What does the Iron Divide in Suzhou’s Primary School Expose?

中文 English

Editor’s Note

This is CDB’s translation of an article originally published in Chinese by the Narada Foundation on the 28th of August (see the original here). The article discusses an incident that occurred last month and was widely reported in the Chinese media: in the city of Suzhou the playground of an elite primary school was divided by an iron barrier, with the purpose of separating the 800 of children of migrant workers who had been moved there from another school and the 400 other children already attending the school. Most of those 400 children were admitted due to their parents owning expensive apartments in the school district, some of which may have been bought exclusively for the purpose of gaining the children admission to the school. The practice of parents buying apartments in certain school districts so as to secure spots in fancy or “elite” schools for their children is common among the higher social classes in Chinese cities. The incident sparked controversy and debate regarding the social divide and the difficulty of integrating the children of migrant workers into the urban educational system.

 

 

The city’s parents and government bodies stick to their positions, and the migrant children “swept along by the currents” suffer hostility and segregation.

The new “points-based school admissions” (积分入学) policy has been analysed by educational specialists as having the effect of “picking out the best and rejecting the worst” (纳优排劣) from the migrant population.” Due to the integrated quotas, the grading system favours high-end talent, but neglects the majority of the ordinary migrant workers, and the integrated school entrance model is extremely unfair in terms of guaranteeing that the children of migrant workers can enjoy educational opportunities in the cities.”

 

An iron sheet has been set up inside a school in Suzhou, separating two groups of school-kids.

On the one side are the 400 junior school students of the hundred-year old elite Suzhou school, the Qin Xi Experimental Junior School. These are mostly local Suzhou students. On the other side are 800 children from the relocated Li Xin (“Newly Established”) primary school for the children or migrant workers. They are children who followed their parent migrant workers to Suzhou from all over the country.

In the eyes of the parents in Suzhou, the Qin Xi Experimental School is a key school. According to a surge of news reports, after this September the two schools will have to share a common campus, which has given rise to dissatisfaction from the parents of Qin Xi’s students. They believe that admitting migrant children will “disrupt this primary school’s previously strict tradition of ‘enrolling students according to the school district” (按学区招生), and allow non-school district students to take advantage of the public school’s resources”, and that “this is unfair to us” (parents who have bought a house in the school district).

The newly established primary school is a school run for migrant workers’ children of all aptitudes. This kind of school has a name in the Zhejiang region, it is called a “food-market school” (菜场学校). A parent of one of this school’s children declared in an interview with the “Yangzi Evening News” that because the fees for privately-operated primary schools are much higher compared to publicly-run primary school, the situation with the new school building makes them worry about “whether the school fees will rise”.

The Gu Su district educational committee stated that the shared campus is due to the Li Xin school’s original school building lease expiring, and the Qin Xi Experimental school is the only school site which meets the resettlement regulations. Setting up the corrugated iron gate was done in order to facilitate supervision, and will provide an exclusive teaching and activity space for the 800 resettled students.

 

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This photo provided by the students’ parents shows how the Qin Xi Experimental School added a gate and other measures to ensure the separation. C. Peng Pai

 

According to current media reports the Qin Xi Experimental School changed buildings in 2015, and inside the school grounds there are now some buildings left idle that are being borrowed for this purpose. At the moment there is no evidence that the shared campus will influence the future recruitment policies of the “key primary school”, and admitting migrant workers’ children is in keeping with the fairness in education which state policies advocate, so why are the parents dissatisfied?

This iron sheet actually exposes a real class stratification over educational resources in the major cities and developed areas in which the migrants have converged, and the awkwardness over the difficulty to integrate the children of migrants into the cities. Contrary to what is claimed on paper, previously in Suzhou’s traditionally superior schools like the Qin Xi Experimental School the children of migrants would not meet the entry requirements.

