Asians view ability differently. They believe environmental forces dominate, and that children have similar potentials at birth but develop at different rates. Therefore, anything is possible if one works hard enough. Of course, there is great variation in the strength of this belief across families in Asia, but in general, parenting and teaching practices reflect this perspective. As a group, Asians hold very high expectations for their children and encourage even the youngest children to work hard.
Very soon after I arrived in Singapore and began to interact with children, families, and teachers, I realized that that my favorite theories about children’s development, my approach to working with families, my long held conceptions of ability and talent development, and my core beliefs about how relationships are formed and strengthened might not be relevant. I had a lot of learning ahead of me.
A decade later, my conclusion is that diversity has more facets than I can count. It is more than gender, age, culture, religion, race, ethnicity, or ability. Context matters. It interacts with everything else to shape who we are, what we believe and how we view ourselves and the world. I have decided that the only way I can truly begin to understand diversity is to remain open, suspend judgment, listen well and ask a lot of questions. I hope that if I maintain this practice, I will grow my capacity to understand, empathize, and help.