Asians in the Educational System


Asians carry a heavy weight on their shoulders when it comes to the educational system due to stigma, stereotypes and culture. The common Asian stereotype is very dedicated to their schoolwork and getting good grades. This stereotype was created because many Asian students (especially first and second generations) are given high expectations that they must meet or else their family will be angry and in Asian culture, the elders are put on a pedestal which means that their word is law and that their decisions are in the best interest of everybody. In addition, many Asian students also feel a societal pressure to do well in academics because that’s what the common American expects.

An Asian student who does not focus on academics and have a social life are often compared heavily to White people to the extent that they call them ‘basically White’. In youth context, if you are outgoing, people will like you more and because Asians do not have this common stereotype of someone who goes out, they are often overlooked. These societal, family and self-pressure has led to many cases of depression and a number of suicides.

Although Asians are the most likely race to do well in academia, they are doing this with a hand tied behind their back. Institutional discrimination has spread its roots onto the educational system. SAT Prep Books from The Princeton Review are expensive on its own but their pricing system is based on ZIP codes which means that some areas pay more than others. The most expensive area is in Flushing, Queens where the Asian population is around 70% however, the median household income is a mere $41,884. An income that is not anywhere near sufficient to be able to casually afford the books. In the mind of an Asian parent, education is an investment and if you work hard, it will pay back in dividends. Sometimes however, institutional discrimination does not allow Asians to prosper on the pace they can be at.

On a more cultural standpoint, the American educational system do not cater to the interests of Asian’s. In primary and secondary education, classes do not teach anything about Asian history like how they got to America and the hardships they had to go through and the discrimination they faced.

In the following pieces of articles, you will find that Asian students have to break barriers to succeed within the educational system thus demystifying the myth that academia comes natural to them. You will too find how the educational system is created in a way to suppress Asian progress and therefore hinder their full potential.


Why Asian Americans Are the Most Educated Group in America

look in the back for allie jamie drew
Look in the back for Allie Jamie drew

Asian-Americans are the highest-earning and fastest-growing racial group in the United States.

They’re also the best educated, as new numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau demonstrate. More than half of Asians in the United States, 54 percent, have at least a bachelor’s degree. That’s up from 38 percent in 1995. It’s an impressive number, especially when compared to the 33 percent college-graduation rate for the total U.S. population.

The Census Bureau also found that higher-education rates for native-born Asian-Americans are the same as their foreign-born counterparts.

Experts say this impressive rate of educational achievement has a lot to do with a U.S. immigration policy that favors the applications of highly-educated immigrants from Asian countries.

“Since 1965, some Asian-American immigrants have come to the U.S. under certain immigration preference categories that favor professional skills and training,” Eliza Noh, an associate professor at California State University, Fullerton, said in an email. “Those groups tend to already have educational training and economic resources, which they invest in their children’s education. Their access to social and economic capital is what fuels academic achievement.”

Asian-Americans — immigrants and their descendants who come from the Far East, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent – account for about 6 percent of the U.S. population. Six groups make up the majority of this population, including people of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese origin.

These highly-educated immigrants build so-called “ethnic capital“, which results in programs such as tutoring and college-prep courses that build their children’s academic achievement.

“Besides being able to spend more money on their children’s curricular and extra-curricular activities, such as tutoring and academic clubs,” Noh said, “middle-class parents can pass on their knowledge of how to be successful in academia, such as study skills, professional networking, and navigating educational institutions.”

And if Asian-Americans push their children to excel, there are practical reasons behind it, according to Noh.

“If Asian-American parents emphasize education, it has more to do with their perception that education can help them overcome existing barriers in the labor market,” she said. “They know they cannot rely on just their hard work and experience and ‘who they know’ in order to move up the ladder.”

These kinds of statistics have resulted in Asian-Americans being dubbed the “model minority”. Lumping all Asian-Americans into one group contributes to the stereotype that all Asian-Americans are highly educated.

A 2010 report focusing on Asians in California — a state with the highest U.S. Asian population outside of Hawaii —  found that expectation to be false. In California, for example, 45 percent of Hmong, 40 percent of Cambodians and Laotians, and one-fifth of Fijians had less than a high school education. The report also found that 20 percent of Pacific Islanders in the state eventually drop out of high school.

