Why Are Asian and Indian Students So Smart?



Why Are Asian and Indian Students So Smart?


James L. Casale, Ph.D.

Are Indian and Asian students smarter than their American counterparts? Why do they seem to always excel in school? This year’s Scripps’s National Spelling Bee seemed to be dominated by students from the India region.

I had a chance encounter with a local high school student who was also volunteering her time at the VA Hospital in West Palm Beach. We met in the elevator when we were headed to the same place for the same reason; the volunteer office to sign in for the day. I seized the opportunity to talk to her about her school.

I asked her which school she attended and whether she liked it. The young lady responded with a curious answer, “My school is highly rated in the state of Florida”. “But do you like it”, I probed. She said she liked the school. I followed up by asking what she liked about it. “I like the environment,” she said.

What do you really mean?

I pressed on and asked her what did that mean, “Does it mean you loved all your teachers? “(I already knew the answer) “No,” she replied emphatically. “Some are lousy and some are just awful,” she offered.  Then I revealed who I was and shared my background as a former teacher, principal, district administrator, college professor and freelance writer. I shared with her what most educators know but don’t always talk about: there are not and never will be enough highly effective teachers to staff our public schools.  (The reasons for this dilemma are included in my first parenting guide, Wise Up and Be the Solution and my upcoming book, Family Pledge: Raising Life Long Learners and Good Citizens.)

I opined that school rankings in Florida are a joke. Schools rated with an “A” do not serve all their students sufficiently and schools rated with a “C” or “D” have their share of high-performing students. You are not smart because you attend a high ranking school and you are not stupid if you attend a low-performing school. What’s the difference maker when kids are successful?

It’s a cultural thing

Asian and Indian families emphasize education. They have a cultural advantage. Education is important. Doing well in school is expected along with the sacrifices and discipline it requires to excel. It’s in their playbook.

For example, South Korean parents are obsessed with education and don’t mind paying up. South Korean 15- year-olds rank second in the world in reading. South Korea has a 93% high school graduation rate compared to 77% for the U.S. It is reported that when President Obama asked the South Korean president what his biggest problem was regarding the education system, the South Korean President responded,” the parents are too demanding.”   South Korean parents spent more than 17 billion on tutoring services; American parents spent 15 billion on video games.

 American families

There are many American families who feel as their Asian and Indian contemporaries do. Education is important. It’s emphasized at home. And these families “walk the walk”. But my experiences and observations-50 years’ worth- reveal that this is not a consistent theme and it is not culturally ingrained.

Too many parents rely on the school to teach and discipline their children. Here’s the rub; the schools are not equipped to do what must be done at home. School teachers and staff, no matter how competent or incompetent are not a child’s first teacher and role model. They are not responsible for teaching your children to become life-long learners, good citizens, and men and women of character.

The quality of the family is the determiner of school and life success. A family that has a vision, high expectations for all members, accurate information, and a plan to carry out their vision will make the most difference in a child’s life.

Dr. Casale is a state and national award-winning educator and the author of the highly praised book published by Skyhorse Publishing, Wise Up and Be the Solution: How to create a culture of learning at home and guide your child to succeed in school and life. It is available at bookstores and online. His second parenting book, “Family Pledge; How to raise life-long learners and good citizens”, will be available soon.

He is available as a speaker.

Website – www.jamescasalephd.com.

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