Another Scholastic Year Begins – Asian Educational Differences

With the exception of locations south of the equator, September brings about a new scholastic year for many students. It’s sad to see the sunshine and warm weather fade away, but for many of us, it is exciting to reconnect with fellow peers. At one point in time I began to wonder if it was any different for individuals going to school in Asia. I definitely remember hearing about the kindergarten entrance examinations for Hong Kong students, and of course the uniforms. Somehow it sparked some interest researching into the school life in Asia. Perhaps it may bring some key behavioral elements unique to Asia and may explain why Asian Males behave in a particular way.

When I speak of the educational differences I loosely regard it to K-12 and Post-Secondary education. I will admit that most of my influence comes from Hong Kong but I am certain there are many similarities across Asia.

The Beginning of it All – Kindergarten

Unlike where I reside in Canada, students are free to choose their elementary, junior high (7-9), and high school (10-12). The educational model is open access for public and separate (mostly Catholic) schools. There are some private schools, but for the most part K-12 education is covered by the government (Provincial). From what I remember, in order to achieve a successful path, an Asian family must plan their child’s scholastic path from kindergarten. A good kindergarten will lead to a good junior high and high school, and then to post-secondary. Since there is limited space, there is really only one way to get accepted, be the best. Trivial things such as arithmetic (yes, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) was something my former classmates (moved to Canada later as a child) had to prepare for.

Examinations

While it may differ across Asia, the majority of examinations are still strongly based on rote memorization. What makes matters worse is that after an exam, the scores are publically posted for the eyes of society. Not only do you see your score, you know exactly where on the “totem pole” people are after the assessment. The brightest students are awarded with praise from the teacher and the bottom-feeders are placed under public shame and pressure to perform better. This feels completely absurd in my opinion, but I have been raised in an environment where information such as this must be kept private and it is protected by government legislation. Shame does exist beyond parenting, and the general public, it exists among your classmates for supposedly healthy competitive reasons.

I would not even be remotely surprised if there were monetary incentives for those who achieve perfect scores, or even if the teacher was offered financial bonuses for the number successful students. When I talk about successful, I mean those who have the ability absorb information and regurgitate it as proof of amazing memorization skills. It doesn’t matter if you understand what is written in the book, as long as you can recite the information perfectly. Personally, skills such as empathy, critical thinking, creativity, mediation, positive criticism, or innovation have no place in many Asian education systems.  While I am not saying the rote approach is wrong, I am simply stating the inflexibilities of the system. Not everyone is meant to be a brilliant analytical stoic genius, but the perceived status is simply too powerful to be ignored. This is probably the result of government policy to eliminate any potential threats by pacifying its nation.

Uniforms & the Classroom

Along with my fellow North American colleagues, we did not have uniforms K-12 or in Post-Secondary.  We pretty much had free “tasteful” reign of clothing choices, but with my strong Asian influences, I often ended up defaulting into my most versatile “Asian” color: black. Perhaps it just matched my hair, or it was the fact that it black was the easiest color to work with. I admit I have changed my ways, but it must have been a style in the 80’s and 90’s. Otherwise it was silver, the alternate choice for our electronics and motor vehicles.

Outside of North America, uniforms are commonly used for K-12 education. While some may agree it has a standard clothing appearance for its users, I would also believe there are problems created because of it. Hypothetically, if everyone had the same clothes, the evaluation of a person in a school setting is really by two ways – grades and appearances. We have gone over the grades but when it comes to appearances, since it is standardized when someone has bad acne, poor body weight control, or bad hygiene, they are immediately identified and end up ostracized from their own peers. As I have talked about in previous articles, shame is what regulates Asian society, and not guilt. To stand out as an individual may lead to incarceration.

What makes matters even more difficult is the nature of a class. More commonly than anything I have seen a hybrid cohort system for K-12 classes – especially for Japan. The class remains in the classroom and different teachers for different subjects move around the school. This seems counter-intuitive to North American standards for secondary and post-secondary where students freely move from class to class. Often there is a class representative who acts as the liaison for the class, and assists with their fellow peers in the school cleaning duties. While this does have a strong militaristic approach, to be successful requires strong obedience and hard work. I appreciate the discipline put into their education, but I wonder if it truly robs Asians of their own identities and just being a caring human being.

The AMWF Link

The reason for writing this was to find another reason why Asian Males behave in such a manner. Yes we often have to deal with strict parents and possibly and overbearing mother, but do we blame that on Confucianism or just the way things were, and still are? Our own Asian education system produces excellent students who shine in rote memorization, but have been so hammered into subdued obedience designed for introverted professions such as the common doctor and dentist – whereby both are highly respected and well paid. Other skills in manufacturing and processing are useful as well.  The sad truth is that I believe that it makes us into a quantifiable unit of labor – not a person.