The model minority myth — the stereotypical expectation that Asian-American students will excel at school and on the job — is taking its toll.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death — behind unintentional injuries such as car accidents — among Asian-American women between the ages of 15 and 24. The highest female suicide rates, across all ethnic groups, occur among Asian-American women between the ages of 15 and 25 and those over 65. So-called “model minority” expectations and family pressure are often cited as factors contributing to the suicides.

Written by: Dora Mekouar

April 11, 2014

The Tiger Mom Tax: Asians Nearly Twice As Likely To Get Higher Price From Princeton Review

<> on March 6, 2014 in Miami, Florida.
MIAMI, FL – MARCH 06: A Princeton Review SAT Preparation book is seen on March 6, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Yesterday, the College Board announced the second redesign of the SAT this century, it is scheduled to take effect in early 2016.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Every year, thousands of high school students get ready for the SAT by using The Princeton Review’s test preparation services.

But few, if any, realize that the prices for The Princeton Review’s online SAT tutoring packages vary substantially depending on where customers live. If they type some ZIP codes into the company’s website, they are offered The Princeton Review’s Premier course for as little as $6,600. For other ZIP codes, the same course costs as much as $8,400.

One unexpected effect of the company’s geographic approach to pricing is that Asians are almost twice as likely to be offered a higher price than non-Asians, an analysis by ProPublica shows.

The gap remains even for Asians in lower income neighborhoods. Consider a ZIP code in Flushing, a neighborhood in Queens, New York. Asians make up 70.5 percent of the population in this ZIP code. According to the U.S. Census, the median household income in the ZIP code, $41,884, is lower than most, yet The Princeton Review customers there are quoted the highest price.The Princeton Review said in a statement that its pricing is based on the “costs of running our business and the competitive attributes of the given market,” and that the company charges the same price everywhere in New York City. Although the test prep service markets its service as “24-hr Online Tutoring,” the company says the tutoring is done in one-on-one sessions in person or online and that the tutors typically live in the same areas as their students.

“The areas that experience higher prices will also have a disproportionately higher population of members of the financial services industry, people who tend to vote Democratic, journalists and any other group that is more heavily concentrated in areas like New York City,” The Princeton Review’s statement said.

These types of price differences are not illegal, and the consequences are not intentional, but researchers say they are likely to become more common in the age of services likeUber, which set prices by computer algorithms. The Princeton Review says its prices are simply determined by geographic region.

Last year, a White House report on “Big Data” cautioned that the “algorithmic decisions raise the specter of ‘redlining’ in the digital economy – the potential to discriminate against the most vulnerable classes of our society under the guise of neutral algorithms.”

In 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported that the online office retailer Staples was varying prices by ZIP code. Staples appeared to be calculating prices based on the user’s distance from a rival store, but the inadvertent effect was that people in lower-income ZIP codes saw the higher prices.

In 2014, researchers at Northeastern University found that top Web sites, such as Home Depot, Orbitz and Travelocity, were steering some users toward more expensive products. And this year, another study found that users who were identified by Google as female received fewer ads for a high-paying job.

Offline, the practice of offering different prices for the same product in different places is fairly common – gasoline or a gallon of milk can be priced differently just a few blocks apart. But as long as there is no intent to racially discriminate, it is generally legal, says Andrew Selbst, an attorney who co-authored a paper on the biases that can be inherent in Big Data.

“If you are open for business, you can’t discriminate against certain protected classes,” Selbst said.

Unintentional racial discrimination is illegal in housing and employment under the legal doctrine known as “disparate impact,” which prohibits inadvertent actions that hurt people in a protected class.

But the disparate impact doctrine does not apply to the online world, where it’s often difficult to determine how and why different prices are being offered.

Earlier this year, Harvard undergraduate Christian Haigh stumbled on The Princeton Review’s variable prices doing research for a class he was taking called “Data Science to Save the World.”

Haigh had been looking for price differences in hotel rooms if he booked from different locations around the world. But he wasn’t finding much. So he looked for websites that required entering a ZIP code.

“We thought maybe if you have to put in the ZIP code, they were trying to discriminate,” Haigh said. Today, Haigh and three fellow students are publishing their findings that The Princeton Review’s higher prices correlate to areas with higher income.

ProPublica reviewed the code that one of Haigh’s fellow students posted on a public web site and collected its own data in July, and again on Monday. The data showed that The Princeton Review offered four different prices for the same “Premier Level” online tutoring package.

Many of the prices are regional. For instance, the entire New York City area, including Long Island, receives the highest possible price, $8,400. Much of California, except San Diego, is offered the second-highest price, $7,200, while ZIP codes in San Diego are charged the lowest price.

