Education for Children of Migrant Workers in China - Containers as Classrooms

Education for Children of Migrant Workers in China - Containers as Classrooms

Author: Ann Weiss, participant of the SAP Social Sabbatical Program in Beijing
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Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 8:55am

Migrant workers have been the main contributor to Beijing's explosive growth over the past decade. People leave their rural homes to join the labor market in China’s capital. Most take low-paying jobs and have little access to resources like medical care and schooling. And many children of migrant workers also move to Beijing with their parents.

Ju Fei is one such child. He is a 10-year old student at the Little Swan Migrant’s school in the Changping District. Ju Fei is small for his age. He has a tentative smile, a contagious laugh and a strong need to keep moving with his soccer ball. Children like Ju Fei, whose parents are from the countryside, don't have a permanent residency permit (hukou) for Beijing and are only permitted to live there as temporary workers - even if their parents have lived there for years. Without a Beijing hukou, it is almost impossible for children to attend the educationally superior public schools. Therefore, Ju Fei goes to one of the schools for migrant children funded by private donors like SAP.

Ju Fei and his classmates learn the basics in reading, writing, math and English. Their rudimentary classroom stands in stark contrast to the chrome and glass buildings of tech giants like Google, Lenovo, Intel and Microsoft that have research centers clustered in China’s so-called ‘silicon valley’ just minutes away. Ju Fei’s classroom is a container. Land for development is in high demand. The metropolis is growing fast. So these schools can be shut down by authorities at any time to make room for development. Container classrooms can be moved; bricks and mortar cannot.

Education for the 21st century in China is online

Just south of the Little Swan Migrant’s School, China’s elite Universities are training the 'best and the brightest'. The Peking University, Tsinghua University and Renmin are located merely 20 kilometers away and yet - they are light years away from the Little Swan School. Chances are slim that Ju Fei and his classmates will go to any one of these Universities.

At these Universities, and the NGOs they partner with, economists are thinking about the future of China and how to deal with educational and economic disparity. And they are coming up with innovative answers. One such innovator is economist, Dr. Min Tang. He is driving a vision to bring high-quality education to all classrooms in the country through the internet. Imagine: one large screen that provides the best training possible to an entire classroom. Rural students typically don’t have individual computers. The quality of teachers at rural and migrant schools is often low. So with this solution, the local teacher can show high-quality instructional internet videos to the entire class and then guide students through offline exercises.

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CATEGORY: Education