Suzhou is a city with a big influx of outsiders. In 2015, the size of the city’s floating population already exceeded the registered population. One research paper from Northeast Normal University shows that because the superior economic development of Suzhou attracts large groups of external labourers and a huge number of migrant children, the city’s compulsory education system is facing an unprecedented challenge. In 2016, the city started to copy the Pearl River Delta region in implementing state-run schools and “points-based school admissions”, but this policy essentially ended up “picking the best and rejecting the worst” from the migrant population. Because they could not achieve the “points-based school admission” requirements, the additional schools for migrant children shut down one after the other, and in recent years many of Suzhou’s migrant children have had to return to their native villages to attend school.

But this rebellious mood of the elite school parents, which has an insufficient factual basis, exposes something else – in their eyes, there is a distinction between superior and inferior compulsory education, and for the price of a house in the school district, what they really want to defend is what lies behind the opportunity for a school place which that house costing 30,000 Yuan per square metre ensures.

What does lie behind?

 

Rich children choose their school

In fact, the background to this issue lies in the advantages that government-administered key primary schools enjoy. These advantages include better qualified teachers, better management and easier access to higher education opportunities.

The accumulation of these advantages is not only a result of the historical tradition of prestigious schools, but it has also emerged from the system of constructing key primary schools that came after the establishment of the People’s Republic. Research has shown that since the beginning of the 50s and 60s, China began to promote the focused construction of a series of primary and middle schools which received preferential investment from government departments. This system, combined with the step-by-step economic development plans implemented by the Reform and Opening Up policy, has led to a gradually increasing disparity in educational quality between regions, cities and areas.

What’s more, after the Reform and Opening Up the upper class began to focus on key schools when selecting a school. From the beginning of the 1990s, China began to manage the education offered in these ‘chosen schools.’ Researchers discovered that in the 16 years between 1995 and 2010, altogether 16 orders were published banning the practice of choosing schools – however it was still difficult to suppress this tendency. A research report published by the 21st Century Education Research Institute showed that in 2010 there were as many as 15 modes of middle school enrolment (“小升初”) in the 8 urban districts of Beijing. These include back-door entry (条子生), cooperation with work units to increase chances (共建生) and payment of additional fees because of a non-local residence permit or low grades (赞助费). The report points out that the upper classes will take advantage of privileges, rent-seeking and other unconventional ways to enjoy “high-quality education opportunities”.

By 2013, the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Meeting of the CPC Central Committee announced that in order to promote the balanced distribution of educational resources, they would implement admission to schools free from exams, unite primary and middle schools and require admissions to be from within the same district. The following year the educational department published a document in response, and put forward a target of 100% of primary schools in all the counties of 19 big cities entering this system by 2015.

This is what the aforementioned parents were referring to when they spoke about key schools ‘enrolling students according to the school district’. If we look at it from the point of view of the parents choosing the schools, the purchase of housing in a good school district has actually become the only remaining available channel for choosing a school, since the policy governing school selection has tightened and channels such as back-door entry and extra payments have continued to be blocked. Since 2015, house prices have continued to rise around key schools in China.

 

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This picture was taken of housing in a school district in Wudaokou, Beijing. In 2013, this ‘extortionately priced school district housing’ was just shy of RMB 100,000 per square meter. According to data from ChainHome.com, the purchase price of a 50-square-meter house in the Huaqing Jiayuan compound in 2016 was nearly RMB 140,000 per square meter, totalling 7 million yuan.  C. Vision China

 

Compared with other methods of selecting a school, purchasing housing is a direct and high-value way of demonstrating that the quality degrees from these key schools have a market price. In fact, similar incidents of so-called “school-housing” ‘rights protection’ are not a rare occurrence. The author [of this piece] discovered in interviews this year that each spring, when the enrolment policy is promulgated, and each autumn when it is time to actually enrol, conflicts continually arise due to the redrawing of boundaries of some school districts, with every party sticking to its own version. This reveals that there are all kinds of strange situations brought about by the link between the markets for China’s public education and the real estate market.

