Asian Academic Excellence: Are Asians Born to Excel in School?
By Antonino Benitez
Unfortunately, it’s no secret that we Asians are some of the most frequently stereotyped people in the world – with the majority of these labels half-truths and sloppy generalizations. But, if there’s one thing that we Asians can be proud of, it’s the fact that we do extremely well in school. Being the only Filipino in a school populated mostly by Western students, I have realized that there is genuinely nothing comparable to our passion for learning and the value we recognize in education – but why is that? People often assume that just because someone is Asian, they are innately smart and therefore find it easier to excel at school. This is not true – at least, not entirely. One aspect that is often overlooked is the crucial role that culture plays in how most Asians approach their studies. Beyond genetics, it is our unique upbringing that sets us apart from our foreign contemporaries.
The Unbeatable Asian Work Ethic
With intelligence just serving as an added bonus, the real key to achieving those top grades concerns our work ethic and our attitudes towards what we do. Whether you belong to an Indian, Chinese, or Filipino family, Asians are all taught from very young ages that respect and hard work are imperative in all our action. Viewed through an educational prospect, a student wouldn’t be able to achieve what they set out for if they barely put in any effort, or if they lack the commitment in learning. From an article published by NY Daily News, a recent study from 2012 showed that Asian-American 11th Graders spend at least six hours more than their White peers when studying. Further proving how success depends on more so hard work than brains, is the story of Xuan-Trang Ho. In 1994, a Vietnamese eleven-year-old girl came to America in seek of refuge, with no education and knowledge of English; as a result of her drive for new opportunities and a better life, she graduated high school as the Valedictorian. I personally dedicate a good amount of time towards my studies, not because I am forced or pressured to do so, but because I believe it’s beneficial. Based on experience, studying hard leads to more than academic achievement – believe it or not, it’s quite fulfilling to know what you’re doing is good and has a purpose (that’s probably why we study a lot).
Elaborating on this idea of self-competence and gratification, if there’s anything Asian students love more than receiving good grades, it’s showing them to our families and making them proud. ‘Family honor,’ usually associated with other notions such as respecting your elders, is a concept practiced by most cultures that suggests how bringing pride to your relatives can be reassuring – one source including education. However, being part of a culture where family ties take priority, any success from an Asian somehow translates to a success for their entire family. Researchers have even inferred that in society, an individual’s identity has a strong reliance on their families – thus, to feel a sense of recognition and purpose, they feel the need to meet such high standards and prove themselves and their status within the family. This potentially could be why some people forget about their own personal accomplishments – now this isn’t a good thing. I for one am guilty of this because, as a Filipino, family is habitually involved in most facets of my life. Even looking back at history, especially for Filipinos, the need to prove ourselves could have originated from our oppression by The Spanish – excelling in fields such as education may be a way to prove that we Asians are more than competent.
Strong Parental Influence
Finally, and probably the most prominent factor of a student’s success relies solely on the parenting they have been brought up with. Perceived by most, Asians are notoriously known for having strict parents, who often set high expectations and pressure their children to do well, both in school and in life. In an investigation published at childtrends.org, in 2012, among a variety of cultural groups, Asian/Pacific Islanders had the highest expectations, with 84% of the populace wanting their child to attain a Bachelor’s Degree or more. Though true, it is statements like these that popularize common beliefs that Asian parents are harsh and demanding of their children – but that’s not entirely correct. The relationship between a parent and a child in an Asian family doesn’t wholly revolve around concepts of punishment and harshness, but more so on affection and discipline. It is the healthy balance between sternness and praise Asian parents possess that makes their child both feel cared for, and want to do their best in school. This type of parenting is regularly present in Asian households because parents especially want their children to prosper in life. Knowing that in countries such as the U.S.A., where many Asian immigrants settled with little to no education, it seems plausible that the parents only want more for their child, taking into account what they had to do and sacrifice for them in the past. Growing up with particularly strict parents who heavily encouraged my brother and I to focus on our studies, I have come to appreciate the significance of parental discipline, and have even come to consider it as a built-in advantage. It’s like having a motivational speaker and life coach, right at the comforts of your own home.
A lot of the time, just based on our appearances, and the colors our skin we feel disadvantaged compared to most. Unlike others, we don’t exactly have the most desirable passports in the world, and we need a visa to go most places. But if there’s anything other people don’t have on us Asians, it’s our devotion and force, our compassion for others, and our wise guidance. And with these assets by our side, we can definitely do more than excel at school – we can excel at life.
A Straight-A student whose hair often gets him into trouble, Antonino is a quirky character, well versed in both Academics and The Arts, who never strays away from individuality. As he secretly fulfills his dream of becoming an astronaut, Antonino continues to walk through life hungry for new knowledge and in search of all things epic.
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