Children of migrant workers continue to face difficulties accessing education – report

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The New Citizen Program recently released the 2021 Report on the Development of Internal Migrant Children in China.

Citing data from the 7th National Census, the report emphasized the huge number of Internal Migrant Children, which has now reached 130 million, more than 40 percent of the total number of children in the country, and highlighted a dilemma faced by their parents: whether or not to leave them back home.

  • If parents take their children with them, they can encounter various difficulties in enrolling them in schools in the city where they actually live and work;
  • If they send their children back to the family’s hometown, the parents will be unable to nurture and care for their children as they grow up.

The report argues that the key to solving this dilemma is to enable children to live with their parents — to enjoy high-quality and appropriate education in the city where they live, to grow up in a safe environment, and to have a better future, through the improvement of government policies and the support of society.

Internal Migrant Children can be divided into two groups: left-behind children, and the children that continue to accompany their parents.

Due to several accidents and crimes that have happened to left-behind children in recent years, the public has become more interested in their plight.

The State Council issued the Guideline on the Protection of Left Behind Children in early 2016, requesting that local governments and social organizations strengthen their welfare services.

However, no matter what kind of care or protection the government and society provide, it is difficult to properly care for children if they can’t be with their parents.

The children who are able to follow their parents into the cities have received less public attention. But if those children are able to access the full range of public services in the cities where they live, parents are unlikely to continue leaving their children behind in the first place – thus solving the problem.

The report systematically analyzed the current situation and challenges:

  • There is insufficient data on the children of migrants during pre-school education (0-6 years). According to the available statistics, about 70 percent of them study in private kindergartens.
  • For the compulsory education stage (6-15 years): although the percentages of migrant children enrolled in public schools and living with their parents have been increasing in recent years, nearly half in public schools are still unable to live with their parents.
  • For migrant children of high school age (15 years old) living with their parents, there are still many policy and practical difficulties for them when it comes to taking the high school entrance examination. The same applies to those taking the college entrance examination at 18.
  • Outside public schools, there are very few institutions serving children in local communities, causing problems for parents who need childcare during the evenings and holidays.

The report also recommended the implementation of a series of measures, including the revision of the household registration policy, as well as the compulsory education law, building more and larger public schools, and establishing a system of community centers for children in urban and rural areas — in order to make it easier for children to attend nearby schools in both their hometowns and the cities where they live. Importantly, the centers would also be able to provide childcare services.

The New Citizenship Program is a social organization officially registered in Beijing in 2017. Its predecessor was a program named New Citizenship, initiated by the Narada Foundation in August 2007.

Following the release of the report, its author Wei Jiayu, director general of the organization, arranged an online meeting on Jan 10 to promote its findings to the public.