Migrant children face tighter admission rules

Updated: 2014-06-03 08:12

By Hou Liqiang (China Daily)

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School districts say policy changed due to limited number of vacancies

Educators have raised concerns over tightened admission requirements at Beijing primary schools, saying the move has kept many children of migrant workers out of classrooms.

In Beijing, which has a migrant population of 8 million, children without Beijing hukou - or household registration permits - have been eligible to attend primary schools if their parents present five kinds of documents.

This year, district education authorities added more preconditions for admission.

Required are documents proving the parents or guardians work in Beijing and live there; the household registration booklets of all family members; parents' Temporary Residence Permits in Beijing; and documents proving the children cannot be cared for where their hukou are registered.

But specific districts in the capital have added their own requirements. The education commission of Changping district, for example, requires that parents' Temporary Residence Permits must be issued before Dec 31, 2013, and should be valid when they want to enroll their children in primary schools. The permits in Beijing are valid for one year.

A woman surnamed Wang, who lives in Changping district, said that after her previous permit expired in January, she applied for a new one in May. This makes her 6-year-old son ineligible for admission.

Wang said she has been living in Beijing for more than 10 years and the family bought a home there in 2003.

"I have kept a close eye on the admission policy, but I never expected such a sudden change," she said.

"If this new policy stays unchanged, I'll have to send my son back to Henan province and ask my parents, who live with us now in Beijing, to go back to take care of him," she said.

A Tongzhou district education commission asked parents to present documents last year showing they have contributed to the social security insurance in Beijing, and it further tightened the requirement this year.

Parents must prove they have continuously contributed to the insurance program from January 2013 to March 2014.

Lin Feng from Shandong province said that to meet the requirement, her husband changed his job to a company that participates in the social security insurance system, but he only started to contribute to the system in May.

"I quit my job after my daughter was born at the end of 2007 to take care of her. I had planned to find a job after my daughter goes to school, but I never expected the situation to be like this," the 39-year-old said.

"If my daughter cannot attend a Beijing school, my family will be separated. I'll have to go back to my hometown with my daughter," she said.

It is not known how many migrant children will be affected by the policy change.

Sixteen educators and scholars signed an appeal on the Internet on May 21, calling on Beijing education authorities to repeal the restrictions.

In the appeal, they said the restrictions go against the Constitution and the Compulsory Education Law, which state that every citizen has the right and obligation to receive an education, and that local authorities should offer children equal opportunities to receive compulsory education if they choose to study in the places where their parents or guardians live or work.

The restrictions will result in many "left-behind children", who often suffer psychological problems while growing up without living with their parents, they said.

Lack of resources

But education authorities said they have their own difficulties.

According to a Beijing People's Broadcasting Station report, the heads of the Haidian and Changping district education bureaus said their districts' educational resources cannot meet the needs of all the new schoolchildren this year.

About 176,000 children are expected to enter primary school in Beijing this year, 10,000 more than in 2013, said Xian Lianping, head of the Beijing Education Commission.

Xian told the radio station that all school-going children can be admitted based on the calculated educational resources in the city. But he did not say whether migrant children are included in the calculation.

One of the scholars who signed the appeal, Tian Feilong, a lecturer of law at Beihang University, said it is possible that the change of admission policy is due to the limited number of vacancies in Beijing's schools.

"The policy can be a short-term measure to solve the problem in 2014, but it cannot be used all the time," Tian said.

Liu Lianjun, an associate professor of law at Hangzhou Normal University, said the families of migrants who work in low-end industries will be the hardest hit by the tighter policy.

"Those parents have very low incomes and cannot afford private schools, and they don't have strong social networks to help solve their children's enrollment difficulties," Liu said.

"The only solution for them is to send their children back to their hometowns to live with their grandparents, who don't have enough time to take care of them because many have to work on the farm."