In an interview with the Yangtze Evening News, a parent with a child enrolled at the Qin Xi Experimental School said that the thinking behind spending a huge amount of money to buy a house in a schooling district was to have somewhere to live, for the child to attend a good school and for the potential that house prices in the area would rise. But he was worried that sharing use of school grounds in this way would influence students who might enrol in the future, saying ‘there is a feeling that we bought a house in the school district for nothing.’

This is contrary to the balance and fairness advocated by the compulsory education policy. But despite the educational departments’ numerous attempts to balance things by dividing up the school districts and rotating the teachers of prominent school, the parents do not seem to be buying it. Their impulse to choose schools is extremely difficult to mute. The accumulation of advantages in key primary schools also continues to follow the Matthew effect, growing bigger and bigger every year.

What is the crux of this tendency to try and choose a school? A parent from Zhejiang spilled out his heart to the author [of this piece], saying that actually you choose a school in order to choose your child’s classmates. A number of scholars have expressed similar views. Whether it is Beijing’s key primary schools with soaring housing prices in the surrounding school districts, or Shanghai’s private primary schools for which parents empty their pockets wishing to gain entry, these ‘key schools’ do effectively have a selecting effect. They select the parents who invest the most in their children’s education. This in turn groups together the supply of students, because these families will also invest a lot in extra-curricular education.

There are scholars that believe that for all these reasons, there are going to be more and more students from upper class families enrolling at these key schools, and that one of the resulting costs of this gap in educational quality will be aggravated social stratification.

Combined with all of the above, if we look again at the parents’ comments in the media about experimental primary schools, their motives become clearer. The opportunity to enrol in one of these key primary schools has come at the cost of spending vast sums of money, and has allowed them to screen out their children’s classmates. Given that the educational department forced in 800 migrant children, it is unsurprising that they should have an emotional reaction.

The author found out that when Suzhou’s media interviewed the parents of the school’s children, their reasons for opposing the shared campus also included — ” the rural migrant children have poor character, their bags may contain steel pipes, and we are afraid of our children being bullied”; “the 800 new students are seniors, and they may well set a bad example for our junior children”…

 

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Placards opposing the moving of the Lixin students to the Qin Xi Primary School outside of the school. C. Jiazhang Bang

 

Poor children return home

There are a variety of points that need further attention. This year, the Lixin elementary school’s student population was only made up of third to sixth graders, indicating that the elementary school has not recruited any new students in the past two years. The media needs to look a little deeper into why this gap in recruitment has occurred.

Also, why is the transfer to another school campus happening now? The Suzhou People’s Government made a public statement claiming that the transfer is due to the fact that the previous campus did not meet the necessary safety standards, and that the property lease ended on June 30th, 2017. The details are vague. For example, how did a school campus that did not meet the proper safety standards get the qualifications to open a school to begin with? The Lixin elementary school has previously had three other locations. Previous online reports show that one of these locations had makeshift classrooms packed with tables and chairs, with students sitting all the way until the door of the classroom.

What this background reflects is the increasingly difficult issue of educating the children of Suzhou’s migrant population. According to a study by Northeast Normal University, in 2012 Suzhou public schools began requiring parents and guardians to have “a stable place of residence, stable work and a stable income”. In addition to these “three stabilities,” some schools even required migrants to provide a building property ownership certificate and their original hukou. These standards became even stricter in 2016. That year Suzhou began to follow the Pearl River Delta’s “point-based admission” policy. The point system is based on a variety of indicators, such as the academic credentials of the migrants, their period of service, their length of residence, and the number of years they have been insured. The children can then attend different levels of public schooling based on this ranking system.

In educational circles this policy has been interpreted as a policy of “picking out the best and excluding the worst”. The Northeast Normal University study concludes that “the point index, weights and marks favour high achievers, and neglect the majority of ordinary migrant workers. The integrated school admissions model is unfair and does not allow the children of migrants equal access to education”. They found that 85.28% of the migrant population in Suzhou finish their education in middle school, and never progress to high school. The researchers calculated that for an ordinary migrant labourer to have the same number of points as a migrant with a master’s degree, they would have to “pay into urban employee insurance for at least three years”, “live in the city for at least six consecutive years”, and “own at least 250 m² of property”.

