Transcript · 文字实录
Feng Xin: Nonresident parents in Beijing have been signing a petition against a policy that will continue to limit their children’s eligibility to take the national college entrance exam in the city. For the past three decades in China, high school graduates could only take the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, in their home provinces. That’s where their household permits, or hukou, were registered. However, 2011 statistics show that one in six Chinese citizens no longer lives where their hukou was registered. Having to return to one’s home province to be eligible to take the exam has created a huge problem for hundreds of thousands of Chinese families.
Parents in migrant destinations like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have for years been advocating equal exam eligibility between resident and nonresident children. Last August, the State Council’s General Office issued a document, asking provincial governments to make policies before the end of 2012. While much of the public was anxious to hear from China’s metropolitan areas, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province didn’t announce their policies until Dec 30.Four days before Beijing’s policy came out I followed a group of parents in Beijing to the city’s education commission.
Liang Shuangcai moved to Beijing 12 years ago from Henan province. He works as an auditor. His 11-year-old daughter grew up in the city like many of her peers, except that the family doesn’t have Beijing hukou. Together with dozens of parents, Liang has been visiting the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education every Thursday morning since September 2012, immediately after the State Council issued the document asking provincial governments to make policies.
Liang Shuangcai: Pretty soon my child will be facing the same problem. There are hundreds of thousands of migrant children nowadays. They all face one common problem. It's not just my family's problem, or my child's, but a social problem. Every time we come and hear nothing. The education commission always repeated the same line: "It's in the process. There's nothing we can tell you." Today is already the (27th )，and there are only four days left. They still said they don't know.
Feng Xin: You've come so many times and got the same reply. Why do you still come?
Liang Shuangcai: Well, since they don't give us a response, we are worried. We are anxious. We wanted to know if our appeal has been heard by any authorities at all.
While Liang’s daughter may still have a few years before going to college, Mrs Yang, a woman reluctant to provide her real name, has a daughter who is graduating from high school in just six months.
Feng Xin: Has (your daughter) registered for the exam elsewhere?
Mrs Yang: No. I'm waiting. Our home province uses different textbooks. I don't know by what chance we will succeed in the exam. I have no way to estimate. If my daughter has to go back, it means one of the parents will have to do the same. I will have to rent an apartment, find a class for her to make up the missed curriculum, and also comfort her to adjust to the environment.
Feng Xin: How many children in your daughter's class are like her?
Mrs Yang: Almost all of them have gone.
According to media reports, as of a week after the deadline, (the 8th of January) all provinces in the Chinese mainland except Qinghai province and Tibet autonomous region announced their policies. More than half of them, like Hebei, Heilongjiang and Fujian provinces, established relatively low bars for nonresident students. They only need to provide a complete middle school or high school record in order to be eligible. Some provinces also require their parents to provide proof of a stable job and accommodation.
Fewer than a dozen provinces set higher bars for nonresident families. In these regions, not only must students have longer school records or even hukou within the next few years, their parents also have to contribute income taxes and social security taxes for a certain number of years before the children become eligible.
The toughest regions, however, are China’s metropolises – namely Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province. The Beijing government calls its policy “transitional”, which allows nonresident students to take the entrance exam only for secondary vocational schools starting from 2013 and higher vocational schools in 2014. Not to mention, the former requires the students to provide a three-year middle school record and their parents the same length of social security contribution; the latter requires six years. Alternatively, nonresident high school students will be allowed to take the national college entrance exam in Beijing, but they will be admitted based on their home provinces’ admission score. But how exactly this will be implemented has not been specified.
Shanghai binds nonresident children’s exam eligibility with its residence permit system. Only the children of those parents who hold a Pass A will be able to take the national college entrance exam in the city starting from 2014. But very few nonresidents in Shanghai meet the city’s requirements to receive a Pass A. Guangdong province will allow children whose parents have a residence permit and have contributed social security taxes for three years to take the exam in 2016, and the children also have to provide a complete high school record in Guangdong.
However, if we look closely, we can find the blue provinces that set low bars for nonresidents are traditionally hometowns of migrant workers who leave for better opportunities. In other words, the proportion of nonresidents in the population is small. Take Shandong province as an example. According to its education department, only 8 percent of the nearly 10 million school children were nonresidents as of 2011. Local media estimate by 2014 there will be 15,000 nonresident students taking the national college entrance exam, which will have little effect on the overall student proportions.
However, cities like Beijing present a completely different scenario. The city’s education commission said out of its 1 million school children, 40 percent are nonresident students.
In terms of the orange provinces, some, like Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, although not a hotspot for migrant workers, usually post a relatively low admission score.
