Children of Migrant Workers in Urban Public High Schools: An Analysis of the Dual Role of Education

With the development of the reform and opening up process in China, millions of people from rural areas are migrating into cities. However, the household registration is often applied strictly and this limits access to a range of rights and benefits. These migrant workers fail to secure permanent residency on an equal footing with registered urban residents even though they work in the city. This rural-urban segregation has consequences beyond access to political and economic rights and resources, and has deepened to shape cultural and ideological perceptions. This deepening has a profound influence on the children of migrant workers moving to study in urban high schools. Though nowadays children of migrant workers can study in urban public schools alongside local resident, the rural-urban structural conflict still exists and impedes social relations between rural-urban groups.
The research will investigate difficulties or opportunities encountered by children of Chinese migrant workers after they have entered urban public high schools and as the face the realities of contact with city culture. The research will explain what kind of role education plays in effecting such children dealing with rural-urban cultural conflict. By using questionnaire, in-depth interview, different reactions and experiences of children of migrant workers to their school lives would be described and explained comprehensively in this research.
The discussion on the role of education, as an agent of cultural reproduction and an opportunity for multi-cultural fusion, is mainly based on Pierre Bourdieu’s Theory of Cultural Reproduction and Inclusive Education Model. There exists difference in children of migrant workers’ adaptation to urban life. Some children of migrant workers have negative reactions, such as failing to joining urban students’ groups, appearing resistance to teachers’ low evaluation, spending money irrationally to chase “fashion” and fallen behind in study. Meanwhile, some react more positively like active social interaction with urban students and teachers and more hard-working study. This two opposite attitudes are constructed by the dual function of education. Education, as an agent of cultural reproduction and an opportunity for multi-cultural fusion, influences children of migrant workers on different adaptations to rural-urban cultural conflict. Moreover, to clarify dual roles of education is a feasibility examination of the implementation of Chinese inclusive education in seeking a balanced and coordinated development between rural and urban areas.