In large cities where the “points-based school admissions” have been implemented, the children of migrant workers are facing hidden obstacles. The Northeast Normal University study found that the admission of these migrant workers’ children depends not only on their point ranking, but also on how many places public schools can give to them. For example, in Suzhou’s Gaoxin district the traditionally high-performing schools did not award any places to migrant children. In 2016 Gaoxin district opened 20 mid-ranking schools for migrant children, including seven middle schools and 13 elementary schools. In these mid-ranking schools only 1,183 places were given to the children of migrants. At the end of 2015, Gaoxin district had 33 middle and elementary schools, which altogether had 51,500 students and a graduating class of 8,600. In 2016, migrant workers composed 50.23% of Gaoxin district’s population. The disparity in supply and demand is clear. Additionally, the schools that accept migrant children are mostly located in smaller villages and towns.

If a migrant child fails to enter a public school through the point system they cannot try again, even if their score changes. Thus, if their original score does not allow them to enter a public school, their only options are to attend a school for migrant children or return to their hometowns to attend school. However, in recent years the first option has become increasingly limited. Suzhou has become like Beijing and Shanghai in that the number of schools for migrant children has been steadily decreasing due to urban development and other reasons.

The author conducted interviews at a vegetable market near an overpass in Guangdu. With the closure of two nearby schools for migrant children, and their inability to meet the standards of the “points-based admission”, the vegetable sellers were increasingly sending their children back to their hometowns to seek an education.

 

The awkward equality on paper

The attitudes of the Qin Xi Experimental School’s parents are not unique. In visits to other developed coastal areas, the author discovered that schools that faced an influx of migrant children were often seen to be inferior by local residents, so local students gradually stop going.

Regarding the concerns that the Qin Xi Experimental School’s parents shared that admitting migrant children would affect the quality of future school enrolments, what was left unsaid is that this may also affect the property prices of the school district homes that they had purchased.

A study by the scholar Zeng Xiaodong on the subject of selecting schools can shed light upon this topic. Zeng Xiaodong believes the reason for the frequent failures of the policy of admitting students who live locally is due to differences in motivation between the three key stakeholder groups – parents, schools and the government. Schools lean towards an elite educational model of prioritizing the attraction of the best and the brightest, parents want to give their children “competitive advantages”, while the educational departments have public interest as a key consideration. All parties maintain their perspectives, and incorporate their interests into the policies in question.

The Qin Xi Experimental School’s parents’ complaints about “migrant children taking up precious school resources without paying a cent” are fundamentally flawed. The crux of the problem lies in the contradictory allocation of public education resources in China. On the demand side, parents spend great resources to obtain the chance to enter an elite school, but on the supply side, public schools are built with public finances. More specifically, the county-level compulsory education supervisory departments make use of taxes from their districts to build these schools. Since they are a public resource, why can’t migrant children whose parents also pay taxes use these school buildings? Since they are a public resource, it is reasonable for the educational departments to use school buildings left idle to accommodate migrant children.

The scholar Zhang Qi once explained in an open article that because entry into elite schools is intricately linked with elite school-district homes, the result is that people who can afford to buy homes in elite school-districts enjoy higher quality educational resources, while those who can’t afford homes in elite school-districts must make do with ordinary educational resources. The resulting situation is that higher quality educational resources (elite schools) are on the one hand built by taxpayers’ money, but on the other hand are in reality only available to the wealthy. This is really a case of ‘robbing the poor and giving to the rich’.

 

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In the previously mentioned Lixin Primary School, lack of space in wooden-board classrooms has led to students sitting right next to classroom doors. © Suzhou New Oriental School

 

Similar disputes demonstrate the same rationale. Parents who spend huge sums of money to purchase school-district homes appeal to the effects of market forces with public service providers, but the cost of selecting a school is not the same as paying a huge tuition fee to the school. Public compulsory education does not charge tuition fees. In one view, this resource mismatch has effectively handed over investments in education to the landlord or real estate developer.

