Cablegate: A Generation Left Behind - Migrant Education in the Pearl

DE RUEHGZ #0147/01 0710751
R 110751Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: A Generation Left Behind - Migrant Education in the Pearl
River Delta

1. (U) Summary: How successful have Chinese government and
educational officials been in meeting one of the major societal
challenges confronting them, i.e., the care and training of the tens
of millions of children of the migrant workers who have driven
China's economic boom? Clearly the children's school attendance and
academic performance are lower on average than that of other
students. Even though Beijing has mandated that local governments
provide education for the children of migrants, public schools
generally give priority to local children due to limited space and
funding. Private schools for migrant children in the Pearl River
Delta are plentiful, but they are expensive, vary in quality and,
for the most part, do not go beyond the ninth grade. End summary.

Left in the Village

2. (U) Fifty-eight million children of migrant workers in China are
left behind in their home villages when parents go to the cities to
work. According to a 2006 survey by the All-China Women's
Federation, a state sponsored NGO, these children are more likely
than those whose parents have not sought employment elsewhere to
have less than adequate supervision. Their caregivers, usually
grandparents, often fail to enforce attendance in school. The
survey showed that the academic performance of 80 percent of the
migrant children was poor or mediocre; 20 percent had disciplinary

3. (U) Children left behind also tend to begin school later and are
more likely to drop out before completing the compulsory nine years
of education. A different study in 2006 by the China National
Children Center, an affiliate of the All-China Women's Federation,
reported that as many as 60 percent of children left behind by
migrant worker parents drop out of school before completing nine

Outnumbering Locals

4. (U) According to the school attendance statistics of various
municipalities of the Pearl River Delta, there are 1.5 million
children of migrant workers enrolled in the region's schools. With
the exception of Foshan, these students outnumber their local
classmates in every municipality. These numbers are likely to grow
as the Chinese government at all levels increase efforts to educate
the children of migrant workers and more parents opt to bring their
children with them when they leave home to seek work.

Public Schools - Second Class Citizens

5. (SBU) Five years ago, Beijing mandated that local governments
should provide nine years of free compulsory education to the
children of migrant workers. However, according to Dr. Hong Wang, a
professor at South China Normal University, local public schools do
not welcome these children. Local students have priority for the
limited spaces, and some municipalities impose additional residency
requirements. According to another academic, local governments fear
that open admissions would create a flood of students. The public
schools also must deal with tensions in the classroom related to
discrimination from local students and their parents.

6. (SBU) Wang told Congenoffs that migrant parents in Guangzhou need
to establish residency by living in one place or having the same
employer for several years. Only schools in the suburbs of
Guangzhou have significant space for migrant children. In media
reports, Hua Tongxu, Director General of the Guangzhou Education
Bureau stated the city would spend RMB 12.5 million (about US$1.76
million) this year educating 400,000 migrant children.

7. (U) In Dongguan, one of the Pearl River Delta's largest
industrial centers, 300,000 local children have priority for spaces
in public schools, according to the city's Department of Education.
Officials say they are trying to expand the capacity of the public
school system, but currently rely on private schools to educate most
of the municipality's 430,000 migrant children. Other cities have
been more successful at accommodating migrant children in public
schools. According to the published statistics, migrant children
account for half the public school population in Zhongshan and

Private Schools - Out of Reach for Many

8. (SBU) Private schools for migrant workers have sprung up
throughout the Pearl River Delta, but according to Wang, these

GUANGZHOU 00000147 002 OF 002

schools vary in quality. While some are quite good, others do not
meet minimum educational and safety standards. Congenoff visited
Dong An School in Dongguan, which serves 4,300 migrant children.
Local officials selected Dong An School for the Congenoff's visit.
It has received several awards from education authorities. However,
Mai Liang Hui, Dong An's principal commented that many other migrant
schools are substandard.

9. (SBU) Mai told us that private schools charge a minimum of 800
RMB per semester (about US$110). In comparison, the average monthly
wage of a migrant worker is around 1,000 RMB. There are very few
scholarships available for migrant children. Paying such fees is
easier for migrant workers who earn higher wages doing skilled work,
those in supervisory positions, and double-income migrant families.
However, Mai commented that even some workers with more modest
incomes make the sacrifices necessary to send their children to
private schools because they have few other options.

10. (U) Dongguan has 220 private schools supervised by the local
Education Bureau. Eighty percent of them target migrant workers,
operating as non-profit enterprises funded solely by tuition.
Education Bureau officials say that with 50,000 to 80,000 more
children arriving annually in Dongguan, more schools are needed.
Funding for the Education Bureau is based on the number of local
students, leaving the bureau with inadequate resources to monitor
private schools.

Fewer Opportunities Beyond Ninth Grade

11. (SBU) Wang and Mai both pointed out that there are fewer
opportunities for the children of migrant workers to go beyond the
nine years of compulsory education. The directive from the central
government does not address more advanced education for migrant
children. The Dong An School and the majority of private schools in
Dongguan stop after the ninth year. Public schools, on the other
hand, continue through twelve years of education.


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