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The educational aspirations of 'left-behind children’ in rural China: a case study

Hong, Y. (2017) The educational aspirations of 'left-behind children’ in rural China: a case study. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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China has been experiencing rapid economic growth over the past few decades. Accompanied by the nation’s modernization and urbanization, an overwhelmingly large number of rural habitants out-migrate to urban areas for work and better earnings. However, due to China’s local household registration system(Hukou), children of migrants are not entitled to free schooling provisions in these urban destinations. As a consequence, millions of school-agedrural children have to be ‘left behind’ by their migrating parent(s) in their homeplace. They are called – the ‘left-behind children’. This study investigates the future educational aspirations of Chinese ‘left-behind children’ and explores the educational impact of ‘left-behind-ness’. It adoptsthe qualitative case study approach and uses ethnography as the primary research technique to capture factors that impact on aspirations, and to understand and explain why educational aspirations are different among these young people who share many similar social characteristics. Fieldwork was conducted in a nine-year comprehensive school in a rural region in southwest China, with data mainly being obtained from 17 ‘left-behind children’. Findings indicate that whilst undeniably educational aspirations are embedded in left-behind children’s distinctly disadvantaged social background, aspirations are determined by these young people’s own evaluation of whether attending university is ‘rational’, and are shaped by their individual family and school experience, relationship with adults and peers, perceived sense of self, as well as their personal and varied understandings of the social world they are living in. By focusing on the individuals and their experiences, this study suggests that being ‘left behind’ is experienced individually and it is these individual experiences that have influenced attitudes and aspirations differently among Chinese ‘left-behind children’. This study not only extends understanding of Chinese leftbehind children’s educational experiences, but also provides new knowledge regarding Chinese left-behind children’s educational aspirations with a contribution to the integration of theoryas well as the broadening of theoretical applications by transferring Western theories to an Eastern context.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Fuller, C. and Foley, C.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:78487


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