Chinese Migrant Children: Do They Have the Right to Education?

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The plight of migrant workers affects their children in two ways: some children are becoming economic orphans or ‘left behind children’ as their parents have left in search of work in cities; others, who accompany their parents from villages to cities, are denied access to a State school in the cities. In today’s China, children from rural areas are denied access to State-funded schools in cities where their parents have migrated to. The protection of the education of migrant children gives legitimacy to their legal capacity, but practical incapacity resulting owing to the household registration system and discriminatory educational policies. The development of migrant-self-formed-schools highlights the changing State-society relationship and casts doubt on the sustainability of State practices. For this article, a legal method was employed by which migrant children’s right to education was investigated and studied theoretically and practically, with a wide range of studies from government documents, both published openly and internally, a literature search from academic sources and interview. The results indicate that there are about 36 million migrant children in 2017 who are denied access to State schools in the cities although China ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992 and domestic law highlights free education to all children ushered in by the ‘Compulsory Education Law.’ The findings suggest that China should establish a rights-based approach to protect migrant children’s right to education so that initiatives in economic transformation do not further marginalize migrant children.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Asian Yearbook of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Subtitle of host publicationLaw, Gender and Sexuality
EditorsJavaid Rehman, Ayesha Shahid, Steve Foster
Place of PublicationLeiden | Boston
PublisherBrill Nijhoff
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-40171-6
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-40170-9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2019


  • Chinese Migrant Children – Right to Education
  • A rights-based approach
  • Governmental human rights obligations
  • Household registration
  • A State-funded school
  • Migrant-self-formed schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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