Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara Thayer-Bacon

Committee Members

Bob Rider, Clara Brown, Yang Zhong


This dissertation is designed to learn lessons from China’s experiences of seeking to solve the migrant children’s education issue, specifically, the city public school enrollment issue. In China, access to public schools is the main channel for migrant children to be well educated. With the hope to inspire education policy makers and researchers on solving this issue, it is important to find out how the central and local governments work out proper policies to ensure equal compulsory education for migrant children. Qualitative research methods including content analysis and historical analysis are deployed in this dissertation to review related policy documents for education, compulsory education, and migrant children school enrollment in China since 1981. Foucault’s theory of power helps to understand the complexity of the migrant children education issue in China.

This dissertation first discerns the causes of the issue, Hukou, the permanent residential registration system and tax-sharing system in China. Through reviewing the policy toward migrant children education, the study reveals the guiding role of the central government and the efforts and the challenges from local governments in solving the issue. Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Changzhou provide four models to learn about experiences tackling the migrant children public school enrollment issue at the local level.

As a reference for education researchers and policy makers, a recommended model is developed that argues the central government and local government should be the policy makers to develop the education standards of school, curriculum and teachers to ensure quality education for migrant children. Additionally, the local governments should be responsible for mobilizing all social sectors to get involved in solving the issue in migrant children’s education issue, including private sectors and non-governmental organization.

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