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Some Asian Americans Said Leery of Catholic Schools

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While many Asian Americans want their children to attend Roman Catholic schools, others regard parochial schools as academically inferior, a new report released by the National Catholic Educational Association reveals.

Even so, Asian students are a growing presence in Catholic schools, the NCEA notes. According to the group, Asian enrollment rose from 69,000 in 1982-83 to 90,000 last year.

The report does not provide figures on each nationality represented in the schools, or state what proportion of the students are Catholic.

Entitled "A Catholic Response to the Asian Presence," the report follows national hearings on Asian-American concerns held in late 1989 and early this year by the NCEA, the U.S. Catholic Conference, and the Archdiocese of New York.

"Many Asians indicated that they would like to send their children to Catholic schools here; however, in many instances, the expensive tuitions are beyond their ability to pay," the document states.

"On the other hand, however," it says, "there was an equal number of reports that although the Catholic school was most important in their native land, the Catholic school in their new U.S. neighborhood was not viewed as on a par with the public school academically, and thus was not seen as a desirable option."

Asians' hesitancy to choose parochial education could raise questions about the current role of the Catholic school, given its "marvelous contribution to new immigrants in the past," the report suggests.

"It does catch me by surprise," said Barbara Keebler, the NCEA's public-relations director. But, she added, "the fact that this minority in Catholic schools is increasing seems to indicate" that numerous Asian parents do prefer a Catholic education for their children.

In another finding, the report indicates that many Asian parents favor "total immersion" in English in school and dislike bilingual approaches to education.

Both parents and educators reported that Asian immigrant children often are able to speak and comprehend lessons in English within six to eight months, it adds.

But the study also asks teachers to "make every effort to learn Asian phrases" and to allow children to use their native languages during informal activities.

The report proposes that a diocese with a "significant number" of Asian students in its schools have at least one Asian staff member in the diocesan education office.

Moreover, if the Asian population represents more than 40 percent of its enrollment, a school should have an Asian administrator to facilitate teacher-student and teacher-parent communication, the report says.

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