"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Asian Americans Value "Elite Credentials": A Misplaced Belief?

What matters to a person is shaped by what that person perceives as important to others. If a society places a high value on education then it is very likely that an individual that belongs to this community also values education. As I was growing up in the Philippines, one thing became clear - people in the Philippines valued awards or honors in schools. Elitism is ingrained among Filipinos. A college degree from either one of the perceived top schools, Ateneo, University of the Philippines, and de la Salle University, means a lot. This perception is actually not far from reality as JobStreet reports, these three universities do occupy the top spots in terms of alumni occupying top executive posts. It is no wonder then why Filipinos view education as a contest. And this frustrates educators like this principal from Claro M. Recto Memorial School:



The principal above is reminding fellow educators that the Department of Education had already removed ranking of students in basic education. There are no more 1st, 2nd or 3rd honors. Instead, students should now be recognized simply based on their own record without comparison with others. Old habits are obviously hard to break. In fact, such habits probably stay with people even after they immigrate to a different country. This elitism may not even be uniquely Filipino but also prevalent among Asian Americans. Here is a piece of data that supports this notion. According to Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou, "Asian-Americans are 6% of the U.S. population but comprise more than one-fifth of the entering classes in the country’s Ivy League universities."

Sadly, this maybe a misplaced belief in the United States. Jennifer Lee and Karthick Ramakrishnan have recently provided a preview of a book they are preparing on Asian Americans in a commentary in the Charlotte Observer. They write:
A recent report on leadership diversity at top technology companies found that Asian Americans are the racial group least likely to be promoted into managerial and executive ranks. White men and women are twice as likely as Asians to hold executive positions. And while white women are breaking through the glass ceiling, Asian women are not.
Thus, albeit Asian Americans are able to enter elite universities - they are unable to occupy top executive posts. And here are the reasons Lee and Ramakrishnan provide:
...our research also indicates that Asian Americans are less likely than white and black Americans to engage in civic activity, which is strongly correlated with corporate leadership.
According to the Current Population Survey, 17.9 percent of Asian Americans engage in volunteerism, compared to 26.4 percent of whites and 19.3 percent of blacks. Our analysis of the 2016 National Asian American Survey shows that only 59 percent of Asian Americans make charitable contributions, compared to 68 percent of whites and 65 percent of blacks. This lack of engagement outside of work is handicapping Asian Americans in their careers.
Competition is unfortunately more pervasive than collaboration. And in the Philippines, this is in fact one big problem with basic education. Competition means getting ahead. It is the direct opposite of equity in education. Ensuring success for every student is vital to improving educational systems. With elitism, it is therefore impossible to improve Philippine basic education.


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