ABSTRACT

A major challenge facing China’s education system today is that of how to educate migrant children-the children of rural labor migrants, sometimes referred to as the “floating population,” who are entering China’s cities in ever-greater numbers. Under China’s household registration system, or hukou system, these individuals remain official residents of rural areas, and do not have full citizenship rights in the cities where they now reside (see Cheng and Selden 1994, for the historical development of the hukou system). The scope of the challenge to China’s urban education systems, while hard to gauge in precise terms, is vast. One report estimates that there are over 20 million migrant children in China overall, with about 10 percent being dropouts, and nearly half suffering from a delay in schooling (Shi Jie Ri Bao 2003). Another report estimates that there were 150,000 migrant children in Beijing alone in 2001. Of these, 30 percent had migrated while of “school age” (defined as between the ages of 5 and 16), and another 10 percent had been born locally, to temporary migrant parents (Lu and Zhang 2001). These numbers suggest a heavy burden for educational systems in the urban receiving communities.