Exam-oriented education and implementation of education policy for migrant children in urban China

Bo Hu, Anne West (2014)

Please note: this is a legacy publication from CPEC (formely PSSRU at LSE).

Educational Studies 41 3 249-267



Available online: 7 November 2014

This paper investigates the implementation of education policy for migrant children in urban China. Historically, rural and urban residents in China were separated by the hukou system, and rural children were not allowed to attend urban schools. Since the relaxation of the hukou system in the early 1980s, large numbers of rural families migrated to cities. The right of migrant children to education in urban China was formally recognised by the government in a series of policies starting in 2001. The research reported, here, reveals that migrant children did not have equal access to urban schools nor did they enjoy an equally good education to that of urban children. Based on 53 in-depth interviews with school principals, teachers and pupils in two provincial capitals in China, this paper explores the main factors affecting the implementation of education policy for migrant children. The research demonstrates that policies relating to equal admissions criteria were not implemented as intended, with migrant children not having equal access to schools. However, policies relating to non-segregation and academic support were implemented as intended. It is argued that, at the school level, this is a result of the examination-oriented system, and schools’ responses to this.