However, private schools for migrant children charge fees. The previously mentioned research by Northeast Normal University points out that because schools for migrant children need to charge entrance fees, and the state lacks compensation schemes for them, the already under-privileged migrant children are rendered helpless and isolated. In addition, the quality of facilities and teachers is also lower, thereby affecting the quality of their education.

The study points out that “these migrant children who have been shut out from public schools are not only footing the bill in order to receive the city’s compulsory education, but may also have to bear the risk of less-than-ideal educational prospects.”

Compared with Beijing and other places, Suzhou’s Department of Prices previously adjusted the tuition fees of schools for migrant children. The study reveals that the tuition fees for migrant children’s schools in the city’s high-tech zone are generally 1,900 yuan per semester, and each student can also receive a public subsidy of 650 yuan. However, migrant children’s schools are increasingly unable to afford their level of operations, as their venues and school rental fees, teachers’ salaries and utility costs continue to rise.

What is the real question to ask the departments of education? It is whether they have made due efforts to support the education of migrant children. Why was the Lixin Primary School not relocated after its lease expired? Is it related to a similar case reported in the media, where land was reclaimed to give way to urban development, or to control population growth? Can the Lixin Primary School continue to exist as an administrative body? After these children have been relocated, will Suzhou’s future children be taken care of? What of the shortfall in school places?

According to a report, as of the 1st of October 2015 the total number of migrants in China reached 247 million, meaning 1 out of 6 people are migrants. The children of these migrants, the migrant children and the left-behind children, have been called the “100 million children who have been helplessly swept along by social torrents”.

How do we ensure these helplessly swept-along children endure less animosity, segregation, and even expulsions?

苏州小学里的“隔离门”戳穿了什么?

陈少远 2018-08-28 10:52

全文4000余字,读完约需8分钟


城市家长、政府主体各站立场,“被裹挟”的随迁子女遭遇敌意和区隔。

新的“积分入学”政策被教育学界解读为是对外来人口的“纳优排劣”。“由于积分指标、权重与分数设定更青睐于高端人才,而忽视大多数普通农民工,积分入学模式对于保障农民工子女在城市享受平等受教育权极为不公平。”

一道铁皮门在苏州的一所小学内树起,两群小学生被区隔而处。

一端是苏州百年名校勤惜实验小学的400名低年级学生,他们多是苏州本地孩子。一端是被安置来的打工子弟学校立新小学的800名学生,他们是跟随父母来苏打工的全国各地的随迁子女。

勤惜实验小学是苏州家长眼中的重点小学。据澎湃新闻报道,今年9月后两所学校要共用校区,引发勤惜实验小学家长不满。他们认为接纳随迁子女,“打破了该重点小学之前严格‘按学区招生’的传统,让非学区的学生抢占了公立学校的资源”,“这对我们(买学区房的家长)来说不公平”。

立新小学则是一所有办学资质的打工子弟学校。这样的学校在江浙一带有个名字,叫“菜场小学”。该校一位家长在接受《扬子晚报》采访时称,对于外来务工人员,上民办的小学比公办小学费贵不少,新校舍的条件,让他们担忧“学费是否会涨”。

这个校区所在的姑苏区教委表示,共用校区是因立新小学原校舍租约到期,而勤惜实验小学是唯一符合安置条件的学校。设立铁门是为了便于管理,将给予安置的800名学生单独的教学和活动空间。

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▲ 学生家长提供的照片显示,勤惜小学为了便于管理,增加隔离门等措施加以“隔离”。 © 澎湃

据媒体目前披露,勤惜实验小学为2015年易地而建,校园内现有闲置校舍,因此被借用。目前并无更多消息显示共用校区会对“重点小学”未来的招生政策有何影响,且接纳打工子弟,也符合政策所宣扬的教育公平,家长群体为何不满?

