Educational Needs of Asian-Americans Highlighted

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Americans of Asian and Pacific descent face unique and frequently ignored educational challenges, a report on the status of minorities in higher education concludes.

The annual report from the American Council on Education focuses this year on the special concerns of Asian Pacific Americans, who make up about 3 percent of the U.S. population. Those concerns are "too often left out of the discourse on race and education," says the report, which was released at a news conference here last week.

By 1994, 42 percent of Asian Pacific Americans had attained bachelor's degrees, almost twice the proportion for the general population. But, the report notes, 9.8 percent of adults of Asian and Pacific descent had never progressed beyond the 8th grade in school, compared with 6.2 percent of whites and 8.8 percent of the population as a whole.

"Our report challenges the view of Asian Pacific Americans as the minority success story," said Kenyon S. Chan, a co-author of the report's special section. "This is not a community of science and math nerds, but a group of diverse young men and women with special needs that need to be addressed."

A major obstacle to meeting those needs is that people from widely divergent backgrounds are often lumped together under the designation Asian Pacific American. As a result, ethnic groups that are slower to make educational progress are often disguised by figures that show the progress of the broader population category, Mr. Chan said.

For example, in 1990, 54.9 percent of Americans of Hmong descent, 40.7 percent of Cambodian origin, and 33.9 percent of Laotian-Americans had not completed the 5th grade, according to the report.

Also, Pacific Islanders, such as Hawaiians, Samoans, and Guamanians, are less likely than other Asian-American groups to go to college.

The findings are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the U.S. Department of Education.

The authors of the special section recommend various strategies to build more educational opportunities for Asian-Americans, including debunking the notion that the group is a "model minority," and supporting affirmative action programs and efforts to help them master English.

"Many people don't understand the complexity of the [Asian-American] community," Mr. Chan said. "We hope this report will do more to break the stereotypes."

Minority Progress Tracked

The annual report from the ACE, a Washington-based umbrella group for higher education, also chronicles a recent leveling off of the educational gains of all minority groups. Though the overall college enrollment of minority students rose by 2.9 percent between 1994 and 1995, the growth was lower than the 4.6 increase in 1993 and the 7.1 increase in 1992.

The ACE study tracked the high school completion rates of African-Americans and Hispanics, which continue to trail those of their white counterparts. In 1995, 81.9 percent of white 18- to 24-year-olds had completed high school, compared with 76.9 percent of African-Americans and 58.6 percent of Hispanics.

"The continued progress shown by this report in most respects is cause for celebration," said Stanley O. Ikenberry, the president of the ACE. "But it is also a sharp reminder of just how far we have to go to wipe out the historic inequities in educational opportunities and success."

For More Information:

Copies of the 15th annual "Status Report on Minorities in Higher Education" are available for $24.95 each from the American Council on Education, Publications Department M, 1 Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 939-9380.

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