Doors to university entrance exam half-opened for children of migrant workers in Guangdong

27 June 2019

The Guangdong authorities have announced that the children of migrant workers will be allowed to take the national university examination in Guangdong instead of having to return to their “home” province, as is currently the case.

There are about 3.6 million children of migrant workers currently in compulsory education in Guangdong, and the first of those students could in theory take the university entrance exam as early as 2016. But, as with all reforms related to the household registration (hukou) system in China, conditions apply.

The strict guidelines laid out by the Guangdong Education Department on 29 November, clearly specify the requirements migrant worker children in the province need to satisfy before they can take the entrance exam, namely:

  1. One of the student’s parents has legal and stable employment in the province.
  2. One of the student’s parents has a legal and stable residence in the province.
  3. One of the student’s parents has a Guangdong residence permit valid for at least three consecutive years and with an expiry date later than the examination date.
  4. One of the student’s parents has paid in social security for at least three years.
  5. The student took the High School Entrance Examination (HSEE) in Guangdong.
  6. The student studied at a high school in Guangdong for three years.

These requirements, while opening the door to migrant children who were born in Guangdong or who have studied continuously in the province, will create major problems for those students whose parents are not permanently settled in the province. Moreover, several cities in Guangdong have their own regulations that will make it very difficult for any migrant students to qualify for the provincial scheme.

In Dongguan, for example, students must first study at a local middle school for three years to become eligible for the city’s HSEE. That means migrant workers’ children need to actually study and live in Guangdong for at least six years in order to take the university entrance exam, the Yangcheng Evening News reported.

In the provincial capital Guangzhou, high schools are required to restrict the proportion of non-local students in their classes to a maximum of just ten percent.

In Shenzhen, only those with an official Shenzhen student status can take the local HSEE, and to get official student status, children have to live near the school, something very few migrant workers can afford to do. Most migrants live in districts that have barely adequate if any public school facilities.

The long-standing restrictions on university entrance examinations for the children of migrant workers are one of the most blatant and widely criticised forms of hukou discrimination in China. In this respect, the Guangdong authorities are to be commended for taking steps to integrate the migrant community into the public school system but in reality they have merely replaced a blanket ban with a list of criteria that only a small proportion of migrants will be able to meet.

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