这道铁门,实则暴露了外来人口汇集的大城市和发达地区教育资源事实上的等级分层和随迁子女难融城市的尴尬。与纸面所宣扬的相悖,以往像勤惜实验小学这样的苏州传统优势学校,随迁子女事实上并无入学资格。

苏州是人口流入大市。2015年,该市的流动人口总量已超过户籍人口。一项来自东北师范大学的研究显示,因为苏州经济发展优势吸引大批外来务工人员以及数量庞大的随迁子女,该市义务教育系统面临前所未有的挑战,2016年,该市开始仿效珠三角地区,实行公办小学“积分入学”,但这一政策实质上造成了对外来人口的“纳优排劣”。因为达不到“积分入学”要求,加之打工子弟学校陆续关停,近年不少苏州的随迁子女只能返乡求学。

而名校家长们在并不充分的事实基础上的反弹情绪,更暴露出了一点——在他们眼里,义务教育有优劣之分,以学区房显价,他们想捍卫家长以每平米单价3万元的学区房换来的入学机会背后的东西。

背后的是什么?

▌富孩子择校

这背后其实是公办重点小学集聚的优势。它包括更优的师资、更好的管理和更顺畅的升学机会。

这种优势的累积,既有老牌名校的历史传统,也得因于建国后的重点学校建设制度。有研究指出,自上世纪五六十年代开始,中国开始提倡重点建设一批中小学,政府部门对其倾斜投入。此种机制,加之改革开放实施的分步走经济发展战略,使地区间、城乡间、区域内校际间的教育质量差距逐渐拉开。

而在改革开放后,优势阶层趋向重点学校的择校行为即已开始。从上世纪90年代开始,中国即开始对“择校”的教育治理。研究者发现,从1995年到2010年的16年中,共有16个择校禁令发布,却难抑择校之风。21世纪教育研究院的一份研究报告显示,2010年,北京市的8个城区“小升初”入学方式竟高达15种,包括条子生、共建生、赞助费等。该报告指出,优势社会阶层会利用特权、寻租等超常规的方式享受“优质教育机会”。

到了2013年,十八届三中全会提出,为促进教育资源均衡,实行“免试就近入学、学区制和九年一贯对口招生”。教育部次年出台响应文件,并提出了“到2015年19个大城市所有县(市、区)100%的小学划片就近入学”的目标。

这就是上述家长所谓的重点小学严格“按学区招生”。如果从家长群体的择校行为看,这实则是因治理择校的政策趋严,条子生、赞助费等渠道陆续堵死,而使购买学区房成了仅剩的择校渠道。2015年后,中国各地重点学校周围房价高升。

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▲ 位于北京五道口的学区房。2013年,此地“天价学区房” 尚不足10万/平米。而据链家网成交数据显示,2016年华清嘉园一处约50平的房产成交价近14万/平米,总价达700万。 ©  视觉中国

相比其他择校方式,学区房以更直白且更高价的方式显示了这种重点学校的优质学位是有市场价格的。事实上,类似的所谓“学区房”“维权”事件已不鲜见。笔者在近年的采访中发现,每年一到春季入学政策发布及秋季入学时分,因划片改变或校区安置等问题引发的矛盾不断,各方各执一词,暴露了中国教育公共服务市场和房地产市场结合而生的种种怪现状。

勤惜实验小学的一位家长在接受《扬子晚报》采访时称,花大价钱买学区房,有居住、为孩子上学及房产升值潜力等想法。他们担心,这样共用校区会影响到今后的新生招生,“有一种学区房白买了的感觉”。

这与义务教育政策所倡导的均衡、公平相悖。但尽管教育部门作出多校划片、轮换名校教师等均衡化尝试,家长群体似乎并不买账。他们的择校冲动始终难抑,重点小学的优势累积也似马太效应,越来越大。

