Strong academic support to Asian-American students could be too much!

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Asian-American students are said to be a group that receives one of the strongest support academically, but it turns out that this strong support could be negatively affecting their performance and could be problematic.

Scientists explain that support from parents, friends, and teachers is one of the most important resource for any adolescent who is forming their own academic expectations. Studies have shown that high academic expectations and support from others have a role to play in student’s own expectations for and from themselves and other important academic outcomes, such as getting good grades or going to college.

However, academic social support and its benefits are not necessarily uniform across students of different racial and generational backgrounds and support may be experienced as pressure and that stereotyping Asian Americans as high achievers can be problematic.

Scientists at New York University set out to understand whether academic social support from parents, friends, and teachers is actually helping Asian American students or is it adding unnecessary pressure on students. To find that out, they used data from the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 and looked at information reported by the students, students’ parents, and teachers during the students’ sophomore year, including whether parents and teachers expected students to go to college. This information was linked to academic expectations reported by students in their senior year of high school – specifically, whether they anticipated completing a college degree.

While their study revealed that academic social support did happen to be an important ingredient in the formation of college-going expectations and that second-generation Asian Americans had the strongest social support, the influence of parents, friends, and teachers was not uniform.

Scientists say their findings indicate second-generation Asian Americans benefited less – or sometimes not at all – from academic social support despite having parents and teachers with the highest expectations and friends who were the most academically oriented. Only 74 per cent second-generation Asian Americans who had the highest level of support had probabilities of going to college, compared to 83 per cent of their peers who had lower levels of support. In contrast, third-generation Whites who had the highest level of support had 3 per cent higher probabilities of expecting to go to college than did their peers with less support.

Teacher’s academic expectations also varied on students based on students’ backgrounds. Both first- and second-generation Asian Americans and White students had teachers with higher expectations compared to third-generation White students. Teachers had significantly lower expectations towards Latino and Black students from all generations.

Given the negative influence the Model Minority Stereotype can have on Asian American youth, the authors conclude that more efforts should be taken to recognize and address this issue.