Research Paper: Asians in Search of an Education in the United States

Immigration to a foreign country takes a lot of time, money and effort. However, there are multiple reasons forcing people to leave their home country, and start a new life in a foreign one, leaving behind their families, friends and native culture. The reasons that influence people while deciding whether to stay or leave the country include such reasons, as search for better economic opportunities (better living conditions, higher payments, and higher standard of living), natural disasters, search for better social opportunities, person’s curiosity and desire to change the usual setting and see something new and others. Many immigrants, especially in recent years, have left their countries in search of better school or higher education. When educational opportunities are greater in other countries, either because there are more institutions or because the quality of education is superior, young adults may immigrate and work for a few years in the host country in order gain experience and to solidify their knowledge. As their familiarity with the new country increases and they begin to integrate into its society, the probability that they will remain increases. Educational opportunities blend into professional and vocational opportunities, and as the draw that attracted some immigrants to a particular country changes, so do their goals and aspirations, and they remain in the country to which they migrated [5].

Today the United States of America became home for many Asians, and their number continues to grow. The largest groups are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines. A lot of Asian people live in their own communities, while some people from these groups are also mixed into the general American population. The main goal of this essay is to speak about the immigration of Asian people to the USA, find out the reasons for their immigration, and identify challenges, which they face while entering American educational system.

Asians studying in the USA

People from all over the world come to study to the USA, and Asians are not an exception at this point. About 500,000 international students from different countries enrolled in U.S. colleges. They are attracted by efficient collegiate and post-graduate education in the USA. American universities realizing the intense competition as higher education undergoes rapid globalization, colleges and universities in the U.S. are being creative in offering programs to continuously attract international students [2]. The president of, Daniella Naidu, said “What they are having to do now is compete more aggressively with schools in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia,” Daniella Naidu explains. “And what they are doing is advertising much more, specifically on line as well because a lot more students are on line than they use to be and schools are now offering more scholarships and grants to international students to attract them to their campuses,” says Ms. Naidu [2].

Coming to the USA and entering American educational system Asian students face numerous challenges in order to receive proper education. Because of poor evaluation measures, they are often placed in segregated programs, including special education classes. There is a shortage of teachers and staff who are qualified to serve them, and their parents often lack English proficiency and are unable to effectively participate in their children’s education. For this reason, the Congress recommended that elementary and secondary school education be strengthened with bilingual education, language-enhancement, and language-acquisition programs. Congress also proposed an emergency immigrant education policy to help the large number of immigrant children who lack English language skills to make the transition [5]. This program of the US Congress improved the educational opportunities for not only Americans, but also ethnic minorities, including Asians. However, the differences in educational opportunities among Asians still can be noticed. For example, while a disproportionate number of Asians hold advanced degrees and attend prestigious universities, a disproportionate number also fail to achieve a high school education [5]. Statistical evidence shows that Southeast Asians over the age of seventeen who arrived in the United States between 1978 and 1982 have a relatively low level of education, with fewer than 15 percent having attended college [5].

It is impossible to speak about Asians as one united group in terms of education. This is a very diverse population comprising well-educated and very successful students, and a large undereducated class with low socioeconomic status. Seventy-nine percent of South Asian and 69 percent of Korean high school seniors scored above the 50th percentile on reading ability for all U.S. high school seniors. Yet only 50 percent of Filipino, 46 percent of Chinese, and 43 percent of Japanese scored above this level. The results are surprising, since the second and subsequent generations are larger for the latter group than for the former, and one would expect greater English-language comprehension among U.S.-born Asian Americans. Southeast Asians scored the lowest, with only 32 percent performing above the 50th percentile. Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, and South Asians all evidenced a high level of math competence (from 73 percent to 84 percent scored above the 50th percentile), but Filipinos and Southeast Asians performed only at the 52 percent and 43 percent levels respectively. Such differences are evident across the board, at the high school level and at the middle and lower school levels [5].

One of the most important principles in the USA is that every child or a teenager has the right to a public education, including ethnic minorities and immigrants. The government develops special educational programs for those with special needs in order to give such people an opportunity to compete equally with other citizens, because nowadays there is an increasing need for highly-educate people in the society. But perceptions of Asians as model minorities, high academic achievers, and members of advantaged groups prevent a large part of the Asian American population from accessing a quality high school education. The dropout rate is high, especially in areas that have greater concentrations of Southeast Asians and Filipinos, and few programs target their needs [5].

