With rapid economic growth and social change in China, the floating migrant population has increased rapidly over the last few years. Official estimates put Shanghai’s migrant worker population at 10 million. Leaving their hometown in rural areas, most of these migrants take low-ranking jobs and have little access to urban resources such as information, medical care and welfare services.
The children of migrant workers move with their parents to become temporary residents in urban centers like Shanghai. Due to their families’ low economic and social status, living standards can be extremely low. Lack of integration with the local population also leads to prejudice and discrimination.
According to government statistics, there are 500,000 migrant children of school age (1st grade primary to 3rd grade middle school) living in Shanghai. A large proportion of these children attend regular Shanghai schools. However, for several reasons, including residence registration issues and lower educational standards, about 30 percent of migrant children cannot be admitted to normal Chinese schools, and many go to school in one of the 145 schools managed and funded by the government for migrant children living in Shanghai.
These schools were originally established by migrants themselves, and gradually taken over by the local education authority. These schools started out illegally in over-crowded, sub-standard buildings with poor facilities – typically dilapidated desks and chairs in over-crowded classrooms with bad lighting – and experienced frequent relocation and closures. The situation is gradually improving and a decent basic education is now almost guaranteed for almost 100% of primary school age migrant children in Shanghai. However, many schools still lack the facilities which are taken for granted in normal Shanghai schools, such as computers, projectors, sports equipment, etc, and the educational quality still falls short of that in the local public schools.
For more information about migrants and migrant schools in China, please click here to view a touching documentary about the life of a migrant child in Shanghai.