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GROUP 2. Chinese rural migrant children’s experiences in urban public schools from a cultural capital framework

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Abstract:

In contemporary China, the provision of high-quality education to rural migrant children has emerged as an urgent policy issue (Kwong 2004). The Chinese government’s recent “two channels” policy promotes educational equity by stipulating migrant children receive compulsory schooling primarily through urban public institutions (Zhang 2010). Such a policy signals integrated public schools--urban institutions with rural migrant and urban children enrollment-- as a new institutional phenomenon in China’s rapidly urbanizing society. How are public schools addressing student diversity? Applying a cultural capital framework, my study examines how class and rural migrant status shape rural migrant students’ experiences of social exclusion or inclusion in school. As one of the first ethnographies on rural migrant children’s experiences in Chinese public schools, my research investigates how public schools maintain, exacerbate or transform broader societal inequalities between rural migrants and urban youth.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS
My questions emerge from 2010 summer pre-dissertation fieldwork, funded by Stanford University, during which I observed schools and interviewed migrant students and parents, teachers, principals:
1) How do Chinese public schools conceptualize and institutionalize differences between rural migrant and urban students from a cultural capital framework?
2) How does a school’s ethnic (rural migrant) and class cultural capital shape rural migrant children’s school experience of social exclusion/ inclusion?

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS
The concept of social exclusion/inclusion that forms the core of my proposal combines cultural capital (Bourdieu & Passeron 1977) and ethnicity theories (Barth 1969, Nagel 1994). Social exclusion/inclusion refers to social experiences that signal students’ inability or success, respectively, to access school resources, cultivate social capital with school staff, and strengthen status within school’s social structure (Lareau & Horvat 1999). Such a concept recognizes schools as cultural institutions embedded within broader societal relations. Within the cultural capital framework, schools institutionalize cultural signals –including attitudes, preferences, formal knowledge, behaviors, goals and credentials, which structure students’ experiences of social and/or cultural exclusion (Lamont & Lareau 1988). Such signals are integrally linked to race, class and ethnicity in a school’s socio-cultural context, since schools institutionalize a cultural definition of “success” that validates or erases marginalized students’ histories, social and economic realities (Valenzuela 1999).

LITERATURE AND THESIS
My study contributes to Chinese ethnicity, modernization and Western-based cultural capital literatures. First, Chinese ethnicity studies examine the significance of native place origins-- an individual’s ancestral home that is conceptually distinct from birthplace-- to organize social experiences in the migration context (Honig 1994, Rowe 1984). My research advances this literature by 1) extending Chinese ethnicity framework to rural migrant children in the schooling context, 2) theoretically examining rural migrant status within a framework that incorporates native place ethnicity and rural origins. Examining “rural” origins builds on modernization theory, which links “rural” status with “backwardness” in a modernizing nation (Murphy 2004). Second, my project evaluates the universality of cultural capital—a Western-based concept-- to marginalized youth’s schooling experiences within China. By applying a theoretical framework that differentiates ethnic from class-based cultural capital, my research informs cultural capital’s analytic usefulness in explaining schooling outcomes.

Lastly, my study addresses a noticeable gap in the Chinese migrant education literature on public school experiences of rural migrant children. The majority of Chinese migrant education research examines predictors of migrant school enrollment and achievement, as well as descriptive accounts of schools that rural migrant children attend. The few studies that examine public school experiences describe migrant children’s negative experiences of teacher discrimination and peer social exclusion.

METHODS
As an English volunteer, I plan to gain rare access to two primary public schools in Shanghai during 2012-13 academic year. These two primary schools will be selected as case studies. To disentangle how rural migrant status and class shape schooling experiences, both schools will have similar rural migrant/urban student composition and students will represent a range of socio-economic backgrounds (i.e. urban youth originate from low- and medium-income families; rural migrant students will originate from low- and medium-income families). My primary mode of data collection is participant observation, augmented by extensive field notes that will direct attention to important cultural dimensions of schooling. Informal interviews with students, parents, teachers, and administrators will enrich insights on school cultures and its relationship to class, migrant status and cultural capital processes.