Beijing's policy is not what the parents were hoping for. Hu Yang, who goes by her Internet name, has been a volunteer for the advocacy group for three years. She was shocked when she first heard about the new policy.
Hu Yang: I was angry and heartbroken. I was sad because we've been fighting for three years. I suffered from all sorts of pressure, but this is what I got. I just feel the government just didn't care about our appeal at all. It means children who have had nine years of compulsory education, whose parents have contributed social security taxes, only get to go to vocational schools. I think many children are outstanding students. They could have made it to good universities. The Beijing Education Commission basically didn't follow the Ministry of Education's order to make policies. It basically handed in a blank answer sheet. This is not gaokao policy. This is vocational school policy.
胡杨：我的第一个反应我是又生气又伤心，生气就是说整整争取了三年了, 精神受到各个方面的压力，竟然能出一个这样的政策，就感觉好像政府没把我们这群人的民生诉求放在心上，就不在乎我们。孩子有了九年义务了以后就让这个孩子， 还要加上爸爸妈妈社保，让孩子读中职。我觉得有许多孩子很优秀的，他其实可以上大学上本科，上更好的学校。北京市教委出台的政策几乎就是没有按照国家教育部的要求在出，你等于是出了白卷，这不叫异地高考政策，这叫异地高考中职高职政策。
While nonresident parents in Beijing are disappointed in the new policy, their opponents, like Liu Yang, are not happy either. Liu has been fighting against the parent advocates by joining a few active local bloggers to express their opposing voices. His blog and micro-blog has attracted thousands of followers.
Feng Xin: Liu Yang, I noticed that people who care about the issue are mostly parents. You are not a parent. Why do you pay so much attention to it?
Liu Yang: I think this is not only an education issue. We as Beijing residents not only care about education, but the city's capacity to take in migrants. If (the government) were to loosen the exam constraints, it would have to set some (time) threshold, like two or three years. This would encourage some people to move to Beijing two or three years earlier. Such one-way population flow brought by the policy is not what the city can bear.
Feng Xin: I don't know if you've met any nonresident parents.
Liu Yang: Yes.
Feng Xin: What reason do you think they have for the nonresident exam eligibility to be granted?
Liu Yang: I think their reason is one word: fairness. However, what is educational fairness? I think we already have educational fairness. If Beijing or Shanghai kids could take the college entrance exam in any city by holding a Beijing or Shanghai ID card, but others couldn't, OK, that would be unfair. But if Beijing or Shanghai kids can only take the exam in their home regions, how is it unfair? Also, it would be unfair to those who are originally not from Beijing but have worked so hard to acquire a Beijing hukou.
Feng Xin: Then how do we solve the education and exam problems of those children who were born in Beijing and just don't have the city's hukou?
Liu Yang: I think it is definitely hard to solve now. From a humane point of view, we shouldn't bar the children from going to school. But there are two issues. First, high school education is not compulsory education. In terms of the child, you don't have to go to high school. In terms of the government, it's no longer obliged to provide you with compulsory education. It's a matter of obligation for both sides. That's one issue. Another…Yes, I feel sorry for them. But does this have to be solved by the government? In any case if I were a parent, I wouldn't put my child in such an unstable situation, where I know he wouldn't be allowed to take the exam here but still let him attend schools here for more than 10 years after he was born. I wouldn't.
Feng Xin: Beijing just announced a “transitional” policy. What do you think of it?
Liu Yang: I strongly disapprove of it. I think this policy took away some of the vocational education resources to make a compromise. And also this policy speaks about one word: drag. It says it's transitional policy. But who is going to make the final version? It didn't say. It might well just be left for the next government to solve the issue.
In fact, the discussion of whether to allow nonresident students to take the college entrance exam outside the limits of their hukou has been going on for years. Zhu Yongxin is a member of the National People's Congress' Standing Committee. He submitted a proposal to the education and public security ministries during China's two political sessions in 2012.
Feng Xin: In the last few days, we finally saw cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou brought out their policies. First of all, are you satisfied with the current outcome?
Zhu Yongxin: I should say generally I'm satisfied that almost all provinces have made their policies. But I have some reservations in terms of some specific content. I think there is still room where we could've done better.
Feng Xin: For example?
Zhu Yongxin: Like Beijing's policy. Candidates may take the exam in Beijing but have to be admitted based on their home provinces' admission score in 2014. I think policies like this could have been made more open to allow children of those parents who have been working and paying taxes in Beijing for a long time to be admitted here, because this is a matter of civil rights.
Feng Xin: Many people are worried about the possibility of “gaokao” immigration.