Because the pricing regions are large, sometimes spanning multiple states, they are different than the personalized tech algorithms used by some web sites, which make real-time decisions about which advertisements to show to a particular visitor.

ProPublica tested whether The Princeton Review prices were tied to different characteristics of each ZIP code, including income, race and education level. When it came to getting the highest prices, living in a ZIP code with a high median income or a large Asian population seemed to make the greatest difference.

The analysis showed that higher income areas are twice as likely to receive higher prices than the general population. For example, wealthy suburbs of Washington D.C. are charged higher prices. But that isn’t always the case: Residents of affluent neighborhoods in Dallas are charged the lowest price, $6,600.

Customers in areas with a high density of Asian residents were 1.8 times as likely to be offered higher prices, regardless of income. For instance, residents of the gritty industrial city of Westminster, California, which is half Asian with a median income below most, were charged the second-highest price for the Premier tutoring service.

The Princeton Review said it would be a mistake to call its pricing practices discrimination. “To equate the incidental differences in impact that occur from this type of geographic based pricing that pervades all American commerce with discrimination misconstrues both the literal, legal and moral meaning of the word,” the company said in its statement.

The company said the prices of its online tutoring services are based on the prices of local tutors, which vary “just as virtually every good or service does, be it gasoline, rent or eggs.”

Even if the price differences were unintentional, the Harvard students said they found them disturbing. Haigh, the student who discovered the variations, is an economics major and said he’s not generally against price differences unless particular demographic groups are affected.

“It’s something that makes a very small impact on one individual’s life but can make a big impact to large groups,” Haigh said.

Written by: Julia Angwin, Surya Mattu, Jeff Larson; Lauren Kirchner contributed to this report.

September 1, 2015


These Underrepresented Students Are Tired Of School Curriculums That Make Them Invisible

“We want classes to focus on our histories of oppression, but also our histories of resistance.”

Bus parked outside of school

High school senior Tina Vo can’t recall a time in American history class that she got to learn anything about people who looked like her, aside from when she studied the Vietnam War. Even then, the war “was portrayed in a very Eurocentric way” and  “didn’t really show anything to be proud of, because it was a war,” said Vo, who is 17 years old and attends Franklin High School in Portland, Oregon.

“I know that the people that look like me did something more to advance America, but it’s not being taught,” Vo said.

Vo is part of a group of students who are working to get their school district to offer ethnic studies classes. The students — all involved in a group called the Asian Pacific Islander Leaders for the Liberation of Youth, or “ALLY,” a branch of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon — have been working for the past few months on a campaign called “Missing Pages of Our History” to make their cause known.

The campaign calls on the district to offer at least one ethnic studies course in every public high school within the next four years. The groups says it wants the classes to be counted as social studies courses and to include “Asian studies, Black studies, Latino and Latina studies, Pacific Islander studies, Arab studies, Native studies and queer and trans people of color studies.”

“We want classes to focus on our histories of oppression, but also our histories of resistance,” said Karn Saetang, a lead organizer at APANO who has been working with ALLY youth.

Youth in ALLY decided to lobby the school district for ethnic studies classes several months ago, and are planning to draft a resolution for the board of education to consider. In the meantime, they’re meeting with individual board members, holding events to push their agenda, raising funds and circulating petitions.

About 150 young people are involved in ALLY, although Saetang says there are about 25 core members. The students want the history they learn to be more representative of the students the district serves. As of October 2014, nearly 50 percent of Portland students were non-white.

“Ethnic studies is U.S. history, but instead teaches U.S. history through people of color’s perspective and their contributions,” said Vo.

School board member Mike Rosen has met with the ALLY students and says he supports their campaign. Whether or not the district implements ethnic studies classes is largely a matter of budget and timing, he said.

“In other districts, I’ve heard it could be tough because the community might not be receptive. In Portland, I don’t think that’s the issue here. It’s going to come down to dollars and cents,” Rosen said.

A high-quality ethnic studies curriculum can increase student engagement, improve academic achievement and make students more socially and democratically engaged in society, said Nolan Cabrera, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona. Ethnic studies courses have become increasingly common in schools across the country.

“Ethnic studies, if done appropriately, has some of the greatest potential as an educational intervention to promote greater social equity and deal with our increasingly multicultural society,” said Cabrera.

He noted that the campaign in Portland is part of a national trend in which youth are demanding to see themselves better reflected in their school curriculum.

