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NEWS// Beijing schools bulldozed

NEWS// Beijing schools bulldozed

What does a mega-city do if it is determined to limit growth?  Among other avenues, Beijing is restricting education for migrant children.


Demolition of schools and other buildings used by migrants is the tool the city is employing.

Schools in Beijing need proper licensing. Most schools for migrant children are not licensed. The city has a campaign in place to bulldoze the illegal schools in the migrant workers shanty towns. In a number of cases that property is turned into green space.

Thousands without a school

Thousands of China’s children could be out of school this autumn. 

Chinese law guarantees a minimum of nine years of education for each child. But due to strict laws concerning “household registration” (or hukou) that provide access to education and health care for children according to where they are born, the vast majority of these migrant children do not have access to public education. 

Private schools in danger

Private schools have sprung up to meet the need. To keep costs down, they operate in shabby or illegal buildings. They are staffed with uncertified teachers. Beijing is shuttering these schools, leaving migrant parents little choice but to send their children back to the villages they came from.

These parents came to Beijing for higher-paying jobs. But when their child cannot attend school,  it is sent back home, which is often hours away by train. There the child is raised by grandparents or other family members. It is very common in China for migrant parents to see their children only once a year during the Chinese New Year holiday.

Population limited to 23 million

Beijing’s population has ballooned from 10.1 million long-term residents in 2000 to 21.7 million in 2016, according to census data. At least 8 million of those residents lack the Beijing hukou, or household registration, which entitles them to public services such as education. 

These surviving migrant schools are now imperiled by Beijing’s depopulation drive. This year Beijing’s municipal government revealed plans to cap the city’s long-term population at 23 million people by 2020 and move out non-essential administrative and university facilities to nearby provinces.

Sources: World Affairs, Financial Times, Caixing Global