Zhu Yongxin: This is of course possible. Since cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have more and better educational resources than rural areas and other regions, some people bring their kids to live here not because they work here but because they want their children to go to schools here. Then, they become “gaokao” immigrants. This is possible. However, reality is reality, because it's not easy at all to move to Beijing. First you have to find a place to live. Given Beijing's housing prices, the cost of living is very high in the first place. And secondly, it's not easy to find a job, either.
Feng Xin: Do you think the hukou system is what caused the problem all these years?
Zhu Yongxin: There are two reasons. One is the hukou system, which divides people into rural residents and urban residents and puts a big label on everybody. If you are a rural resident, you stay in the countryside. If you are an urban resident, then you stay in the city. People rarely can move freely. If we reform the hukou system and allow people to migrate freely where they can become residents of a city naturally after a certain number of years, then the problem will naturally be solved.
The second reason is the province-based system of admitting students. I once suggested we diminish the recruitment offices in provinces and give the recruitment power back to universities. Then the recruitment would be based on categories of national, provincial, municipal and private universities. All the national universities would be playing in one chess game. Universities like Peking and Tsinghua shouldn't give too much lenience to certain regions, except disadvantaged regions like Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as minority groups. Everybody else should compete fairly.
It will be helpful to take a look at how China’s universities recruit students in the first place. If we divide universities by their administrative subordination, there are usually two categories: universities managed by the Ministry of Education as well as other central government agencies, and universities managed by provincial governments. Among about 2,000 universities in China, more than 90 percent are provincial universities. Every year, each university needs to submit a detailed recruitment plan to be approved by its supervision department. While central universities recruit students from all over the country, provincial universities mainly recruit students from home, meaning those with hukou in that province. If they plan to recruit students outside their home provinces, the local education department has to report such plans to the Ministry of Education for approval.
However, the distribution of universities in China is extremely uneven. Most central universities are located in mega cities like Beijing and Shanghai; most of these are the best universities.According to China Education Online, for every 10,000 exam candidates, there are 11 universities in Beijing and 10 in Shanghai. But the number drops to 2 in Hubei, Shandong and Shaanxi provinces and below two in Henan province. However, in 2012, Henan had about 850,000 exam candidates and Beijing only 76,000. That’s according to the Ministry of Education’s numbers.
Take Peking University as an example. As one of China’s best universities, it is supervised by the Ministry of Education. China Education Online estimates in 2011 Peking University admitted about 32 students for every 10,000 Beijing candidates. But it accepted less than one per 10,000 from Henan, Hubei and Shandong provinces. That means Beijing’s exam candidates are 47 times more likely to get in Peking University than candidates from Henan.
But how does the system make it difficult to allow nonresident students to take the national college entrance exam without the constraints of their hukou? I directed this question to Xiong Bingqi, vice-president at the 21 Century Education Research Institute.
Feng Xin: Dr Xiong, China's universities recruit students based on provinces. I have a question: How do universities decide how many students they are going to admit from different regions? How do they calculate the quota?
Xiong Bingqi: The recruitment quota is a result of power struggle among the university, the Ministry of Education and the local government. It's usually based on the university and local government's funding, and the student quota the university traditionally gives to one region. There isn't a strict way to work out the student quota.
Feng Xin: Then, what's the problem with this system?
Xiong Bingqi: This province-based recruitment system is an unfair one to start with. It relies heavily on the local government's administration and creates huge geographical discrepancies in deciding student quota. It also encourages local education authorities to set criteria for exam registration based on such quotas. That's why candidates need to have hukou to be eligible for the exam. If the current constraints on nonresident students are loosened, people will naturally think about how many migrants there are. If there aren't, the problem can be solved quite easily. The chances of nonresident candidates filling up student quotas are small. Also, the government can adjust the student quota under such circumstances. Different interests might be balanced eventually.
But in migrant destinations like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong – the exam competition in Beijing is not very intense but in Guangdong it is more intense – the case would be different. How do we balance different interests between residents and nonresidents? If we don't break up the current system but only hope to make a breakthrough to lift the hukou constraints, we are in fact continuing the unfair system. I don't see much room for fairness.
Feng Xin: All right. Thank you, Dr Xiong.
To what extent will nonresident students influence resident students' chances of being admitted to universities? I visited Yang Dongping, professor in education at the Beijing Institute of Technology. He's been involved in reforming China's college entrance exam system for years.
Feng Xin: Opponents hold a view that once nonresidents are allowed to take the exam in cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the local candidates' interests will be harmed. What do you think?
