Migrant children made to feel out of place in Beijing’s schools

Following the closure of 24 migrant schools in Beijing earlier this year, many parents had no option but to send their children back to their hometowns. Those students who could find places in the public school system often had to endure discrimination and were made to feel inferior to their local classmates.

Parents of more than 200 students complained to the Jinghua Daily about the discriminatory curriculum in the public school their children had been sent to after the demolition of the New Hope migrant school over the summer. The parents said that their children could only study Chinese and maths, while local students could study English, politics and arts. Moreover, they said, their children’s homework was often left uncorrected by teachers.

Not only did parents feel angry about the schooling arrangements, many migrant children too felt uncomfortable in their new environment. A third-grade student said that whenever he went across to the teaching building where local students studied, it reinforced how very different from him they were. “They wear beautiful clothes and have good exam marks,” he said.

Zhang Zhiwei, a Beijing-based lawyer who has been focusing on migrant children education for a long time, believes that migrant children feel alienated when they study in the same school as local students because they have been made to feel ashamed of their “second-class citizenship” at an early age. Over half of the migrant children surveyed by Zhang said they don’t like or even hated Beijing children because they bully or look down on them. A few migrant children even said they had never had any contact with local children despite living in the same city. Zhang told the Wen Wei Po:

Although migrant schools are known for their shabby teaching environment and poor teaching equipment, their geographical location, low tuition fees and low entry requirements are exactly what migrant parents and their students want. More importantly, migrant children won’t feel repelled when all their classmates have the same social background.

However, statistics show that out of the over 200 migrant children schools in Beijing that hold over 200,000 students, only 50 schools are licensed by the authorities. As a result, the majority of “illegal” schools are always in danger of getting a closure notice from the authorities when property developers want the land.
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