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The distinction of elementary education for migrant children in Beijing: a multiple-case study


Migrant children’s access to educational opportunities has been a topical issue in China in recent years. This study focuses on the marginalised condition of migrant children in the current education system, using Bourdieu’s theory of class distinction and cultural reproduction as a theoretical foundation. Through a multiple-case study in three primary schools in Beijing, we identify three types of distinction experienced by these schools and the migrant children in these schools: (1) licensed private migrant schools are institutionally marginalised, lacking policy and financial support from the government; (2) unlicensed private schools for migrant children are characterised by crumbling school facilities, poor teaching quality and chaotic management, with migrant children experience educational, cultural, and psychological distinction in these schools; (3) public schools available to migrant children are located in periphery areas; moreover, migrant children are segregated from local children in these schools. Having encountered these distinctions, migrant children are less well-positioned to experience success. Several policy implications are also discussed to improve this situation and promote educational equality for migrant children.

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This study was supported by the Beijing Philosophy and Social Science Planning Project (Grant No: 15JYA002); the Tsinghua University Independent Scientific Research Project (Grant No: 2016THZWYX11).

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Correspondence to Kun Yan.

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Yan, K., Wu, L., Liu, S. et al. The distinction of elementary education for migrant children in Beijing: a multiple-case study. Aust. Educ. Res. (2020).

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  • Migrant children
  • Distinction
  • Elementary schools
  • Beijing