“It’s a very interesting perspective, because the dominant paradigm I keep hearing is this millennial generation only cares about texting and Twitter and Snapchat,” Cabrera said. “But in many respects, their engagement with this technology and ability to be connected is phenomenal.”

“I hope people will have the wisdom to take them seriously,” he added.

Written by: Rebecca Klein

November 20, 2015

Asians: Too Smart for Their Own Good?

Evanston, Ill.

AT the end of this month, high school seniors will submit their college applications and begin waiting to hear where they will spend the next four years of their lives. More than they might realize, the outcome will depend on race. If you are Asian, your chances of getting into the most selective colleges and universities will almost certainly be lower than if you are white.

Asian-Americans constitute 5.6 percent of the nation’s population but 12 to 18 percent of the student body at Ivy League schools. But if judged on their merits — grades, test scores, academic honors and extracurricular activities — Asian-Americans are underrepresented at these schools. Consider that Asians make up anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of the student population at top public high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science in New York City, Lowell in San Francisco and Thomas Jefferson in Alexandria, Va., where admissions are largely based on exams and grades.

In a 2009 study of more than 9,000 students who applied to selective universities, the sociologists Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford found that white students were three times more likely to be admitted than Asians with the same academic record.

Sound familiar? In the 1920s, as high-achieving Jews began to compete with WASP prep schoolers, Ivy League schools started asking about family background and sought vague qualities like “character,” “vigor,” “manliness” and “leadership” to cap Jewish enrollment. These unofficial Jewish quotas weren’t lifted until the early 1960s, as the sociologist Jerome Karabel found in his 2005 history of admissions practices at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

In the 1920s, people asked: will Harvard still be Harvard with so many Jews? Today we ask: will Harvard still be Harvard with so many Asians? Yale’s student population is 58 percent white and 18 percent Asian. Would it be such a calamity if those numbers were reversed?

As the journalist Daniel Golden revealed in his 2006 book “The Price of Admission,” far more attention has been devoted to race-conscious affirmative action at public universities (which the Supreme Court has scaled back and might soon eliminate altogether) than to the special preferences elite universities afford to the children of (overwhelmingly white) donors and alumni.

For middle-class and affluent whites, overachieving Asian-Americans pose thorny questions about privilege and power, merit and opportunity. Some white parents have reportedly shied away from selective public schools that have become “too Asian,” fearing that their children will be outmatched. Many whites who can afford it flock to private schools that promote “progressive” educational philosophies, don’t “teach to the test” and offer programs in art and music (but not “Asian instruments,” like piano and violin). At some of these top-tier private schools, too, Asian kids find it hard to get in.

At highly selective colleges, the quotas are implicit, but very real. So are the psychological consequences. At Northwestern, Asian-American students tell me that they feel ashamed of their identity — that they feel viewed as a faceless bunch of geeks and virtuosos. When they succeed, their peers chalk it up to “being Asian.” They are too smart and hard-working for their own good.

Since the 1965 overhaul of immigration law, the United States has lured millions of highly educated, ambitious immigrants from places like Taiwan, South Korea and India. We welcomed these immigrants precisely because they outperformed and overachieved. Yet now we are stigmatizing their children for inheriting their parents’ work ethic and faith in a good education. How self-defeating.

To be clear, I do not seek to perpetuate the “model minority” myth — Asian-Americans are a diverse group, including undocumented restaurant workers and resettled refugees as well as the more familiar doctors and engineers. Nor do I endorse the law professor Amy Chua’s pernicious “Tiger Mother” stereotype, which has set back Asian kids by attributing their successes to overzealous (and even pathological) parenting rather than individual effort.

Some educators, parents and students worry that if admissions are based purely on academic merit, selective universities will be dominated by whites and Asians and admit few blacks and Latinos, as a result of socioeconomic factors and an enduring test-score gap. We still need affirmative action for underrepresented groups, including blacks, Latinos, American Indians and Southeast Asian Americans and low-income students of all backgrounds.

But for white and Asian middle- and upper-income kids, the playing field should be equal. It is noteworthy that many high-achieving kids at selective public magnet schools are children of working-class immigrants, not well-educated professionals. Surnames like Kim, Singh and Wong should not trigger special scrutiny.

