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Parental migration and children’s academic engagement: The case of China

Abstract

In the context of China’s increasing rural-urban migration, few studies have investigated how parental migration affects children’s experience in school. The high cost of schooling, taken together with the institutional barriers in destination cities, have compelled many rural parents in China to migrate without their children, leaving them in the care of their spouses, grandparents, relatives or other caregivers. Still other parents migrate with their children, many of whom then attend urban migrant schools in their destination city. Understanding the academic engagement of children of migrant workers is particularly salient because the poor qualities of migrant schools, a lack of parental support, and exposure to competing alternatives to schooling may render both migrant children in the cities and left-behind children in the rural villages vulnerable to disengagement, and ultimately school dropout. Using data collected in 2008 in the urban Haidian and Changping districts of Beijing and rural Henan and Shaanxi provinces, the authors of this paper investigate the association between parental migration status and two measures of academic engagement, academic aspirations and the odds of liking school, by comparing migrant children attending migrant schools and left-behind children with their rural counterparts who do not have migrant parents. The authors’ findings show that migrant children attending migrant schools have lower academic engagement compared to rural children of non-migrant parents. The correlation between academic engagement and parental migration status can be accounted for in part by the support children receive from family and teachers. The association between certain measures of family and school support and academic engagement also varies by parental migration status: for example, high teacher turnover rates significantly reduce migrant children’s odds of liking schools, but do not affect children of non-migrant parents.

Résumé

Migration parentale et investissement scolaire des enfants : le cas de la Chine – Dans le contexte de l’intensification de l’exode rural en Chine, peu d’études ont examiné l’impact de la migration parentale sur le parcours scolaire des enfants. Les frais scolaires élevés, qui s’ajoutent aux obstacles institutionnels dans les villes de destination, contraignent de nombreux parents des régions rurales en Chine à migrer sans leurs enfants, en les laissant à la garde du conjoint, de grands-parents, de proches ou d’autres personnes. D’autres parents partent avec leurs enfants, dont la majorité fréquente des écoles pour migrants dans leur ville de destination. Il est d’une importance particulière de cerner l’investissement scolaire chez les enfants des travailleurs migrants, car la faible qualité des écoles pour migrants, le manque de soutien parental et l’attrait d’alternatives concurrentes à la scolarité rendent certains enfants migrants des villes, mais aussi ceux laissés dans les villages, vulnérables à un désintéressement et finalement à l’abandon scolaire. Exploitant des données collectées en 2008 dans les districts Haidian et Changping de Beijing ainsi que dans les provinces rurales de Henan et de Shaanxi, les auteurs ont examiné le lien entre le facteur migration parentale et deux mesures pour l’investissement scolaire, les aspirations scolaires et la probabilité d’aimer l’école, en comparant les enfants inscrits dans des écoles pour migrants ainsi que ceux laissés en garde, avec leurs camarades ruraux dont les parents sont restés sur place. Les résultats révèlent que les enfants migrants montrent un investissement scolaire plus faible que les enfants ruraux de parents non migrants. La corrélation entre investissement scolaire et migration parentale s’explique en partie par le soutien que les enfants reçoivent de la famille et des enseignants. L’association entre certaines mesures du soutien familial et scolaire et de l’investissement scolaire dépend également du facteur migration parentale : par exemple, des taux élevés de rotation des enseignants réduisent sensiblement la probabilité d’aimer l’école chez les enfants migrants, mais n’influencent pas les enfants ruraux de parents non migrants.

摘要

父母迁移与儿童学习投入性:以中国为例 -中国农村向城市人口迁移规模正在日益扩大, 但是很少有研究考察父母的迁移对子女在校学习经历的影响. 目的地城市的高教育费用加上制度性障碍迫使许多农民工将子女留在农村, 由配偶、祖父母、其他亲戚或监护人照顾. 还有许多随父母一同迁移的农民工子女只能在目的地城市的民办农民工子弟学校就学. 民办农民工子弟学校教学质量相对低下, 农民工子女又缺少父母的支持, 加之这些儿童容易接触到求学以外的其它出路. 这些因素使随迁子女和留守儿童更容易不投入学习, 并最终辍学. 因此, 理解这些儿童的学习投入性至关重要. 本研究的作者使用2008年在北京的海淀区和昌平区以及河南省和陕西省农村采集的数据, 将民办农民工子弟学校就学的随迁子女、农村留守儿童与父母非农民工农村儿童进行比较, 考察父母迁移与学习投入性的两个衡量指标之间的关系: 学业抱负和喜欢学校的几率. 研究结果表明, 在民办农民工子弟学校就学的随迁子女比起其他两组儿童具有较低的学习投入性. 学习投入性和父母迁移的相关性部分取决于儿童是否从父母和老师那里得到的支持. 某些衡量家庭和学校支持的指标与学习投入性之间的相关性也随父母迁移状况的不同而变化: 比如, 频换更换老师显著减少随迁子女喜欢学校的几率, 但并不影响父母非农民工的农村儿童.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. An internal migrant relocates within the borders of his/her country.

  2. A hukou is a household registration record, the implications of which for migrant children are explained in the next section of this article.

  3. Academic engagement, as will be explained later in this paper, is a multifaceted construct reflecting students’ emotional attachment, investment and effort towards schooling.

  4. A migrant school is a non-government school established in response to the insufficient public provision of schooling for rural children who migrate with their parents to cities.

  5. Rural-to-urban migrants are defined as rural residents working outside the county/town for over six months during the year of the survey.

  6. During the 1990s and into the 21st century, many poor students, not only migrant students, faced financial barriers that prevented their enrolment in schooling (see Hannum and Adams 2008).

  7. Beijing is one of the most popular migration destinations in China. By the end of 2012, the migrant population residing in Beijing was 7.74 million, accounting for 37 per cent of the total residents of Beijing (Beijing Statistical Bureau 2013b). Haidian and Changping are two districts with the second-highest number of migrant residents after Chaoyang district, and Changping has one of the fastest-growing migrant populations according to the 2010 Population Census (Beijing Statistical Bureau 2013a).

  8. Henan and Shaanxi are two of the major migrant-sending provinces in China. In particular, migrants from Henan, the second-largest migrant-sending province [Hebei being the largest], account for 13.9 per cent of the total migrants in Beijing (Beijing Statistical Bureau 2011). By the end of 2010, interprovincial out-migration from Shaanxi reached 1.61 million (Shaanxi Government 2011).

  9. To reduce the bias associated with eliminating missing data, we used the multivariate imputations by chained equations technique, applying the “ice” command of STATA to impute missing data (Royston 2005; Graham et al. 2007). The imputed data were then analysed and pooled using the user-written “mim” command in STATA (Royston 2005). We also carried out a sensitivity analysis using only cases that did not have missing values and the results did not differ substantively from those using imputed data.

  10. Research has shown that a subjective indicator of socioeconomic status is a more precise measure of social position and a better predictor of adolescents’ psychosocial health (Currie et al. 1997; Piko and Fitzpatrick 2002; Singh-Manoux et al. 2005).

  11. Due to data limitations, we were unable to control for previous academic performance in our analysis.

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Chen, S., Adams, J., Qu, Z. et al. Parental migration and children’s academic engagement: The case of China. Int Rev Educ 59, 693–722 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11159-013-9390-0

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Keywords

  • Academic engagement
  • Migration
  • China
  • Teacher support
  • Parental support