Determinant factors behind the high academic achievement of Chinese rural-to-urban migrant children in a sub-urban state junior high school in Ningbo

  • Lei CAO

Student thesis: EdD Thesis


With growing urbanisation, industrialisation and globalisation, the educational issue of migrant children has attracted great attention around the world. Most recent studies related to migrant children have shown that they have low academic achievement due to their low family socio-economic status (SES), deficient parental academic support, unfair treatment at school and language barrier. However, no known empirical research has focused on researching those high-achieving rural-to-urban migrant students from low SES families in China.
This study seeks to examine the determinant factors behind the high academic achievement of the rural-to-urban migrant students on the basis of Bourdieu’s (1977; 1986) theory on forms of capital and habitus and Walberg’s (1984) model on educational productivity. Reliant on a qualitative approach, data are collected from the migrant students (main research participants), their teachers and their parents using face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Further data are collected from the migrant students and their teachers using classroom observation and the learning/teaching materials. Thematic analysis is used to interpret how these Chinese migrant students are able to achieve highly in learning.
The findings show that the migrant students’ individual habitus and practices function as the main determinant factors for their academic success. Results also show that their school teachers play important roles linked to teacher beliefs that the migrant students can achieve highly, teacher learning delivery and out of class support. The migrant parents’ contributions are traced to the implicit cultural and explicit social and economic support centred on close bonding with their children.
These results suggest that a combination of core “trinity” factors (learner, school and home) shape the academic achievement of the migrant children. Critical to the school and home influential sectors are close contact and empathy with the child in supporting him/her towards educational success. For the optimal educational success of more rural-to-urban migrant children, it would be fruitful if parents and professional educators, who work with these migrant children, can be mentored by city governments in strategies for early support and bonding with the children.
Date of AwardJul 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
SupervisorGodwin Ioratim-Uba (Supervisor)


  • rural-to-urban migrant children
  • academic achievement
  • junior high school
  • economic capital
  • social capital
  • cultural capital
  • teachers,
  • parents,

Cite this