We want to fill our top universities with students of exceptional and wide-ranging talent, not just stellar test takers. But what worries me is the application of criteria like “individuality” and “uniqueness,” subjectively and unfairly, to the detriment of Asians, as happened to Jewish applicants in the past. I suspect that in too many college admissions offices, a whiteIntel Science Talent Search finalist who is a valedictorian and the concertmaster of her high school orchestra would stand out as exceptional, while an Asian-American with the same résumé (and socioeconomic background) would not.

The way we treat these children will influence the America we become. If our most renowned schools set implicit quotas for high-achieving Asian-Americans, we are sending a message to all students that hard work and good grades may be a fool’s errand.

Written by: Carolyn Chen

December 19, 2012

Asian students carry high expectations for success

Parental demands, fear of failure, competition and pride are fueling Asia’s academic ascension.

1375574291001-0804-ASIA-CULTURE03-1308031959_4_3FORT MYERS, Fla. — America’s education system is under attack and on the brink of failure.

Critics are hammering the U.S. as other nations ascend international rankings, net astounding test scores and produce coveted scientists and engineers to steer a 21st century economy.

“Considering the U.S. spends more money per student than any other country, but we’re showing up in the middle of the pack, is clearly a cause for concern,” said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

But is the education system solely to blame for America’s slide in international rankings?

Seeking answers, The News-Press traveled this summer to Asia, where students — on paper — are running circles around American children, especially in math and science. Five countries and nearly 25,000 miles later, one revelation became clear: A math class there is the same as a math class here, only in a different language.

The difference between Asian and American education systems is cultural.

Throughout much of Asia, education is seen as the only path to success. Parental demands, fear of failure, competition and pride are fueling Asia’s academic ascension.

Simply put, children in Asia study with a purpose.

“There is a mentality of a first tier,” said Hwy-Chang Moon, professor and dean of Seoul National University’s graduate school of international studies in South Korea. “You have to be first-rate, otherwise you may not be able to survive.”

In dozens of interviews at nine Asian schools and universities, college officials, faculty, principals and parents repeated the same terms when describing the typical Asian student: committed, diligent, competitive, passionate, focused and ambitious.

Why does that matter to Americans?

Economic triumph is tied to educational triumph. And in a world where business has no geographical or political boundaries, everyone everywhere is the competition.

“Education is the driver of social mobility,” said John Spinks, senior adviser to the vice chancellor at the University of Hong Kong. “There is a belief that the higher education system will push the economy forward and build the talent pool.”

America set the pace internationally for generations. Like a race horse that springs out of the gate, though, the U.S. is faltering down the stretch.

“America is still the best, but the gap between America and Korea and Singapore and Japan is getting smaller,” Moon said. “It’s time for America to watch out and see what’s happening.”

Prioritizing education

At 10, Justin Yeung knows education is his priority for the next 15 years.

“Learning is very important, and it can change my whole life,” said Justin, a fifth-grader at Kau Yan School in Hong Kong. “If I study hard and have good marks, I can go to some good schools and I can have good work to do.”

The mindset across much of Asia is not whether a student will attend college; it’s where, and for how long, said Tan Eng Chye, deputy president and provost at National University of Singapore.

“Education is an established path toward success,” Chye said.

With a 77 percent high school graduation rate, the U.S. is ranked 22nd of 28 nations with measurable data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among 18 countries analyzed for post-secondary education, the U.S. tied for last, with 53 percent of adults completing some type of degree or certificate program.

By sheer volume, Asia has the capacity to produce more mathematicians, scientists, engineers and every other profession simply because 60 percent of the world’s population lives there. Slightly more than 4 percent of the world’s population lives in the U.S.

President Barack Obama has said America must “out-educate” other nations to continue thriving economically. That competitiveness is ingrained in the minds of Asian youth.

“People in Asia have a thinking about I can’t lose, I have to fight with other people or something, I have to get a very good grade,” said Hung Kuo, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at the Affiliated Junior High School in Taipei, Taiwan. “The parents think that, so they push their children to study very hard.”

Government subsidies make a college education affordable at many Asian universities. The University of Tokyo, widely considered Asia’s top university, charges the equivalent of $5,344, a fraction of Harvard University’s $38,891 annual tuition rate.

Local students at the University of Hong Kong pay $5,427 per year. Spinks, HKU’s senior adviser, said few parents balk at the tuition cost because good jobs are awaiting graduates. During the past seven years, an average of nine HKU graduates per year are unable to land employment.

“A university degree is seen by most families as an investment in their son or daughter’s future,” Spinks said. “For Asian families, there is a return on investment.”

