How Do Asian Students Get to the Top of the Class?
Why do many Asian students excel? The secret is parenting, say the authors of the provocative book Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers - and How You Can Too.
By Dr. Soo Kim Abboud , Jane Kim
While Asian Americans make up only 4% of the U.S. population, Asian-American students make up a much higher percentage of student bodies in top universities around the country. The percentages are astounding: 24% at Stanford, 18% at Harvard, and 25% at both Columbia and Cornell. More Asian Americans over the age of 25 have bachelor's degrees and advanced degrees than any other race or ethnic group. And after outperforming their colleagues in school, Asian Americans also bring home higher incomes than their non-Asian counterparts - almost $10,000 more annually than the rest of the population (2002 statistics).
So what does this mean? Are Asian students simply smarter? Contrary to what much of the public may believe, Asian students are no more intellectually gifted than non-Asian students are. The reason that Asian students outperform their peers in the classroom has nothing to do with how they were born and everything to do with how they are raised.
The statistics are startling, so we decided to explore and reveal the various practices or "secrets" Asian families utilized to maximize their children's chances at academic and professional success. Top of the Class: How Asian
Parents Raise High Achievers - and How You Can Too was the result of these efforts. In Top of the Class, we discuss 17 practices that are common throughout many Asian households; we also include a section discussing the parenting pitfalls to which many Asian parents fall victim.
While many of the practices are common sense, others may surprise you. In this article, we will focus on two of the 17 practices, provide examples, and show you how you can incorporate these methods into your own household...with great results.
Clearly Define Your Child's Role as a Student
We all assume different roles in society: for example, that of accountant, physician or homemaker. Imagine if there were an abundance of lawyers but not enough teachers. What if everyone decided to become a pilot but no one wanted to be a police officer? Just as a community needs people in different roles in order to function well, a family needs its members to carry out different duties so it can run smoothly. Asian families believe in specific roles for each member of the family - and the children are no exception. In our experience, children in Asian families tend to have more clearly defined roles than their American counterparts, and we believe this is one reason why Asian students tend to excel in the classroom.
While American children are dividing their time between a thousand different extracurricular activities in addition to household chores, Asian students are concentrating more on their schoolwork. The role of Asian children in the family is clear-cut and two-fold:
- Respect your elders and obey your parents.
- Study hard and do well in school to secure a bright future.
Our parents firmly believed in roles, and they ensured that each member of the family carried out his or her role to the best of his or her ability. Our father was the breadwinner during the day and an educator at night. Our mother kept the house and finances in order during the day and also became an educator at night. Our role during the day was to obey our teachers and do our best in the classroom; our role at night was to obey our parents and focus on our continued studies at home (which included homework, review of previously learned material and any additional assignments our parents gave us). Of course, we also cleaned our rooms, set the table, did the dishes and played outdoors, but we didn't have the multitude of distractions that many non-Asian children faced once school ended.
Non-Asian children often equate the final ring of the school bell with freedom from learning and education. Therein lies the difference between many Asian children and their peers. Many non-Asian children view their roles in the classroom and at home very differently. Unfortunately, many children are not taught that the role of student is one to be assumed during and after school hours.