Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Integration of Chinese Rural-to-Urban Migrants into Urban Society


Problem Statement

Migrant children’s educational situation in Beijing perpetuates their alienation, resulting in psychological problems. In 2011, there were over 400,000 migrant children studying in Beijing. These children face barriers to enrollment in local public schools. Thus, many attend privately owned migrant schools. These schools bar their educational advancement and increase their sense of social rejection. Until migrant children are allowed to interact with urban children through integration into local public schools or can easily advance their education in private migrant schools, Beijing faces a massive social problem.

  1. Migrant children face three barriers to enrollment in local public schools
    Although it is now illegal for public schools to charge migrants extra fees to enroll, there remain three barriers to enrollment in public schools.
     Migrant parents must present certificates to show that they live legally in Beijing, have full-time employment, and have permission from local authorities to enroll their child.
     Only one child per family is allowed to enroll. This is a problem since rural families often have multiple children.
     Migrant children face discrimination by teachers and peers in public schools. There are no mandates for equal treatment of migrant children in public schools. Thus, some families still send their kids to migrant schools even if they can enroll in public schools.
    Thus, migrant children cannot acquire the quality education necessary for integration into urban society and they experience decreased alienation. Migrant and urban children also interact less, perpetuating the alienation of migrant children.
  2. Migrant children turn to private migrant schools, which impedes educational advancement
    Private migrant schools lack resources: they rarely have arts, music, gym, computer, and chess classes. Low teaching salaries make it hard to hire and retain competent teachers. Migrant schools lack standardized curricula, which makes it hard for migrant children who move often. Most migrant schools find it too hard to officially register with the government, so graduating students do not get certificates needed to advance to upper grades. Educational advancement is important for migrant children’s psychological well being because (1) higher education will allow them job and income opportunities for integration into urban society and (2) they wish to excel academically to pay back their parents; failure to excel in school causes emotional distress.
  3. Private migrant schools highlight their sense of being outsiders
    Migrant schools are often noticeably different from standard Beijing public schools. They have worse facilities: smaller class rooms with make-shift desks and broken chalk boards. They lack uniforms and the red scarves that public school students wear. Classes and schedules lack the structure and discipline of public schools, such as lining up for flag ceremonies in the morning. These visible differences increase the sense of alienation.