This chapter is a narrative account of a Ford Foundation sponsored project from mid-2005 through 2008 for investigating into the causes and engineering a solution to the migrant workers education access problems in manufacturing areas in Shanghai, China. The project team was comprised of faculty members and students from East China Normal University, consulted by two professors from Columbia University. This chapter describes how the team arrived at a solution to the problem by investigating the problems, socializing with the migrant workers, and doing experiments that helped us to make adjustments on the proposed solution from time to time. Unlike the popular understanding of the educational needs of the migrant workers that the workers just need some short-term training for a job, our finding is that the workers need degree and certificate programs too. They need further education for personal and career development, not just a job that can feed them. The workers are Internet fans too, most of those who want further education would prefer a blended learning. We ran quite a few courses and a learning center to observe the learning behavior of the workers, which allowed us to actually interact with the workers and see how they respond to our experimental stimuli. While most of the migrant workers show an interest in learning, we did not observe much active learning involvement of the migrant workers. We identified seven factors that limit access to learning engagement: (1) inadequate transportation means; (2) very long work days and weeks and irregular shifts; (3) difficult living conditions; (4) restricted computer and Internet access; (5) inaccessibility of information; (6) unsupportive social environment; (7) lack of educational infrastructure. As a solution to the identified problem, we propose a learning center based community college network in all the manufacturing areas. A learning center serves as a social learning incubator to nurture the learning practices of the academically less prepared learner, the migrant workers.
Li, M. and Levin, H. (2012), "Education Access Problems of Migrant Workers in Manufacturing Areas in China", Wiseman, A., Chase-Mayoral, A., Janis, T. and Sachdev, A. (Ed.) Community Colleges Worldwide: Investigating the Global Phenomenon (International Perspectives on Education and Society, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 269-297. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-3679(2012)0000017014Download as .RIS
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