Featured post

7 Life Lessons: A Letter to My Students

Graduations remind me of diving boards: parents and teachers become spectators, waiting to see each student jump, spring, and dive into ...

Monday, 11 January 2016

Asian versus Western Parental Demands: A Deepening Rift?

I recently read this really interesting article in the NY Times on a school district in the US, where parental opinions on curriculum and academic pressure are severely divided along racial lines. Apparently, the White parents in this particular school are pressuring the school to reduce academic competition and pressure, while Asian parents, mostly immigrants, are anxious that the school will then be reducing standards, "dumbing down education," and preventing their children from excelling academically.

Here are some interesting extracts from the article:

"On the other side are parents like Mike Jia, one of the thousands of Asian-American professionals who have moved to the district in the past decade, who said Dr. Aderhold’s reforms would amount to a “dumbing down” of his children’s education.

“What is happening here reflects a national anti-intellectual trend that will not prepare our children for the future,” Mr. Jia said.

About 10 minutes from Princeton and an hour and a half from New York City, West Windsor and Plainsboro have become popular bedroom communities for technology entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical researchers and engineers, drawn in large part by the public schools. From the last three graduating classes, 16 seniors were admitted to M.I.T. It churns out Science Olympiad winners, classically trained musicians and students with perfect SAT scores.

The district has become increasingly popular with immigrant families from China, India and Korea. This year, 65 percent of its students are Asian-American, compared with 44 percent in 2007. Many of them are the first in their families born in the United States.

They have had a growing influence on the district. Asian-American parents are enthusiastic supporters of the competitive instrumental music program. They have been huge supporters of the district’s advanced mathematics program, which once began in the fourth grade but will now start in the sixth. The change to the program, in which 90 percent of the participating students are Asian-American, is one of Dr. Aderhold’s reforms. (bolding mine)"

The article was intriguing, and in some ways it mirrors the discussions I have with parents here in Singapore as well. International schools in Singapore often have a fairly even split between White and Asian families, and this demographic often creates a sort of split personality for the school, pulling it in two entirely different directions. Asian parents tend to want more "academic rigor," whereas Western parents worry that the programs are becoming too competitive and rigorous for their children.

Is it possibly for schools to address the concerns while still maintaining respect for both cultural attitudes towards parenting and education? Also, how can schools run by European and American faculty and administrators become more sensitive to the ways in which Asians view education and parenting? Perhaps the answer is to engage in more cross-cultural dialogue so that both sides actually talk to each other and learn from each other-- taking one side or another seems to be a recipe for disaster, as it will inevitably alienate half the school's population.

No comments:

Post a Comment