Sunday July 27, 2008
Debunking myth about Asian-Americans
By P. PARAMESWARAN
A belief that Asian-Americans are taking over American universities, out-performing other groups and grabbing the bulk of mathematics, science and engineering degrees has been debunked in a landmark study.
American popular culture is full of claims that Asian-Americans are “over-running college campuses with high enrolment” but “such impressions exaggerate” their presence in American education, the study said.
Entitled ‘Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight’, the study was conducted by New York University, a group of mostly Asian-American educators, and the College Board, a group that holds standardised tests for mostly high school students.
The study showed that the number of Asian-American students at institutions of higher learning was inflated by foreign students from Asian nations and that not all were top students gaining easy entry to the best colleges and universities to become doctors and engineers.
”Contrary to the fiction that Asian-American and Pacific-Islander students are taking over colleges and universities across the country, the increase in (their) higher education participation has mirrored the increases found among other populations during the same time period,” according to the report.
”Because of the assumption that they are doing well and are high-achievers, many people assume that they don’t have needs, and they are ignored in education and social policy,” said Robert Teranishi, a New York University education professor and key author of the report.
Asian-Americans, he said, have long been missing from discussions on educational research and policy, and “remain in the shadows of America’s commitment to equality and social justice.
“Many Asian-Americans are doing well, we don’t dispute that, but that’s not the only story that needs to be told,” he said.
The “landmark” study was debated recently in the first education summit of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), comprising American lawmakers from the various communities.
”The myth of student achievement throughout our communities has masked particular linguistic and cultural needs of our young people for far too long,” said Mike Honda, a Japanese American lawmaker who heads CAPAC.
The report shows “how the ‘model minority’ stereotype is harmful, often leading teachers to overlook (these) students, many of whom may require additional academic support,” said Vivien Stewart of the United States-based Asia Society, who was on the panel that compiled report.
Asian-American student population was “concentrated in a small percentage of institutions, giving the false impression of high enrolment in higher education overall.”
They have a wide range of academic interests, including the social sciences, humanities and education as opposed to just science, technology, engineering, and maths, the report said.
Furthermore, Asian-Americans cannot be generalised as they are an ethnically diverse population having many different languages and dialects with varying economic, social, and cultural factors, it said.
The US Census Bureau estimates that there are now almost 17 million Asian-Americans and Pacific- Islanders, an umbrella term for 48 different ethnic groups from such historically different places as East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands.
Some entered the country because US employers needed their expertise, while others came as refugees with few resources and opportunities, or just to study and then return home, the report said.
Yet they are perceived to be so ubiquitous in higher education and seen as the same studious, self-sufficient high achievers, the report said. — AFP