Education Reform Imminent
2011-03-21Editor:Sun Xi 
Change Text Size A A A

At the moment, children of registered non-local residents go to school in one city and take the college entrance exam in another. []

At the moment, children of registered non-local residents go to school in one city and take the college entrance exam in another. []

Cities where non-locals who are in stable employment have registered temporary residence should be responsible for all aspects of the education of temporary residents' children, Minister of Education Yuan Guiren said on March 11 during the Fourth Session of the 11th National People's Congress.

The sustained, steady flow of migrant workers, often with their families, into cities makes it imperative for the Chinese government to address the matter of where migrant schoolchildren take the all-important college entrance examination (gaokao). 


The present system of college entrance exams that combines with the census register, which is based on place of birth and family relationships, dictates that college entrance examinees sit the test in their province of registered residence. If, for instance, a student's registered residence is in Shandong Province, but he has been going to school in Beijing, he must nevertheless return to Shandong to take the college entrance examination.

The main problem is not so much logistics but of variances among provinces and municipalities directly under the central government of minimum college entrance score requirements.

Before 2000, students everywhere took the same college entrance exam. Those from provinces such as Shandong, Hubei and Hunan, however, needed far higher scores–sometimes 100 points higher than students with Beijing household registration–to be enrolled in China's best colleges–Tsinghua University and Peking University, both of which are in Beijing. 

Since 2000, certain provinces and municipalities have compiled their own college entrance examinations. Those in Shandong, Hubei and Hunan are more difficult than that in Beijing, which means that students from these three provinces need to study much harder than those with Beijing residency to enter the same university. This is because students from these provinces generally achieve high scores. Making their entrance exam more difficult, therefore, sifts out the cream and leaves places for Beijing students, to whom in any event preferential college entrance requirements apply.

Reforms are plainly called for, but difficult to carry out without overhauling the entire census register system.

Upon payment by their parents of extra sponsorship fees and other charges, many offspring of the floating population attend primary, middle and high school education in cities where their parents work. But they must return to their province of registered residence to take the college entrance exam. This puts students from Hubei, Hunan and Shandong at the disadvantage of dealing with different exam designs and systems from those in, for example, Beijing. Nor does it take into account the contributions the parents of these students have made to the city by virtue of being in regular employment there.

Relevant government departments are aware of these problems, and have made efforts in recent years to resolve them. But it is no easy task, taking into consideration the problems it raises of unfair distribution of education resources.

The recruitment of certain key universities has become growingly localized, a phenomenon which fosters the type of provincialism wherein local residents resent students from elsewhere usurping what they regards as the right of their offspring to go to college in their home province or municipality.

Resolving the college entrance exam issue for children of non-local workers has been a main issue of discussion since deputies first raised it at the 2008 NPC and CPPCC sessions.

This year's two sessions, however, seem to signal a breakthrough in education reform.

The pilot national education reform project was launched last December in Shandong Province, Hunan Province and Chongqing Municipality rather than, as generally expected, in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, where the large floating population in-flow is most extreme.

Only 24,685 of the 30,073 primary school graduates in Beijing during the 2008-2009 school year whose registered residence is elsewhere elected to attend middle schools in Beijing. Of the 12,599 middle school graduates in the same school year whose registered residence is elsewhere, only 5,484 carried on to high school in Beijing, according to relevant statistical data.

These statistics imply that most non-urban-resident schoolchildren must leave their families in Beijing and go back to their provinces of origin to continue their education.

More than 400,000 non-local students are undergoing primary compulsory education in Shanghai. The problem of children living alone in their place of rural residence, therefore, will balloon unless the college entrance exam issue is resolved in good time.

The online debate on this matter focuses on two main aspects.

First of all, what are the origins of this unjust system of education? Most netizens attribute it to the census register system. Many support the idea of excluding the census registration condition from the college entrance exam requirements as a way of promoting a fairer system of education.

Some, however, disagree, saying that the unfair distribution of education resources and inequitable college admission system is at the root of the problem. Lowering the college entrance exam threshold, therefore, is not the answer because it will expand the already growing floating population in big cities. This will necessitate new limitations and standards that infringe on local residents' educational rights and interests. These netizens believe that balancing the distribution of education resources nationwide and reforming the present provincialistic system of undergraduate admissions of a preferential approach to local students.

The second main question netizens raise is whether or not household registration can be withdrawn from the gaokao equation, and how difficult this will be. Although most netizens support the idea, few hold hopes that it will happen. Results of an online survey show that 23% of investigated netizens think the issue involves too many interests to be resolved by the Ministry of Education alone.

Comment on this story
All comments are subject to amendment by In the interests of healthy and productive dialogue, please give comments that are cordial but constructive, and relevant to the original post and ensuing remarks.
  You may put in  6,000  characters
Verification code: Click to change the identifying code    If the code is not clear, please click here for a new code.
No comment