- Language Tips
Students at No 6 Middle School in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, apply for the national college entrance exam. The application period for the exam in Inner Mongolia ends on Dec 12. Liu Wenhua / China News Service
Nonresident kids fight to attend big-city schools
As the deadline nears for education chiefs to draw up a clear gaokao policy, the public debate over whether the children of migrants should be allowed to take the national college entrance exam in major cities is growing in intensity.
In August, authorities in all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions were told by the General Office of the State Council to address the question by the end of 2012, saying yes or no.
However, no detailed plans have yet been revealed by China's three largest cities - Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou - and rival sides have continued to clash, both online and on the street.
Authorities in Guangdong province said Thursday they have completed a plan that would allow migrant children to take the high school and college entrance exams in the province.
Aside from Internet campaigns and forums, in recent months face-to-face meetings have turned into verbal fights and, in one incident at least, pushing and shoving.
"My 15-year-old daughter was told she is a locust," Zhan Quanxi, a migrant worker who has lived in Shanghai for 11 years, said as he recalled a meeting at the city's education commission in October. "We were told to bug off by native residents."
Under the current system, students must go to high school and take the gaokao in the place they hold hukou, their legally registered residence. This means children of migrant workers are often forced to return home for the last three years of their schooling, even if, like Zhan's daughter, they have studied in their adopted city since kindergarten.
"My daughter has lived in Shanghai since she was 4, but now she's not even able go to high school in the city," Zhan said. "We've paid taxes here, so why can't she share the same rights as her Shanghai classmates? We feel helpless."
Campaigners for a change in the rules have welcomed talk of amending the policy, saying it will be a milestone in the road to equality.
However, municipal officials in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as those in Guangdong province, have so far declined to give any indication of what they will actually decide, saying only that plans are imminent.
Beijing's education commission said its draft policy is awaiting review and could come into effect before the next Lunar New Year. Yet, in an online discussion with parents on Nov 28, the authority advised children of migrants to prepare to return home for the 2013 gaokao.
A statement on the website of the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission had a similar statement.
An equal education?
With future policy still unclear, parents with hukou in major cities are fighting to maintain the status quo.
Many argue that changing the rules would lead to a further overcrowding of metropolitan education systems and could open the door to abuse.
"Natives of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, for our babies, let us be united in our fight against the policy," wrote one netizen as part of a discussion on Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging website.
Du, a Beijing mother and an opponent of a policy change, told China Daily she feels that the capital's education resources would struggle to cope with any more students.
"The city is not as resourceful as people think," said the 29-year-old, who was raised in Hebei province but obtained Beijing hukou when she attended college in the capital. She did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals.
"There are many problems with opening the gaokao to the children of migrants," Du said. "For example, powerful families may take advantage and move to Beijing or Shanghai just before the gaokao so their child can take it there. If they've received their entire education in another province where they simply focus on teaching for tests, how will Beijing students be able to compete?"
She was referring to the fact students who take the exam in Beijing and Shanghai can qualify for the cities' colleges with lower scores than if they take it in other provinces. For example, this year Peking University set the minimum score for Beijing science students at 654. In Shandong province, it was 698.
China had a migrant population of 221 million in October 2010, according to the National Population and Family Planning Commission, equal to two-thirds of people in the United States.
The sixth National Census found that roughly 7 million of them live in Beijing, accounting for more than 35 percent of all residents, while estimates by China Central Television in 2011 put the number of non-hukou children in the capital's primary and junior high schools at 478,000.
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, said the argument over the gaokao rules is a result of China's discriminatory hukou system. However, as a quick fix to achieve education equality, he suggested more power should be given to colleges.
"If universities had the right to recruit qualified students, they could pick up good students no matter where they come from," he said, although he conceded that it might take three to five years to build such a system.
Contact the writers at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 12/07/2012 page4)