Generations of Asians were raised with two career options: factories or farms. New hubs for finance, technology and energy, however, will drive Asia’s economic future. David Bickford, an assistant professor of biology at National University of Singapore, said Asians don’t take education for granted.

“In rural villages, kids see education as the only way out,” Bickford said.

Team victory

Parental involvement is a sticking point in American schools. Principals and teachers implore parents to get involved, whether it’s volunteering in the classroom, fundraising or simply helping children with homework.

Ruthie Lohmeyer, principal of Lee County’s Alternative Learning Center-Central and Lee Adolescent Mothers Program, said parents have a variety of excuses why they aren’t active: They are busy with work; have personal issues; don’t know how to get involved; or have limited education. Parents, Lohmeyer said, are partners who must do their share to ensure students graduate.

“It’s a struggle, but we’re all there for the same reason,” Lohmeyer said. “You can’t give up trying.”

Hiroshi Inouye, principal of Koyodai Elementary in the Tokyo suburb of Inagi, Japan, said parental involvement also is key there. Instead of holding school activities during the workweek, Koyodai scheduled its spring field day on a Saturday, noting nearly 100 percent parent participation, including dads.

Inouye said Japanese teachers expect parents to take over at home so learning doesn’t stop once the school bell rings.

Rather than seeing nightly assistance as a burden, 17-year-old Ye Kwon Huh said that’s the time parents demonstrate the importance of education to their children. It’s also where they set the bar.

“There’s always kind of a feel that you should live up to these expectations,” said Huh, a senior at Bugil Academy in Cheonan, South Korea, a two-hour train ride south of Seoul.

Those lofty expectations, however, can cross the line. Yin Li, an English instructor at Yantai University on China’s east-central coast, described Chinese parents as pushy, admitting some “encourage with force.” Their ultimate goal, however, is the next generation will have a brighter future.

“If you achieve something in China, it is not your own victory, but it’s also your family’s victory and your country’s victory,” Li said. “We study for our family and for our culture.”

Criticisms of Asia

Asia’s education system looks great on paper. On the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan composed the top five in math among fourth- and eighth-graders. On the Program for International Student Assessment, Finland was the only non-Asian country to crack the top five in any of the subjects tested: science, reading and math.

High test scores, however, don’t mean education is perfect across Asia.

The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and others operate subpar primary and secondary schools, and their universities rarely garner international attention.

Chan Woo Lee, a 23-year-old philosophy major at Seoul National University in South Korea, is concerned about cram schools, which are private or group tutoring sessions that can create an achievement gap between rich and poor families. Registration fees can be staggering, as much as $200 per hour.

“It creates an imbalance because rich people can afford cram schools, so their scores are better,” said Haruka Nuga, 21, a journalism major at the University of Hong Kong.

Cram schools became so prevalent across Asia that Seoul’s office of education hired administrators to patrol neighborhoods, citing cram schools where students were caught studying past 10 p.m.

Excessive homework, nightly reading requirements and studying can overwhelm students, according to Chao Yang Lo, an electrical engineering major at National Taiwan University. He said some professors keep piling on the work under the notion it will only take “several hours.”

“We don’t have so many ‘several hours’ in the day,” said Lo, 22.

Chye, in Singapore, said heavy workloads at an early age can have negative consequences.

“They don’t have the joy for learning,” Chye said. “After a while, they may burn out.”

Written by: Dave Breitenstein

August 4, 2014

School of Education at Johns Hopkins University-A Closer Look at Asian Americans and Education

As has traditionally been the case, receiving an education is of paramount importance for the Asian American community. Like African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians, Asian Americans have had to fight a long battle to have access to desegregated and equal educational opportunities. In this historical context, some of the most important victories were the 1968 and 1969 student strikes at San Francisco State University and U.C. Berkeley that ultimately led to the establishment of the first Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies programs in the country.

Since then, Asian Americans have faced many other issues when it comes to their educational experience. Perhaps the most far-reaching issue that Asian Americans still face is actually the most ironic. In the past, Asian Americans were fighting mechanisms of prejudice, exclusion, and institutional discrimination that prevented them from even attending certain schools and therefore receiving a fair education. But recently, Asian Americans have been and continue to be touted as the one ethnic minority group that has successfully overcome racism and achieved the American dream, primarily through education.