Under the supervision of Professor Jennifer Adams, I will be in the dissertation proposal stage during the 2012 CIES conference. Hopeful for the opportunity to participate in the New Scholars Workshop, I look forward to constructively engaging with other graduate students and experienced scholars as I prepare to conduct dissertation fieldwork in China.
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Association:
Name: 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society
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http://www.cies.us


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MLA Citation:

Yiu, Lisa. "GROUP 2. Chinese rural migrant children’s experiences in urban public schools from a cultural capital framework" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, May 01, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p493580_index.html>

APA Citation:

Yiu, L. , 2011-05-01 "GROUP 2. Chinese rural migrant children’s experiences in urban public schools from a cultural capital framework" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 55th Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth, Montreal, Quebec, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p493580_index.html

Publication Type: CIES New Scholar Fellow Proposal
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In contemporary China, the provision of high-quality education to rural migrant children has emerged as an urgent policy issue (Kwong 2004). The Chinese government’s recent “two channels” policy promotes educational equity by stipulating migrant children receive compulsory schooling primarily through urban public institutions (Zhang 2010). Such a policy signals integrated public schools--urban institutions with rural migrant and urban children enrollment-- as a new institutional phenomenon in China’s rapidly urbanizing society. How are public schools addressing student diversity? Applying a cultural capital framework, my study examines how class and rural migrant status shape rural migrant students’ experiences of social exclusion or inclusion in school. As one of the first ethnographies on rural migrant children’s experiences in Chinese public schools, my research investigates how public schools maintain, exacerbate or transform broader societal inequalities between rural migrants and urban youth.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS
My questions emerge from 2010 summer pre-dissertation fieldwork, funded by Stanford University, during which I observed schools and interviewed migrant students and parents, teachers, principals:
1) How do Chinese public schools conceptualize and institutionalize differences between rural migrant and urban students from a cultural capital framework?
2) How does a school’s ethnic (rural migrant) and class cultural capital shape rural migrant children’s school experience of social exclusion/ inclusion?

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS
The concept of social exclusion/inclusion that forms the core of my proposal combines cultural capital (Bourdieu & Passeron 1977) and ethnicity theories (Barth 1969, Nagel 1994). Social exclusion/inclusion refers to social experiences that signal students’ inability or success, respectively, to access school resources, cultivate social capital with school staff, and strengthen status within school’s social structure (Lareau & Horvat 1999). Such a concept recognizes schools as cultural institutions embedded within broader societal relations. Within the cultural capital framework, schools institutionalize cultural signals –including attitudes, preferences, formal knowledge, behaviors, goals and credentials, which structure students’ experiences of social and/or cultural exclusion (Lamont & Lareau 1988). Such signals are integrally linked to race, class and ethnicity in a school’s socio-cultural context, since schools institutionalize a cultural definition of “success” that validates or erases marginalized students’ histories, social and economic realities (Valenzuela 1999).

LITERATURE AND THESIS
My study contributes to Chinese ethnicity, modernization and Western-based cultural capital literatures. First, Chinese ethnicity studies examine the significance of native place origins-- an individual’s ancestral home that is conceptually distinct from birthplace-- to organize social experiences in the migration context (Honig 1994, Rowe 1984). My research advances this literature by 1) extending Chinese ethnicity framework to rural migrant children in the schooling context, 2) theoretically examining rural migrant status within a framework that incorporates native place ethnicity and rural origins. Examining “rural” origins builds on modernization theory, which links “rural” status with “backwardness” in a modernizing nation (Murphy 2004). Second, my project evaluates the universality of cultural capital—a Western-based concept-- to marginalized youth’s schooling experiences within China. By applying a theoretical framework that differentiates ethnic from class-based cultural capital, my research informs cultural capital’s analytic usefulness in explaining schooling outcomes.

Lastly, my study addresses a noticeable gap in the Chinese migrant education literature on public school experiences of rural migrant children. The majority of Chinese migrant education research examines predictors of migrant school enrollment and achievement, as well as descriptive accounts of schools that rural migrant children attend. The few studies that examine public school experiences describe migrant children’s negative experiences of teacher discrimination and peer social exclusion.

METHODS
As an English volunteer, I plan to gain rare access to two primary public schools in Shanghai during 2012-13 academic year. These two primary schools will be selected as case studies. To disentangle how rural migrant status and class shape schooling experiences, both schools will have similar rural migrant/urban student composition and students will represent a range of socio-economic backgrounds (i.e. urban youth originate from low- and medium-income families; rural migrant students will originate from low- and medium-income families). My primary mode of data collection is participant observation, augmented by extensive field notes that will direct attention to important cultural dimensions of schooling. Informal interviews with students, parents, teachers, and administrators will enrich insights on school cultures and its relationship to class, migrant status and cultural capital processes.

Under the supervision of Professor Jennifer Adams, I will be in the dissertation proposal stage during the 2012 CIES conference. Hopeful for the opportunity to participate in the New Scholars Workshop, I look forward to constructively engaging with other graduate students and experienced scholars as I prepare to conduct dissertation fieldwork in China.


Similar Titles:
School Enrollment of Stay Children, Migrant Children and Other Children with A Rural Registration: An Analysis of China’s 2000 Census

Adaptation and Integration: The Schooling Experiences of Chinese Rural Migrant Children in Urban Public Schools


 
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