Myth: East Asians Overvalue Education

Among the second-generation in Spain, the Chinese exhibit the lowest educational aspirations and expectations of all second-generation groups, including Ecuadorians, Central Americans, Dominicans, and Moroccans. Nearly 40% of second-generation Chinese expect to complete only basic secondary school—roughly the equivalent of 10th grade in the U.S. Given the perception of a closed opportunity structure in Spain—especially for visible minorities—Chinese immigrants have no faith that a post-secondary education or a university degree will lead to a professional job, so they’ve turned to entrepreneurship and encouraged their children to do the same. Hence, Spain’s Asian immigrants adopt an entirely different success frame, in which entrepreneurship—rather than education—is the mobility strategy. Their frame is supported by ethnic business associations, much like education is supported by a supplementary education system in the United States.

This simple counterfactual illustrates that it’s not something essential about Chinese or Asian culture that promotes exceptional educational outcomes. It also reminds us that what may be most exceptional about “Asian-American exceptionalism” is actually “American exceptionalism.”

Source: Lee, J. 2012. Tiger Kids and the Success Frame. The Society Pages. https://thesocietypages.org/papers/tiger-kids-and-the-success-frame/ [accessed: 2017-07-08]

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