择校行为的实质是什么?一位江浙地区的家长向笔者道了心曲:选学校,其实是选孩子的同学。不少学者也持类似观点,不论是周围学区房价格高升的北京重点小学,还是家长挤破了头想进的上海民办小学,这些实质上的“重点小学”具备选拔效应,它们选出了对教育投入更大的家长,生源也具备集聚效应,因为这样的家庭,课外的教育投入也不会少。

有学者认为,诸因之下,重点小学的好生源将越来越多来自优势阶层的家庭,而教育质量的空间溢出价格加剧了社会分层。

结合以上梳理,再来看媒体报道中勤惜实验小学的家长们的说辞。其动机清晰了些。这所重点小学的入学机会是他们花费了大成本得来,也借此筛选了孩子的同学,由行政部门强塞800名随迁子女,他们势必情绪反弹。

笔者得知,有苏州媒体在采访该校家长时,他们反对共用校区的理由还包括——“农民工小孩素质差,包里藏着钢管,怕小孩被欺负”;“800个新来的学生是高年级,会带坏自己的低年级孩子”……

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▲ 勤惜小学外,反对“立新进勤惜”的标语。 © 家长帮

▌穷孩子返乡

值得注意的是,被安置的立新小学今年只有三年级到六年级的学生,说明这所小学已连续两年未招新生。其间原因还待媒体进一步披露。

而为何要腾挪校区?姑苏区人民政府公开答复称,是因其校舍不符合安全标准,出租方在2017年6月30日合同到期不再租赁。此处细节亦模糊,为什么不符合安全标准的校舍获得了办学资质?立新小学此前曾三易校址。网络报道显示,被安置前的校址内一些教室为板房结构,桌椅拥挤,有学生都坐到了教室口。

其背后折射了随迁子女在苏州越发困难的上学问题。上述东北师范大学的研究指出,2012年开始,苏州要求随迁子女要进入公办学校,父母和监护人需具备“稳定居住、稳定工作和稳定收入”的条件,一些学校除了要求具有“三稳定”条件之外,还对外来人口提出具有房产证、户口本等更高的要求。这一门槛在2016年后越发趋严。这一年,苏州开始效仿珠三角地区实行“积分入学”。根据相关政策,以流动人口的学历、服务年限、居住时间、参保年数为参照,按积分由高到低的顺序安排适龄儿童进入义务教育阶段公办学校就读。

这一政策被教育学界解读为是对外来人口的“纳优排劣”。“由于积分指标、权重与分数设定更青睐于高端人才,而忽视大多数普通农民工,积分入学模式对于保障农民工子女在城市享受平等受教育权极为不公平。上述研究指出。该研究统计,苏州市流动人口学历中占比最大的是初中及高中水平,占至85.28%。据估算,如果普通的农民工想要和硕士学历的流动人口具有相同的起点分数,则需要“在苏州参加并缴纳城镇职工保险至少超过3年”,或者“在该市市区连续居住至少超过6年”,或者“拥有自有产权房建筑面积超过250平方米”。

事实上,在实行“积分入学”的大城市,随迁子女多面临隐形的门槛。上述研究也发现,随迁子女能否就读公办学校,除了依据累计积分排名外,还视公办学校提供多少学位来定。以苏州的高新区为例,在当地颇具口碑的传统优质学校,均没有可供随迁子女入学的学位。数据显示,2016年该区对随迁子女开放的中小学学校共20所,其中普通中学7所,小学13所,可供随迁子女的全部学位数仅1183个。而2015年末的数据显示,该区拥有普通中小学33所,在校学生学生51500人,毕业生达8600人。高新区2016年的流动人口占至总人口的50.23%,供需矛盾凸显,而该区接收随迁子女的学校最多的是分布在乡镇。

如果一个随迁子女未能经积分排名进入申请的公办学校,按积分高低统筹调剂也不能进入公办学校,他就只能就读打工子弟学校或者回原户籍地就读。但近年苏州和北京、上海一样,随着城市开发建设等原因,打工子弟学校也日益缩减。

