Why Do Some Asian Parents Take Academics So Seriously?

Growing up as an Asian-American, academics were one of the most important things my parents wanted me to excel. In all honesty, it wasn’t so much of a struggle since I enjoy learning and I am grateful for the education I’ve received so far. Now comes the question, why do Asian parents take academics so seriously?

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I recently watched a South Korean drama titled “SKY Castle.” This show is about high-class parents who do whatever it takes to get their children accepted into the most prestigious universities and medical schools in South Korea. This means hiring professional private coaches, having strict study schedules created by the parents themselves and making their children study at an academy for over 12 hours every day. The show ends with all the parents realizing that education isn’t the most important thing in life. They come to understand that the happiness of their children comes first.

Although there is a happy ending for the main protagonists, the ending scene of the drama shows that there are still parents out there who make their child’s education the first priority. They do this by spending thousands of dollars on private coaches and lessons. In the end, it all goes back to the greed of the parents wanting their kids to study harder so they can climb up the ladder of success.

This demonstrates the reality of parents forcing education onto their children even though they know what consequences might come from it.

Why exactly is education so important in the Asian culture and why do Asian parents want their children to study well?

I will break it down into three main ideas:

1. Education is seen as the only path to success. 

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Many Asian parents believe education to be the only path to success. In Western culture there are many other ways to be successful. We see that through Steve Jobs, who dropped out of college and created one of the largest technology companies in the world. This isn’t the case for Asian parents; most Asian parents want their kids to have opportunities and be successful which is why they push their kids towards higher education (i.e. university/college) to learn the skills needed to be successful.

2. Having a successful education will lead to a job with a stable income.

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In order to be considered successful, Asian parents want their kids to have a career that has a high income. There’s a stereotype that Asian parents want their kids to be doctors, lawyers or engineers. That’s because these occupations lead to having a high paying salary and will also be considered successful in the parent’s eyes. Not all Asian parents are like this, but the majority of Asian-Americans do experience being told what career they need to choose. Their parents want them to have a stable income and lifelong job that will be secure.

3. Being successful with academics earns good merits for the family.

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In the South Korean drama “SKY Castle,”  one of the daughters is told to keep studying because her parents want her to be accepted into this prestigious medical school. The parents and grandmother want her to be the third generation doctor in the family. Being able to earn merits for the family is why parents push education so much. Sometimes parents measure each other’s success by the success of their children. Having children who are successful means that the parents have done a good job raising them, leading them to gain respect from other parents and relatives.

Earning good merits for the family through academics is important for the Asian community because of its collectivist culture. Collectivism emphasizes the importance of needs and achievements as a whole group over the desires of each individual. Being a part of a collective culture means you might have to sacrifice certain parts of your life for the sake of the family or the culture itself having a good reputation. This can explain why the success of their children is so important to Asian parents.

It is important to note that these three points aren’t the only reasons Asian parents take academics so seriously. Personally, my parents want me to do well in academics because they want me to have a good future and pursue my own goals. They don’t push their own goals onto me or my siblings which is something I respect. There are Asian parents who just genuinely want their children to be happy and education is just one aspect that can bring success in life.

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From my experience and the experiences of those around me, Asian parents have become more lenient in letting their children choose their paths. Since Western culture advocates freedom and choice, I believe Asian parents in the United States are starting to see that success and happiness don’t only come from their children’s academic achievements. This might be different from what Asian parents are like in the countries of Asia but that’s a whole other topic which I won’t be getting into today.

As an Asian daughter, I’m glad to say that my parents weren’t so strict about my education but they gave me the choice to make it a priority in life. Because of their encouragement and acceptance, it has encouraged me to continue on with my studies as a college student. With that said, I hope you are able to get a glimpse at why Asian parents might take academics so seriously and why it’s so important to some.