Access to university entrance exam limited for migrant children
Published: Feb 07, 2012 01:03 AM Updated: Mar 04, 2012 04:49 PM


For China's millions of migrant workers who bring their children along to big cities to attend schools, one of the biggest headaches is the national college entrance examination, or gaokao.

While most of the migrant workers' children are not allowed to take the exam in the cities they reside now, even going back to their hometown to take the test is  becoming a problem, as some schools ban students who have are not actively enrolled.

In the past few years, education experts and migrant parents have been calling for reforms to guarantee all students have rights, and hope was growing last year as some said the government had vowed to solve this problem and was expected to make reforms very soon.

The "key emphasis of China's education work for 2012," issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE) at the end of last month, did not seem to be a positive sign for quick action.

The document vowed to ensure migrant workers' children without local hukou, or house registration, could receive compulsory education from primary school through junior high school in the city their parents work, and to help these children attend high school.

However, it did not mention whether students without local hukou could take the gaokao in a parent's city of work even if they have received their high school education there.

Troubles for migrant students

In many cities, even the students without local hukou can study in local high schools. However, they cannot take the gaokao there, as registration for the exam is only open to those who have a local hukou and are enrolled in a local high school.

Zhang Jiandang, a businessman from Anhui Province who has been working in Beijing since 1995, was worried about gaokao registration for his son who was studying in a high school in Beijing but did not have a Beijing hukou.

Zhang worried that if his son could not take the gaokao in Beijing, he would have to return to Anhui to study, which meant that his son would not only lose the closeness with parents but also face a quite different education environment in Anhui.

Zhang, along with many others, began a campaign to open gaokao registration to non-local hukou residents in June, 2010. He and his companions asked that the local hukou requirement be replaced with a minimum of four consecutive years of study experience in Beijing.

"I don't expect much, even after the document issued by the MOE," Zhang told the Global Times, "The government has promised to make efforts to resolve the problem since the beginning of 2011, but still no results."

"I am wondering whether I should prepare to send my son abroad for university which might cost $300,000, and I can hardly afford, or should just wait for Beijing gaokao registration qualification reform, which may never be realized," Zhang said.

Unequal competition

Big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are home to China's best universities, such as Peking and Tsinghua, which often enroll many more local students than those from other provinces, while the levels of required gaokao scores for locals are much lower.

These discrepancies are prompting some parents to move to other cities, and acquire local hukou by any means necessary, specifically to better their children's education. Others, however, are taking advantage of the current system in another way.

Xin Xiaohui, who took the gaokao in 2005, benefited from the regional disparities of the gaokao. "I spent three years in a high school in Shandong Province with a good reputation, then went back to my hometown in Qinghai Province, where my hukou was from, and was admitted into a prestigious university," Xin said, "If I took the gaokao in Shandong it would have been more difficult because competition is fiercer there."

Xin told the Global Times that the gaokao registration in Qinghai only required a local hukou but not local school enrollment in 2005, as deliberate gaokao immigration was not conspicuous then.

In recent years Liaoning Province, with an 80 percent college admission rate, had been the target of gaokao immigrants. By the year of 2011, Liaoning had tightened the exam registrations, and saw drastic decrease in immigrant gaokao applicants, according to Liaoning-based Shenyang Evening News.

Reform difficulties

Efforts to loosen the exam registration requirements for migrant children are currently under way. In March 2011, the head of the MOE, Yuan Guiren, told media sources that gaokao registration qualification for these children should be taken into consideration if they had been educated in the city their parents worked, according to the China Youth Daily.

Last year, the MOE appointed Shandong Province, Hunan Province and Chongqing Municipality as pilot areas for the loosening of gaokao registration requirements. However, the public expressed doubts that the three pilot areas were renowned for heavy gaokao competition, and that they themselves were mainly emigrant areas, which made the pilot study irrelevant, according to West China City Daily.

Xiong Bingqi, an education expert with Shanghai Jiaotong University, told the Global Times that he has high expectations for the government's resolution voiced in the MOE document, but is still not sure whether the central government could do so within the year.

 "It must take various interest groups into account, protecting migrant students' rights, while at the same time making sure not to affect the college admission rate for local residents," Xiong said.



Residence status influences students sitting national exams in Beijing