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Migrant Families Complain About Educational Exclusion

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For 41-year-old Zhang Jiandang, who left Anhui Province 16 years ago to make his fortune in Beijing, life is going well.

He has a nice house, a car and a family-owned company in the capital, but something is still missing.

As is the case with other so-called migrant families, Zhang's son is excluded from taking part in the crucial national college entrance examination in Beijing because none of the family's members have permanent residency papers for the capital - a coveted Beijing hukou.

"It is unfair that my son has to take the exam back in Anhui where we don't have any family members," Zhang was quoted as saying in a story in Beijing News on Friday. "My son grew up and has always studied in Beijing. He doesn't even understand the language they speak there."

Now, Zhang is among 10 parents who are organizing a campaign calling for changes.

The parents have written a series of letters lobbying the Ministry of Education and the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education.

Their latest correspondence was made on Thursday, a few days before the Dec 1 date on which registration begins for next year's exam.

The letter was signed by 12,532 parents, of which 90 percent were migrant workers living in Beijing.

In response to the letters, the ministry said it has no right to make policy changes and pointed out that the contentious issue of being tied to a city through permanent residency paperwork involves many government departments, including the Ministry of Public Security.

And while the group of parents have so far had little luck with their campaign, they are also not getting much support from people who have a Beijing hukou and who are benefiting from the unequal situation.

"Without limitations on registered permanent residency, a new unfairness in education would appear," Bai Meng, a 27-year-old Beijinger, told China Daily on Friday. "More rich people around the country would buy a house in Beijing and send their children to occupy the capital's limited teaching resources.

"It is not that people in the capital have a superiority complex but the reality is that Beijing could not afford to look after its migrant population."

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the issue is important because of the regional imbalance in the quality of education, something that is caused by economic disparity.

He said Beijing has a higher proportion of students who are able to receive a higher education. In some provinces there are fewer spaces available and there is much tougher competition to land a space.

So, some students become "examination migrants" trying to land a space at a good university by choosing where to take their university entrance exam.

Education departments in Beijing and some other provinces have created impediments for these children.

For example, 16-year-old Li Yang finished first in Hainan province among the 44,929 students who took the university entrance test. His score of 897 would theoretically make him welcome on merit at any top university in the country.

However, his applications to top schools were officially disqualified by the Hainan provincial education department because it viewed Li as an "examination migrant" who had not studied in Hainan for the requisite amount of time.

The regulation stipulates that only students who have a Hainan hukou and who finish the last two years of high school in the province can apply to top universities. Students who meet one of the two requirements are allowed to apply to attend common universities.

"The radical measure is aimed at solving the problem by urging more investment in education in poor provinces to homogenize the quality of primary and middle school education, but it takes time," Xiong said.

"If we cannot completely unify university enrollment standards across the country in the short term, we can try to encourage some popular universities to launch 'independent admission' across provincial borders."

(China Daily November 27, 2010)


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