Another challenge that Asian students face while studying in the USA is the participations in standardized tests, during which they might experience some sort of discrimination, because they do not have equal opportunities in terms of language skills in comparison with other American students. In other words, standardized tests are biased against those who do not belong to the majority Euro-American culture [5]. That is why now the Educational Testing Service is considering adopting a weighting measure that would equalize the scores of those who are more advantaged and those who are less advantaged [5].

Wealthy families from Asian countries are willing to pay relatively large sums of money in order to grant their children an opportunity to study in the USA, because American education is of high-quality and is rather competitive at the international level. Parents of such children are also ready to help not only financially, but also by means of their personal involvement into the process of education. Obviously, their motivation is not only represented by the desire to provide their children with good education. Education is considered to be one of the best ways to get involved into the culture, it helps to find a better job, and eventually become a citizen of the country where a person is studying at. That is why Asians are trying to enter American universities and colleges, because this is a starting point for them in order to stay in the country forever.

While studying in the USA the Asians rapidly lose their parental language and yet do extremely well in school, while some of the Latino groups are much more likely to maintain Spanish language facility but do not fare as well in school [3]. This happens probably because Latin America is much closer to the USA than China and Korea are. In October 1999 the College Board pulled Asian Americans out of the minority category in a study of academic achievement, placing whites in one category, Asians in another, and African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans as minorities. Asians were removed from the minority category because of the College Board’s view that they outperform the other three groups [5]. As we can see, despite the difficulties the Asians face they are able to do well in studying, and excel other ethnic minorities living in the USA.

Speaking about the number of Asians studying in the USA it is necessary to mention that the enrolments today are not dramatically different from where they were 20 years ago. Fall 2001 freshmen enrolments included 27% students of colour (American Indian, 1.2%; African American, 10.6%; Asian American/Pac Islander, 7.6%; Mexican American/Chicano/Puerto Rican/Latino, 7.4%), compared with 24% students of colour in 1993 and 18% in 1982. The changes have not resulted in proportions comparable to the proportions of these groups in the general population, particularly given increases in the proportion of students of colour during that period. With respect to college graduation, 28% of White non-Latinas/os ages 25 year and over had a bachelor’s degree or more (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000), compared with 17% of non-Hispanic Blacks and 11% of Latinas/os (see also Maruyama, 2003) [1].


Having spoken about the educational process of Asian people in the USA, it is necessary to make a conclusion. As it has been mentioned above the number of Asian students enrolled in American colleges, schools and universities is rather large, however it varies in different areas and at different educational establishments. Entering the educational system of the USA Asian students face some challenges, which they need help overcoming. In order to help Asian students to adjust to the American culture, way of life and system of education, public policies may need to ensure that Asians are not moved to a separate, non-minority status that further deprives them of the support and services they need at all levels of the educational system. English as a Second Language (ESL) programs must not only be made available but should be actively offered to all non-English-speaking Asians through outreach efforts. Education policies should include provisions that encourage Asian and other immigrant families to become familiar with the U.S. educational system and understand the resources and support services that can enhance the academic success of students [5].

The major motivation of Asian families making them come to the USA is the desire to provide their children with high quality education, which should be an excellent beginning of a successful career in future. For this reason, parents are ready to pay a lot of money in order to achieve their goal.


1. Geoffrey Maruyama, Yolanda Flores Niemann. “Inequities in Higher Education: Issues and Promising Practices in a World Ambivalent about Affirmative Action”. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 61, 2005
2. James, Marsha. “Studying in the United States Still is Favoured by International Students”. 23 August 2005
3. Louie, Vivian. “The Future of Immigrant Children, and What It Means for the United States”. Civil Rights Journal, Vol. 6, 2002
4. Morning, Ann. “The Racial Self-Identification of South Asians in the United States” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Vol. 27, 2001
5. Segal, Uma A. “A Framework for Immigration: Asians in the United States”. Columbia University Press, 2002

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