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Home Education a 'Blank' for Migrants' Kids

The home education most school kids of migrant workers receive is a "blank", according to Wang Yi, schoolmaster of the Beijing New Century School.


Located at the capital's northern outskirts, Beijing New Century School is one of the schools that host children of rural laborers working in Beijing.


Since the late 90s, with the growing migrant workers' inflow, their kids, or the second migrant generation has emerged in the cities. Statistics showed that by the end of last year, 4.1 million migrant people were living and working in Beijing, including 294,840 kids below the age of 15.


But as migrant laborers are not well-educated and mostly engaged in hard work with long hours, these kids received barely any intellectual nurturing at home.


Wang said at his school, 90 percent of the parents have not finished junior high school, while 40 percent of the mothers are illiterate or semiliterate.


"With limited education, they are not able to help kids in their schoolwork," said Wang. "Plus over 12 hours of work in a day leaves them little time and energy for kids."


Research conducted by the Beijing Social Sciences Academy (BASS) on 50 schools for migrant children showed only 26 percent of the parents keep track of their kids' schoolwork, 57.2 percent of the parents sometimes checked on students' home assignments, while 16.8 percent never paid any attention to it.


"These parents are definitely loving, but they are tightly bound by the laborious work," said Han Jialing, director of the migrant population education and training center with BASS.


The survey also indicated that migrant school kids barely spend any quality time with their parents.


Zhu Pan is a girl at another school for migrant children with a similar name, Beijing New Century Experimental School, located at Beijing's eastern outskirts.


"Every evening when I get home, mom is busy making steamed buns, while dad has gone to the market to sell them. I play with my younger sister," she said. "For the interesting stuff at school, I'll tell my sister. Mom does not have time for it. "


Luan Haibin teaches at Zhu's school. She said the communication between migrant kids and their parents are mostly limited to passing on school notices.


"Insufficient time is the biggest hindrance," she said. Some parents are vegetable vendors. They go to purchase vegetables every evening and get up early the next morning to sell it. Their free time is the noon, when children are mostly at school.


Sun Yuhua, who teaches Chinese, said the majority of the kids will write about the annual temple fair visit with their parents in the composition class.


"It is a big tradition for Chinese farmers to visit temple fairs and they keep the tradition in the city life, but that seems to be the only family entertainment thing."


"The bookstore is only one block from our school, but hardly any parents know its whereabouts," said Sun.


Lu Jinlin, headmaster of Beijing New Century Experimental School, said: "The family education of migrant kids is very similar to that of the rural children."


"Though having migrated to cities, these farmers are still keeping to the idea that school plays the only, decisive role in the children's growth."


As road builder He Baoyou put it: "If my son is clever, the school education will be enough to send him to the college. If not, however much effort I put on him will be in vain."


To reverse the parents' idea, the New Century Experimental School invited experts to hold four consecutive lectures on family education one month ago. Sixty percent of the parents showed up for the lecture.


"I am glad that over half of the parents come, which indicates that they have some interest in home education skills," acknowledged Lu. "But things will not be changed in one day."


A few migrant laborers, after working in Beijing for a long time, have shared the idea of most Beijing parents: "However much money or effort is put on our kids, it is worthwhile."


Third grader Zuo Wenyue has scores of books on different subjects bought by her parents. "Evenings after dinner, dad will help me go through my home assignments, explaining my questions," she said. "This past May Day holiday, dad and mom took me to the botanical garden. It is so beautiful."


Zuo's family income is about 1,500 yuan (some US$180), and they have to pay for the house rent. But since the first grade, her parents have sent her to study English at a high school on weekends. It cost 280 yuan (US$34) for a quarter's lesson.


Sun Yuhua, Zuo's teacher said there are a couple of kids in every class whose parents do the same as Zuo's.


"But they are definitely the minority," said Sun.


(Xinhua News Agency June 1, 2004)


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