“Asian students are smarter and work harder than the typical American students,” said Charles Murray, resident scholar at Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, when asked why Asian students excel in US schools and universities.
“There are cultural reasons, too. Chinese and Indian students grow up in families where parents value education highly and parents are demanding. US parents, on the other hand, do not push their children so hard,” Murray said.
There were 194,029 Chinese students studying in the US in the 2011-2012 academic year, representing the largest group of international students from a single country and accounting for 25.4% of all foreign students studying in the US. The figure also marks a 23% increase from just the year before and a 207% increase from a decade ago, according to the Institute of International Education. The number of Indian students in US, on the other hand, stand at 100, 270 in 2011–12.
Giving out reasons for Asian students’ success stories, scholars and analysts have offered a number of arguments, but most of them agree on one aspect of Asian students that help them outperform their peers in schools and universities: Hard work, commitment and discipline.
Speaking to Global Times, Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. said, “Asian students tend to sport a strong work ethic and exert themselves academically. American universities offer rich opportunities and they take advantage of them.”
President Barack Obama said though the Americans used to be “head and shoulders above” the people of other countries, they are fast losing that position. He exhorted his countrymen to buckle up as the Chinese and Indians are catching them fast. “We have kind of settled into mediocrity when we compare ourselves to other advanced countries,” he said.
“We have got to pick up the pace, because the world has gotten competitive. The Chinese and the Indians are coming at us and they’re coming at us hard, and they’re hungry, and they’re really buckling down,” Obama said.
Asian parents realize the importance of education and give it a top priority. “There were times when my parents didn’t really understand the concepts. They would try to re-learn the concepts and re-teach themselves. They just made themselves available all the time,” said Arka Chaudhuri, an Indian IT professional with Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati.
“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. Simply put, Asian students study with a purpose,” said Louise Cheng, a student of Columbia University.
Although a strong family support system has been credited as one of the reasons for the Asians doing so well in the classroom, 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 aren’t allowed to have part-time jobs or even do household chores.
“In American families, we always hear them saying, ‘As long as you try, it’s O.K.’ In Asian families, they stress the achievement. They want you to put your best foot forward and they want you to achieve. Asian parents take the time out to really get involved and know what their child is doing in the classroom,” said Doddy Yan, a Chinese IT professional in Albany, NY.