An Ethnography of Schooling among Rural Migrants in Shanghai

Special Report: The Social Differentiation of Children
Childhood, an Unsolvable Social Dimension
By Camille Salgues

Schooling of rural migrant children in China has been the subject of much attention, in the context of a large-scale, rural-urban migration and of severe limitation in the access to public urban schools for newcomers. Drawing from an ethnographical study of children in a poor district on the outskirts of Shanghai, the article first presents a private school for migrants created in this institutional void, then goes on to describe how schooling is perceived by families through three case studies. Schooling is a social fact, in a genuine Durkheimian sense, the consequences of which are felt in every aspect of children’s lives. Such a description, in turn, is part of a larger attempt to show childhood and its institutions as a full-fledged dimension in the social differentiation of the individuals.

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