of migrant workers is usually seen as a responsibility of the cities where they live. Local governments of cities with huge migrant populations are often condemned for not providing education for these children.

It's true that these cities are responsible, but this issue involves many factors beyond the reach of local governments. The central government must also have a strong hand in solving the problem.

National standards govern the facilities, faculty and curricula for primary and middle schools. These standards could barely be met in private schools, especially those for the children of migrant workers. This is an important reason for these schools to be shut down by local governments.

The public schools are hesitant to accept children of migrant workers because the students in public schools are under government subsidy. For cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where large populations of migrant workers live, it would be a huge financial burden if the children of migrant workers were all accepted into public schools.

However, if the central government makes the necessary arrangements to compensate these cities' expenditures in educating migrant workers' children, the cities would be more willing to bring these kids into public schools.

It is the responsibility of a state to ensure equal access to education for its people. Without this, the society is unlikely to be a fair one for all groups, which would eventually harm the credibility of the government and the long-term development of the country.

The central government must take good care of the education of children from migrant workers' families, and it is necessary for other departments to co-operate with the Ministry of Education in this regard.

(China Daily September 29, 2006)

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