Culture, Family and Chinese and Korean American Student Achievement: An Examination of Student Factors That Affect Student Outcomes

By Braxton, Richard J. | College Student Journal, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Culture, Family and Chinese and Korean American Student Achievement: An Examination of Student Factors That Affect Student Outcomes


Braxton, Richard J., College Student Journal


This study determined that there is a distinct and intimate relationship between Asian American culture, family and student achievement. The purpose of this study was to describe how culture and family impact Asian American student achievement using a qualitative method of inquiry resulting in a single case study. Results of this study suggest that saving family "face", home study environment, and parental encouragement affects Asian American student achievement. This study allowed the participants to reconstruct their educational, family and school experiences, and to elaborate on the meanings they assigned to those experiences. The narrative voices of participants are used to explain "how" culture and family influenced their achievement. Data collected was instrumental in assessing and evaluating their experiences. This case study was designed to help college admissions officers and academic affairs personnel better understand alternatives ways of serving diverse populations.

Introduction

When looking at the nationwide college and university enrollment figures one might walk away with the impression that minority participation in higher education is on the rise. That is only a half truth. Indeed the total numbers have increased over the past twenty years, but the actual percentage rate of minority enrollment and participation has declined in recent years. The enrollment and participation rates of African American, Hispanic, and Native American continues to decline while their high school graduation rates continues to increase.

Bennett (1994) contends that with the exception of Asian Americans, minority participation rates continues to decline, particularly among males. Many scholars believe that poverty and poor academic preparation are the root causes of the decline in minority enrollment and participation. According to Bennett (1994, p. 664), "the relationship between socioeconomic level and educational attainment is well documented, and financial concerns explain why some minorities and poor Whites drop out of high school or enter the workforce rather than college after completing high school." However, Bennett fails to explain why some groups in particular, Asian Americans, are not experiencing the same rates of decline as their minority counterparts.

One explanation for this soar in enrollment is immigration. Asian American immigration increased drastically in the past twenty years. Another plausible explanation may be due to culture and family influence. Does culture and family influence student achievement? Why are Asian Americans experiencing more academic success than other minorities?

The purpose of this study was to understand how culture and family affect Asian American college-going student achievement. This study was in the qualitative tradition which led to a single case study. This study was based on a series of semi-structured interviews which detailed the educational experiences of three Chinese American students and one Korean American student attendees from a single northwest university. The number of participants used was small given the time frame in which the study was conducted. This study attempted to explain "why" and Asian American college-going students are academically successful. The results suggest that culture and family exert considerable influence on college-going Asian American student achievement.

Research on Culture, Family, and Student Achievement

There is a large body of literature on cultural capital and student achievement. Cultural capital is a "tool kit" consisting of certain knowledge, skills, and styles and is transmitted from parents to their children (Farkas, 1996). Farkas (1996) contends that family is the primary vehicle of cultural transmission. Instead of examining culture as some abstract element, Farkas argues that the influence of culture is passed from parent to child through certain skills, habits, and styles that increases their child's cognitive abilities.

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