Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, November 12, 2012

If it's not one thing…

Between residency permits, variations in curriculum, and favoritism toward Beijingers, "different-place people" are in one of those proverbial places.

Fighting for privilege
OF THE many reforms that China’s new leaders will be expected to tackle when they take over in mid-November, one of the most urgent yet potentially divisive is giving migrants and their families the same opportunities in the cities as any other citizens…

The heart of the problem is China’s system of household registration, or hukou. It forms the basis by which local governments define the privileges to which residents are entitled. Beijing has a large migrant population and is also home to many of the country’s best government-funded schools and universities. The city is not keen to make it easier for holders of non-Beijing hukou to grab a share of these spoils…

Even if they were born in the capital, children must take the hukou of one or other of their parents… This is because students must sit the gaokao, or university entrance exam, in their place of household registration. Never mind that this may be somewhere in the sticks that children have rarely if ever visited… To make things worse, the gaokao syllabus varies from place to place. So children usually have to leave home and spend their senior high-school years in the place where they will eventually sit the exam. Those who leave Beijing to sit the gaokao have little chance of qualifying for higher education in the capital, since the city’s universities allocate a disproportionate number of places to holders of Beijing hukou.

Officials have hinted at change. In August the government asked local administrations to produce “concrete plans” by the end of the year for allowing students to sit the gaokao where they actually live. Parents are sceptical. Ominously, the directive calls on local governments to come up with ways to prevent gaokao “migration”: moving to a city in order to a have a better chance of getting into its universities…

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