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Asian School-Age Population Expected To Double by 2020

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WASHINGTON--The nation's school-age population of Asian and Pacific Island heritage will more than double by 2020, requiring changes in education policy and creating demand for far more services in bilingual education and other areas, according to a comprehensive national report issued last week.

The projected enrollment increase, brought on by a combination of immigration and increases in the native-born population, also highlights the need to develop culturally appropriate curricula and assessment policies that are free from linguistic and cultural biases, the report states.

The 318-page report was released at a press conference here Thursday by the Asian American Studies Center of the University of California at Los Angeles and by the Asian Pacific American Public Policy Institute, a think tank established last year.

"We hope our report will serve as a call to action for a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion when it comes to Asian-Pacific Americans,'' said J.D. Hokoyama, the president of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, a decade-old nonprofit community organization that founded the public-policy institute.

'Cause for Serious Concern'

Unless policymakers come to grips with the needs of Asian- and Pacific-Americans, the report warns, several generations of this population may be locked out of mainstream life.

The report's analyses and recommendations are based on a range of population forecasts by Paul M. Ong, an associate professor of urban planning at õ.ã.ì.á. and a respected analyst of Asian-American census data.

Based on existing census data, which show the nation's Asian-Pacific population to have doubled each decade since 1970, Mr. Ong projected that this population would increase from 7.3 million in 1990 to an estimated 20.2 million, or 8 percent of the U.S. population, by 2020. More than half of the population will be foreign-born.

Along with new immigrant students, this population also will be presenting schools with a dramatic increase in second-generation, American-born students who often continue to have special educational needs, the report says.

Peter N. Kiang, an assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and Vivian Wai-Fun Lee, the director of the National Coalition of Advocates for Students, also based in Boston, said the population projections should give educators "cause for serious concern, given that educational policies and practices have been unable to meet the needs of Asian-Pacific immigrant students, even at current levels.''

Few national studies address the educational needs of this population, Mr. Kiang and Ms. Lee assert, and effective policymaking will require far more research that is not skewed by false stereotypes of Asian-Americans as "model minorities'' or by the deliberate exclusion of limited-English-proficient students from studies.

The report says education policy-makers need to do more to incorporate the experience of Asian and Pacific-Island ethnic groups into their curriculum; to train teachers to work effectively with students from these groups; and to protect these children from discrimination.

Schools also need to do more to reach out to the parents of these children and to provide counseling to help children and families through their adaptation to a new culture, the report says.

Copies of the report, "The State of Asian Pacific America: Policy Issues to the Year 2020,'' can be obtained by calling (213) 485-1422.

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