Chinese cities to relax school entry for rural migrants

Sun Dec 30, 2012 10:25am EST
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BEIJING (Reuters) - Three populous Chinese regions plan to relax restrictions on the children of workers from rural areas trying to enter university-track high schools, China National Radio reported on Sunday, in an apparent response to protests over discriminatory practices.

The planned changes come too late to help a teenager whose plight has become a cause célèbre among activists pressing for reform of China's household registration, or hukou, regime.

Chinese high school students can only take university entrance exams where they are registered, a stipulation that effectively locks out the children of migrant workers in cities.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese have moved to cities from rural areas over the past three decades, but most migrants are still treated as second-class citizens without the same access to education, housing or health insurance as registered urban residents.

Reformists had seized on the case of Zhan Haite, 15, the daughter of migrants who had been raised in Shanghai but was ineligible to attend a university-track high school there. Her case triggered protests in Beijing and Shanghai this month, while her father was detained for several days for campaigning to secure education rights in Shanghai.

The rules as announced still do not treat the children of migrants as equals of city residents with legal registration.

"It's not ideal. They have just made the regulations more detailed, not changed the underlying situation," Zhan said from her home in Shanghai. The new criteria were so strict that she, and others like her, would still be ineligible, she said.

"I bet only 5 percent of the kids would meet the new requirements."

Beijing and Shanghai as well as Guangdong Province, whose Pearl River Delta factories are a magnet for migrants, will phase in access to the higher-education exams for students living within their borders, China National Radio reported.   Continued...