笔者曾在苏州官渡里立交桥附近的一个菜市场走访,随着周边的两所打工子弟学校关停,达不到“积分入学”门槛要求的菜场子弟,返乡求学的越来越多。

▌尴尬的纸面公平

勤惜实验小学家长的态度并不独一份。笔者在沿海发达地区走访发现,随迁子女涌入的学校,常被当地居民目为低了一等,本地生源开始逐渐流失。

此即上述勤惜实验小学家长所说的,担忧影响接纳随迁子女而影响该校未来招生的实质,没被进一步道破的,是由此可能影响他们购买的学区房的价格。

这可以从学者曾晓东关于“择校”的一项研究中找到解释。曾晓东认为,教育政策所提倡的“就近入学”之所以屡屡受挫,是因为家长、学校和政府三个利益主体立场的差异化,学校主体更倾向于“得天下英才而育之”的“精英教育”,家长更看重子女的“竞争性品质”,而教育主管部门则更多体现政府对公共利益的考虑。各方均抱持各自的立场,将利益纳入相关政策。

勤惜实验小学家长所诉的“凭什么他们一分钱不花就占用学校资源”的理由实则并不成立。其症结在于,中国公共教育资源错配的板结矛盾。从需求端看,家长群体为获得重点学校入学机会花费了大量择校成本,但在供给端,公办学校是用公共财政投入而建,具体而言,义务教育县级主管,是收缴了所在区的税收所建。既然是公共资源,校舍为何不能给父母同样纳了税的随迁子女所用?既然是公共资源,教育部门利用闲置校舍安置随迁子女,合情合理。

学者张琦曾在公开撰文中解释,由于学区房和上重点学校相挂钩,其结果是买得起学区房的人,享受优质教育资源;而买不起学区房的人,享受普通教育资源。其造成的局面是,优质教育资源(重点学校)一方面花着所有纳税人的钱,另一方面又在事实上只供富人享用这些教育资源,这实为“劫贫济富”。

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▲ 早前的立新小学,板房教室空间不够,学生坐到教室门口。 © 新东方苏州学校

类似的争端呈现同样的道理。花巨资购学区房的家长群体,将类似市场主体的利益诉求投向公共服务供给者,但其花费的择校成本并不等同于向学校缴纳了巨额学费。公办义务教育并不收学费。一种观点认为,这种资源错配是将教育投入交给了房东或者房地产开发商。

但民办的打工子弟学校收费。上述东北师大的研究指出,由于打工子弟学校需要收取入学费用,而政府对这部分孩子缺乏补偿措施,而使这些原本处于弱势地位的随迁子女处于孤立无援之境。加之打工子弟学校的硬件设施与师资配置相对落后,其教育教学质量不容乐观。

“这些被排斥在公办校门外的随迁子女,在用金钱为其接受城市义务教育‘埋单’的同时,还可能需要承担教育前途并不光明的风险。”上述研究指出。

相比北京等地,苏州的物价部门此前对打工子弟学校的学费有所调控。上述研究披露,高新区的打工子弟学校的学费一般每学期1900元,每个学生还能获得650元的公用经费补贴。但打工子弟学校却日渐难以负担其运转水平,因为它们的场地和校舍租赁费用、教师工资、水电费用等支出不断上升。

要追问教育部门的真问题什么?是其是否为随迁子女的学位支持做了应有的努力。立新小学租约到期为何不搬迁?是否和此前媒体报道的类似案例相似,用地被收回是让位于城市开发建设,或者控制人口?立新小学的办学主体还能存续吗?安置好了这些孩子,未来的孩子苏州还管吗?学位缺口怎么办?

一份报告显示,截至2015年10月1日,中国流动人口总量已达2.47亿,6个人中就有1个在流动,而流动人口的子女,被称为随迁子女和留守儿童的两个群体被称为“被社会洪流裹挟的1亿个孩子”。

如何让这些被裹挟的孩子少受一些敌意、区隔,甚至驱赶?

Translated by Serena Chang, Kirstin Clouser, Alice Mingay, Vanessa Zhang

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