Privately-run migrant schools (PMSs) constitute the main educational provision for the children of internal migrants in China’s fast developing cities. They provide important educational opportunities for the children of migrants who would, instead, very likely be ‘left-behind’ children or have no educational opportunities (Hu, 2019). This research will demonstrate how these schools operate, and the educational and social improvements they aspire to. Different from previous studies, which tend to study PMSs in highly developed cities such as Beijing and Shanghai (Lai et al., 2014; Ling, 2015; Chen and Feng, 2017). I focus on schools in a relatively disadvantaged but burgeoning city, Guiyang, the capital city of one of China’s least developed provinces – Guizhou Province. There are insufficient studies on PMSs located in Guiyang and what they can offer, internationally or nationally. However, grassroots privately-run migrant schools are widespread in cities such as this.
Three main methods were applied in the approach to investigating PMSs: firstly, the views of a selection of local NGO staff were collected (among whom semi-structured interviews were undertaken with three NGO directors who are serving PMSs); secondly, the perspectives of principals (15 of whom completed questionnaires which aims to explore the socioeducational context of PMSs); and, thirdly, the researcher undertook participant and nonparticipant observation (ethnographically recorded in field notes and photos to map the characteristics of these privately-run institutions). Finally, 22 semi-structured interviews were undertaken with principals and teachers to explore schools’ challenges and aspirations from their perspectives. This data is examined to try and establish the role(s) PMSs are playing for migrant children’s education and their lives more broadly. Overall, this research aims to shed light on the circumstances of PMSs in Guiyang which would, otherwise, remain invisible from public view and, thus, the needs of these schools and their students are likely to remain unknown.