Asian students script US success story in academia

By Pankaj Adhikari Source:Global Times Published: 2013-9-26 17:53:01

Asian students have been excelling in many academic contests in the US. Seeking reasons why they outperform their peers, researchers have offered a number of arguments, with most agreeing it came down to hard work, commitment and discipline.

Asian students "work harder than the typical American students," Charles Murray, a resident scholar at Washington DC-based American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told the Global Times.

"There are cultural reasons too. Chinese and Indian students grow up in families where parents value education highly and are demanding. Non-Asian parents, on the other hand, do not push their children so hard," said Murray. 

"Asian students tend to sport a strong work ethic and exert themselves academically," said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at AEI.

President Barack Obama said though Americans used to be "head and shoulders above" other countries in educational achievements, they are fast losing this position. "We have kind of settled into mediocrity," he said.

At the annual White House Science Fair in Washington last April, President Obama praised Meghna Rao, an Asian-American student from Portland, Oregon, for her outstanding work. Rao also received the 2013 Young Naturalist Award from the American Natural History Museum.

Asian parents realize the importance of education and give it top priority. "There were times when my parents didn't really understand the concepts I was studying. They would try to re-learn these lessons and re-teach themselves. They made themselves available all the time," said Arka Chaudhuri, an Asian IT professional in Cincinnati.

Although a strong family support system has been credited as one of the reasons for Asians doing well in the classroom, such parental pressure on their children to excel can be overwhelming. The heavy emphasis on education in Asian-American homes often begins at birth. Schoolwork is given so much importance in some Asian-American families that children are often not allowed to have part-time jobs or even do household chores.

"For an Asian student, education is seen as the only path to success. Parental demands, fear of failure, competition and pride are fueling Asia's academic ascension," said Louise Cheng, a student of Columbia University.

Some Chinese students, however, encounter challenges in terms of the language. Before studying abroad, some Chinese students do not have an English-speaking environment in their high schools. This affects their performance overseas, said Murray.

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