Yang Dongping: In fact I don't think this is an issue to be worried about. If we look at the big picture, the number of exam candidates is declining. But the size of university recruitment is growing slowly. But the size of university recruitment is growing slowly. From a demand-supply point of view, local exam candidates' interests will hardly be affected. However, in regions like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, white-collar parents are more concerned about the fairness of getting into central universities, or research universities, across different regions, because theoretically, central universities are open to candidates all over the nation. But in reality, they have serious problems with giving too much lenience to local residents. For example, (central) universities in Shanghai recruit a large portion of Shanghai students, and Beijing does the same. To some extent, this is against the principle of fairness. Therefore, I believe central universities' student quotas across provinces should be further balanced.
Feng Xin: Let's say we have two categories of universities, central universities and provincial universities. It is the central universities that mostly need to be reformed. Is that correct?
Yang Dongping: No. There are many problems with nonresident students not having exam eligibility. The supply of higher educational resources is only one facet. More importantly, there are high school and primary school resources. According to the Beijing government's numbers, there are more than 400,000 nonresident school children in Beijing, which is 40.9% of all school children. In Shanghai, this number has probably reached over 50%. What does this mean? By 2020，primary schools will need 300,000 more places and middle schools 115,000. High schools will also need to provide more places accordingly. That's the case without lifting the hukou limits for nonresident students. If the limits are lifted, and people get a signal that their children can take the exam once they have three, five or eight years of school records, the number will keep growing significantly. So that's the biggest pressure for cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. It's the pressure of compulsory education, not just how the universities give quotas.
Feng Xin: I heard many people mention a phrase "educational capacity." How is "educational capacity" calculated? How do we know how much educational capacity a city can provide?
Yang Dongping: Actually, it's not about the capacity to provide educational resources. It's about a city's population capacity. Like Beijing, how big should the city's size be? How much water and land resources can be used? A megacity's population control is a very complicated matter. Attempting to control population through education is not realistic, I think. This has been proved over the years. In fact, population control should be done through splitting the city's multiple functions rather than limiting children's opportunities to receive compulsory education. It's not the way to go.
These problems only demonstrate the degree of difficulty in addressing nonresident students' exam eligibility Many nonresident parents and scholars stress constitutional rights, rather than serve as the basis of policy-making. but local governments and authorities pay more attention to practicality So we should not have too many expectations from the policy. The problem can't be solved instantly. It needs a period of time for monitoring policy effects. For example, Shanghai has lifted the bars on higher vocational education. How many people will then flood to the city? Nobody knows. For example, if Beijing announces a requirement for six years of school record, how many migrants will then move to the city? What if the bar is set for five years? It's impossible to make an accurate prediction.
Feng Xin: So are we trapped in a dilemma? On the one hand, it's the education equality granted by the Constitution. On the other hand, it's the megacities' population capacity. Do we only get one option?
Yang Dongping: No, absolutely no. Education equality granted by the Constitution is already demonstrated in the current system. Admitting students based on provinces doesn't make it unconstitutional. It's not that only people who come to Beijing to study have their constitutional rights fulfilled. Do you think we can say that?
Feng Xin: Well, let's say Beijing's policy. Many nonresident students can only take part in entrance exams for vocational schools. But maybe with their capability, they could've made it to a proper university.
Yang Dongping: In fact, they will choose to go back to their home provinces to take the exam. Let's put it this way. We need to pay attention to two groups. One is the white-collar parent group, which care more about research universities. They came to Beijing with more hopes to enjoy these resources. Then there are masses of ordinary migrant workers. They care more about ordinary educational resources. Their appeals are totally different. Under the current hukou system, it is difficult to reform the national college entrance exam system alone. I think what's more important is not that we discuss whether the policies are ideal or scientific today but that it made the first and an important step. It's a starting point, and we can keep looking.
Yang believes it's difficult to predict how many nonresident students schools in megacities can educate once the hukou limits are lifted. But Zhu believes it is possible.
Zhu Yongxin: I think there's nothing wrong with Beijing being cautious in seeking solutions. But I think it should do a quantitative study, finding out how many students there will be in Beijing, how many classrooms and teachers will be needed, and how much the city will be able to provide. With such capacity, how many people can be allowed to move in? If we deduct the number based on this logic, the problem can be solved. This is not a very difficult mathematical model. If we decide to do it, we can definitely make it happen. If this can't be done city-wise, it can at least be done at a district level. If not in districts, every block should do the survey. We should be able to find out.
Nonresident parents in Beijing have been signing a petition against a policy that will continue to limit their children’s eligibility to take the national college entrance exam in the city. For the past three decades in China, high school graduates could only take the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, in their home provinces. That’s where their hukou, or household permits, were registered. However, 2011 statistics show that one in six Chinese citizens no longer lives where their hukou was registered. Having to return to one's home province in order to be eligible to take the national college entrance exam has created a huge problem for hundreds of thousands of Chinese families.