Ethnography Research on the Education of Rural Migrant Children in Mainland China


Since spring 2014, with support from and sponsorship by Phillips Academy’s Community & Multicultural Development Office, I conducted independent research on the education of migrant children in mainland China. I strove to present a comprehensive picture of the stagnant reality faced by rural migrants, and examined different approaches — providing economic opportunities versus making systematic changes — to establish equal social and economic status for migrants in urban spaces. I was also interested in showing the human story – the migrants’ family values, religion, and sense of community.

This research project is an exploration of a problematic aspect of my hometown, as well as an attempt in telling a complicated story to an American audience. My experience as a Chinese international student studying in the US has refreshed my perspective on the political and social issues of my own country. When I was growing up in China, I was oblivious to the socioeconomic disparity around me. After coming to the US, however, I was extremely motivated by the public political discourse people actively engage in and by the powerful concepts of social obligation.


In the process of research, I drew information from research papers, scholarship journals, and news journals in English and Chinese databases.

Another big portion of the process was field work. I interviewed people of the following categories:

  • NGO personnel
  • American journalists
  • migrant parents
  • migrant children
  • scholars

It was an extremely enriching and humbling experience for me to get to know these people and learn from them. I was also fortunate to film an interview with a migrant parent, which I showed in a presentation to my high school community.

Here is the interview clip:


I published a research paper: An Education that Diminishes Hope — An Examination of Migrant Schools in Mainland China.

I also gave a presentation to the Phillips Academy community and showed interview footage with Chinese migrant workers and their children.