As the so-called “model minority,” we are frequently portrayed as a bright, shining example of hard work and patience whose example other minority groups should follow. Many people take these beliefs further and argue that since Asian Americans are doing so well, we no longer experience any discrimination and that Asian Americans no longer need services such as bilingual education, bilingual government documents, and public assistance. Further, many just assume that all Asian Americans are successful and that none of us are struggling.

On the surface, it may sound rather benign and even flattering to be described in those terms. However, we need to take a much closer look. In fact, many other statistics show that Asian Americans are still the targets of racial inequality and institutional discrimination and that the “model minority” image is a myth.

Reality is always a little more complicated

It’s true that 42% of all Asian American adults have at least a college degree, the highest of all the major racial/ethnic groups. It’s also common for Asian American students to have the highest test scores and/or GPAs within any given high school or college cohort. But what usually gets left out is the fact that not all Asian Americans are the same. For every Chinese American or South Asian who has a college degree, the same number of Southeast Asians are still struggling to adapt to their lives in the U.S.

For example, Vietnamese Americans only have a college degree attainment rate of 16%, only about one-quarter the rate for other Asian American ethnic groups. Further, Laotians, Cambodians, and Khmer only have rates around 5%. The cultural stereotype that “all Asians are smart” puts a tremendous amount of pressure on many Asian Americans. Many, particularly Southeast Asians, are not able to conform to this unrealistic expectation and in fact, have the highest high school dropout rates in the country. Again, not all Asian Americans are the same.

Those Asian Americans who are struggling tend to be immigrants who have limited English proficiency. Many people don’t know that more than half, 60% in fact, of all Asian Americans are immigrants. Most are relatively fluent in English but a large portion are not. Therefore, similar to other immigrant minority groups, Asian Americans still have a need for bilingual education that is also culturally sensitive to their immigration experiences and family situations.

For many of these recent Asian American immigrant families, the right to a formal education and all the trappings of school life for their children are very new concepts. Further, it is common for Asian American children to quickly assimilate their peers’ norms about socializing, homework, growing sense of independence, and other activities surrounding school.

This in turn can lead to conflict with their parents if the parents don’t understand these activities and if they feel that their children are acculturating into “mainstream” American society too quickly and conversely, losing their traditional ethnic identity just as quickly. In times like these, knowledgeable educators and school administrators can play an important role in mediating these tensions before too much conflict arise that may lead the Asian American student to withdraw and possibly worse.

Too much success?

Another irony surrounding Asian Americans being labeled the “model minority” is that it can actually backfire to their detriment. Specifically, beginning in the 1980s, many more Asian Americans were applying to college than before. Soon, it became common for 10%, 15%, or more of a given university’s student population to be of Asian ancestry at a time when Asians were only about 3% of the general population. As a result, many universities actually became alarmed at the growing Asian American student population on their campuses, so much so that once the Asian proportion of their student population reached 10%-15%, they began to reject Asian students who were clearly qualified. Soon, Asian Americans were accusing universities such as U.C. Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and Brown of imposing a quota or upper limit on their admission numbers. After several protests and investigations, these universities admitted that there were problems with these admission procedures but never admitted any deliberate wrongdoing.

Soon thereafter, many opponents of affirmative action began to argue that these Asian American students were “victims” of affirmative action, just like Whites. In other words, these Asian American students were being denied admission when other “less qualified” ethnic groups (implying Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians) were being admitted.

As many Asian American scholars note, at first this argument may sound plausible. But after careful investigation and in-depth research, it became clear that the real issue is not that Asian students are “competing” with other racial/ethnic minority groups. Rather, the real cause of this controversy is the widespread use of admissions factors that always seem to favor White applicants.

These included “legacy clauses” in which the children of alumni are almost always admitted, regardless of their actual qualifications. Other factors that artificially lowered the admissions rates for Asian students included persistent stereotypes that Asian students were not “well-rounded” candidates and rarely participate in extracurricular activities. Again, national research showed that in terms of participating in sports, performing arts, academic and social clubs, and community activities, the rates for Asian students were almost identical to that of White students.

The point is, contrary to the superficially rosy picture of Asian Americans as the “model minority” who have overcome racism and achieved universal educational success, in many respects, Asian Americans are still the targets of discrimination. In discussing these and other issues, Asian-Nation ( seeks to provide a concise but comprehensive exploration of the historical, political, economic, and cultural elements and issues that make up today’s diverse Asian American community — almost like an online version of Asian Americans 101 that the entire Internet community can use and learn from. 

Written by: C.N. Le