Studies and test results reveal what many of us who work in academics already know. Asian students rock when it comes to test scores! Many cultures feel challenged by academic standards set by Asian students. Asian performance levels have motivated entire national education departments to improve education levels and standardized test preparation programs.
So the question arises: How come Asian students consistently score better than other students around the globe? It’s not just hard work and greater focus. Cultural influences and priorities play a role.
In an insightful LA Times article entitled Study Examines Achievement Gap Between Asian American, White Students by Monte Morin, there were several specific Asian cultural influences and factors Morin revealed that seem to impact academic performance and social ability.
A couple of influences worth noting:
- Most Asian societies are collective in nature and as a result, students feel obligated to work for the greater good of the country. Higher education is seen as a force that will improve each nation’s economy and social standing.
- Asian (and Asian American) parents generally tend to push their children harder than other culture’s parents and emphasize exceptional grades. The correlation between good grades and future success is reinforced strongly and often by elders.
But the same article highlights two deficiencies worth exploring:
- Asian American students attain higher test results than their white American peers, however Asian American students suffer comparatively low levels of self-esteem.
- Asian American students spend less time with their friends as compared to their white peers.
Study author, Amy Hsin, also adds a compelling observation:
“Asian Americans continue to occupy a complicated position in a racially stratified United States. They are simultaneously recognized for their work ethic and intelligence and marginalized for seeming less patriotic and civically engaged. Their ‘outsider’ status may undercut their achievement success and prevent their full integration into American society.”
Amy Hsin’s insight strikes me as spot-on. In my experience working with Chinese students, the biggest challenge Chinese students face is the ability to interact and flourish in an increasingly interactive global marketplace. Based on my experience and observations, Chinese students who come to the US for higher education benefit greatly from the multicultural social skill set they develop while on a US campus. In fact, Chinese employers seek “hai gui” employees (Chinese students who study abroad and then return to China) because these students, in general, have:
– A newly learned communication skill set that allows students to function in international communities
– A cross-cultural sensitivity and ability to culturally interact in multicultural environments
– A confidence, independence and vision to lead Chinese and multicultural teams
Certainly test scores are important, and I am by no means minimizing the importance of academic achievement, but the best overall outcomes and success in the global marketplace come about when a student is fully engaged in a diverse, multicultural environment and interactive campus.
More specifically, while Asian Americans have some advantage in that they are immersed in American culture (that encourages self-confidence and autonomy), their lineage and cultural influences often prevail. Certainly Asian American students become more mainstream “American” in their communication style with each passing generation in the US, however even first and some second generation Asian Americans lean more towards indirect communicating styles (whereby communication and interaction is more often in the form of subtle cues and body language versus the western norm of vocal and direct engagement). Many Asians and those of Asian descent also have the tendency to not only defer to their elders, but also spend a considerable amount of time with family members (as compared to western and/or white peers) and make diligent efforts to gratify their elders. But this considerable amount of family time is often costly in terms of building meaningful relationships with peers.
In my recently published book, Western Culture, A Guide for Asian Students, I outline several steps Asian students (and presumably Asian American students with strong ethnic links) can take to prepare for the global marketplace. Here are a couple of them:
Adopt a new mindset –
Assertive = Respectful. It’s a difficult transition for many Asian and Asian American participants. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or experience, most individuals in global organizations have an opportunity and forum to showcase attributes and global players are expected to participate and express their opinion.
Challenge others –
Asians and Asian Americans can learn to challenge others if they disagree with their opinion and say it directly but politely. Statements like, “I think there may be another way to approach this” or “I think your idea may work, but I wonder if another approach may work better” are helpful lead-ins to politely, yet clearly express a challenging and different opinion.
I hope you enjoyed this post! For more information on this topic, check out Western Culture: A Guide for Asian Students at billsinunu.com/bills-books/.