Unsung success of Chinese pupils

27th August 2004 at 01:00
British-Chinese pupils beat every other group. Dorothy Lepkowska on new research that explains why

Chinese pupils outperform their classmates in British schools because education and the spirit of competition are valued highly in the home, according to research.

A two-year study of 80 British-Chinese boys and girls, 30 parents and 30 teachers found that studying hard was a way of life for youngsters and they were not ashamed to admit it.

However, some teachers interpreted this as repression by pushy parents and believed Chinese pupils to be over-diligent and too quiet. While they perceived them as "nice and polite" and "hard-working" they also considered them "withdrawn" and "quiet".

Teachers were particularly negative about Chinese girls, deeming them too compliant.

The study, by Dr Becky Francis and Dr Louise Archer, of London Metropolitan University, found little attention was being given to Chinese pupils and their remarkable achievements.

Chinese pupils outperform every other ethnic group in tests and exams, including the English at English. At GCSE 74.6 per cent achieved at least five A*-to-C grades in 2003, compared with a national average of 50.7 per cent.

In key stage 2 tests, 83 per cent of Chinese children gained the benchmark level 4, compared with 78 per cent of Indian and 75 per cent of white pupils.

The study found that a key factors underpinning their success was the high value they placed on education. This was regarded as a defining aspect of British-Chinese identity and occurred irrespective of pupils' social class and gender.

One pupil described it as "school first, life later", while a parent said education was "a way of life". Chinese families also tended to compete against each other and this added greater impetus for academic success.

One pupil said: "For the Chinese, being clever is a good thing ... it's like a competition." The study found that many parents worked long hours to pay for supplementary tuition for children and some youngsters studied seven days a week.

The Chinese pupils interviewed did not appear to be affected by teachers'

negative stereotyping.

Dr Francis said: "When we asked the pupils what they thought about these assumptions they disputed them. Girls in particular believed that they were good students and both they and boys felt confident about themselves and their studies."

Dr Francis said teachers sometimes held negative views because Chinese pupils did not conform to the Western models of what student should be - which is hard-working but also challenging and questioning.

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