I think this presents a problem for gifted and talented young Asian students who could be seen to be “living on the margins of two cultures” (Nuthall, 2007). Tensions may exist between the culture of school and the culture of home for students of different ethnicities from that of the majority European culture of our schools. For example, how many teachers of Asian ethnicity are there in our schools and centres, I wonder?
I think too, that there is a prevailing discourse in society of the hard working, high achieving but not particularly social Asian student which is often reinforced by populist literature. But is this really the narrative for these able adolescents of Asian ethnicity? We actually know little about how these students think and feel about being positioned in this way because this is a group of learners about which very little research has been carried out.
Further, if there is a cultural expectation to achieve highly for some of these students how do they reconcile this with the NZ anti-intellectual discourse that is still evident in our schools (Tapper, 2014)? The high achieving Asian lawyer, Mai Chen, referred to this in her speech at the 2013 ‘Women of Influence’ awards, when talking about her schooling experiences in New Zealand:
“When you don’t achieve you’re dumb. When you do well, you’re up yourself” (Mai Chen, 2013).
Chen also maintains that although it is a fact that students of Asian ethnicity are represented in significant numbers in top achievement results across a range of areas, there seems to be what she refers to as a “bamboo ceiling” (Mai Chen, 2013) for these young people when they leave school and tertiary institutions as highly qualified young people. The top jobs are harder to get for Asian professionals.
All interesting wonderings, I believe, and wonderings which point to the ever growing diversity of gifted and talented children and young people who are experiencing school in Aotearoa New Zealand. If we are to really provide appropriately for this diversity we need to appreciate and understand the developing identities of all our culturally diverse young people. I would love to see educators from our field spend more time talking to, and learning from, gifted and talented Asian learners as they work to bridge the gap between their two cultures.
Written by Dr Louise Tapper, Chair of giftEDnz The Professional Association for Gifted Education.