In China, over millions left-behind children who remain in their hometown while their parents have migrated from rural to cities for work. Due to household registration system (hukou), children of rural area are not entitled the basic welfare and public services in urban cities, including enrolment in public funded preschools. Research has found that simulating home learning environment and access to high quality preschool are more likely to enhance developmental advantages. A recent study by Gong and Rao investigated impact of internal migration on early learning opportunities of preschool children and they classified children into five categories:
- Rural children from non-migrant family with both parents (non left-behind rural children)
- Rural children left-behind with one parent
- Rural children left-behind without parent and looked after by relatives
- Rural children who had migrated along with parents to urban areas (migrant children)
- Urban native children (urban children)
The authors performed selective pairwise comparison among different groups of children with respect to early learning opportunities which was defined as home learning environment and status of preschool enrolment in the study. Home learning environment (HLE) was assessed by mean scores of four frequencies of caregiver provided cognitive stimulating activities to the child: (a) helping the children learn Chinese characters; (b) reading to the child; (c) taking the child out to play; and (d) buying books for the child. Preschool enrolment was categorized to no preschool enrolment, enrolled in private school, and enrolled in public school. Data of 4,306 children aged 3 to 5 years was collected from four waves (2012 to 2018) China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) as cross-sectional sample. Since sample size was imbalance across five categories of children, inverse propensity score weights were incorporated in various regression models as sampling weight, the results were shown below.
- There was no significant difference in terms of home learning environment and preschool enrolment among non-migrant rural children of all three kinds of status (Category 1-3).
- Migrant children had better HLE than rural children with both parents.
- Urban children had better HLE than migrant children.
- Compared to not being enrolled in preschool, migrant children were more likely to enroll in preschool (both private and public) than rural children with both parents.
- Compared to not being enrolled in preschool, migrant children were less likely to enrolled in public preschool than urban children, but no difference in enrolment in private preschool.
In general, migrating along with parents to urban areas provide children better learning opportunities. However, the gap in early learning opportunities between migrant and urban children remained.
Source: Gong, J., & Rao, N. (2023). Early learning opportunities of preschool children affected by migration in China. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 63, 228–239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2022.12.010