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International Relations

China's Immigration Problem: Migrant Education

Nathan Gardner ('10)

The Chinese government makes education a top priority and has a vision for greater integrity and inclusiveness in its educational system. Due to population controls, however, the children of migrant workers living in Chinese cities are not entitled to nine years of compulsory education. Recent attempts at reform from the national level have been ineffective, leaving the migrant community trapped in a vicious cycle of discrimination and low opportunity. Much of the literature surrounding this issue centers around the effect of urban-rural discrimination on implementing education policy. Consequently, this project focused on the origin and extent of discrimination toward the migrant community in China. The study was carried out in various interviews with teachers, party officials, school administrators, nonprofit leaders, education ministry officials, and students. These interviews reveal a greater emphasis on the effect of personal greed and opportunism on migrant education. Also greatly influential is a disconnect between the rhetoric of the national government and the pragmatism of the provincial and local governments in China. Corruption and feasibility motivate the officials that carry out education policy more than the ideals that brought about the law. Discrimination affects the way that migrant families are treated, but the temptation of personal gain is more appealing for officials. The case of migrant education is an example of assumptions that can be made about problems in development when they are divorced from the framework of their own regions, languages, and cultures.
Funding provided by: Freeman Foundation

Research at Pomona