If you ask temporary migrant workers why they have taken their children along to go through all of the unknown risks and hardships of life in the city, the reply will most likely be that urban areas offer better education. Luckily, these parents and children have gotten what they came for.
According to the country's first national survey on the situation of the children of migrant workers, the results of which were announced yesterday, 81 percent of these children manage to attend local public schools.
Correspondingly, 83.6 percent of them have announced high satisfaction about their present educational situations.
Even most students who cannot manage attending public schools and are stuck in shabby makeshift classrooms of non-public schools meant especially for them express a clear-cut preference for their present schools, comprising 61.1 percent of the total in the category.
"At least my teacher no longer has to be distracted by planting his crops," the report quoted an anonymous student as saying.
But what is alarming is that the percentage of children of migrant workers attending public schools is higher in comparably smaller cities. Only 77 percent of children of migrant workers in large cities have gone to public schools, while the percentage can be upwards of 86 percent in small and medium-sized cities.
Therefore, Shi Jinghuan, vice-director of the Education Institute under Tsinghua University who is also a leading researcher of the survey, said she has every reason to believe that insufficient facilities are not the excuse.
"The attitudes and policies involved matter a lot," she said.
For example, public schools always levy extra fees on students without local residential cards. And the fees can vary greatly from city to city. The fees collected in such large cities as Beijing and Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, can be 40 times that of the payments collected in the city of Jilin, Northeast China's Jilin Province.
The survey shows these high extra fees have become the gravest concern weighing on the minds of the temporary migrant workers who are trying to secure education for their children, and has become the chief factor leading to early drop-out rates for those students.
Luckily, things are improving. Even more children of migrant workers expect to have the chance to attend public schools and, more importantly, will be freed of the burden caused by these extra fees.
"We are seeing more positive moves in the regard. Except for central governmental stipulations demanding equal treatment of the children of temporary migrant workers, some big cities, including Beijing, are adopting more active measures to cope with the education of these special students," said Shi.
According to Shi, southern Beijing's Xuanwu District has already designated one middle school to especially take in these types of students, which is the first of its kind in that area.
(China Daily November 6, 2003)