This is one of the greatest issues when it comes to AMWF relationships. A White Female needs to be with someone who cares for them as a human being. Someone who listens to her, respects her, and is willing to show his love beyond the provision of physical means. I am not saying attraction is not required, but when I talk about concerns like this, I mean for long-term and permanent relationships that expand to marriage and family.

There really is no absolute perfect approach to solving this situation either. Asian Males will not be able to leverage their rote memorization skills, but have to develop a new set of skills – an emotional capacity, and a willingness to be emotionally generous as well. It is definitely not an easy task either. Even I am always learning how to be a better man, but when I was younger there were definitely times where my AMWF relationships fell apart because of my aloofness. It’s a work in progress.

Just remember Asian Males, as Bruce Lee says, “Don’t think – feel.”

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7 Responses to Another Scholastic Year Begins – Asian Educational Differences

  1. Vv says:

    I need to vent a little since your article discusses developing emotional capacity. My Chinese boyfriend who is absolutely in love with me (and I with him) confuses me with his actions. This man works relentlessly to make our future together possible (in the same country) and believe me, I’m consistently Wow’d by his ability to achieve results, work hard and do everything on his own accord. There are other ways which he makes me totally comfortable with him and his feelings for me. HOWEVER……. what is the deal with the lack of communication when we are not face2face together. This is a problem a few western girls I know have with their chinese boyfriends. Further more, the communication is not only infrequent, but very (very!) brief and rather uninteresting… such as “how are you? How is your health? How is your work?”

    Really?!?! Is that all? I spend all day waiting to speak with him, perhaps even a few days… and when I’m in England even weeks before he contacts me (however, that was before we were officially together).. so when the conversation remains so “practical”, I am left rather dissapointed.

    Now what interests me, is that I know this man is in Love with me.. yet, he doesn’t ask deeper questions to find out more about my personality. Now, ofcourse one of the reasons could be a) the distance between us (usually I’m in the UK, he in China, this will be until I graduate in 2 years). Whereas I would talk for much longer time and about a much wider variety of things.

    But when it comes to practical things- Chinese men are the go-to guys for safety. For eg. when I recently took a train journey in China, my bf called to make sure that I got to the train station, then that I got on the train.. that I arrived…

    I think it’s safe to say that Western women find lack of conversation as a lack of interest in us. I think this is something you have already touched on in previous posts.

    I’ve even mentioned that I’d rather he doesnt call me at all, if he will need to be so brief. Well, that didn’t take any effect.

    And due to the brief convo’s… I cannot even find the time to bring up the things I’d really like to talk about, or even mentioned that western women find lack of conversation as a lack of interest.

    Alas, I wonder what use would it really be anyway. After all, I know this man is working harder for US then I could have ever imagined my husband to. All of the energy he spends on his work is for making our future together..

    But quite frankly, I wonder, how much of his dedication to his work is for US and how much is due to his own personal greediness to achieve his goals.

    I hope any guys reading this will take away the main points of what I’m saying in this rather long message, and if you DON’T want your girlfriend posting on random sites or talking to random people about your relationship, then perhaps you should spend longer time WITH her or TALKING with her. Understand the importance of WORK-LIFE balance. And in my case, WORK-WIFE(to be hehe) balance.

    • AMWF Love says:

      Thanks for venting Vv,

      This is one of the most difficult things to deal with when it comes to AMWF Relationships. I know you understand that your Chinese boyfriend works relentlessly at his job to “provide” for you – but being raised with a Western mentality, the being the breadwinner isn’t everything to life.

      In all honesty there really is no substitution for hard work – that is exactly how we achieve our professions or have rewarding careers by sacrafice. What we tend to fail to realize as Asian Males is that hard work alone is insufficient for a relationship. There are elements of communication, empathy, understanding, nuturing, and intimacy involved – and not just a car, house, and a career. (Yes those are very nice things to have, but that’s only half the picture).

      The story is the same for myself and my friends growing up. Our Chinese parents did not express their relationship and love for each other in the Western-style. Instead it was more of a long term companionship. They talked to each other about how work went, and really just spent time together. Yes my dad did buy the flowers for special days and never forgot important dates, but it always looked like they were best friends more than anything. They are still happily married together and I absolutely have no doubts my parents love each other.

      I wouldn’t say it is wrong for our approach as it is very pro-family orientated. When relationships progress into marriage and development of new families, having an Asian Man dedicated to working for his wife and kids is a good thing – granted that if that is only it, it can be boring and unfufilling.

      The main thing you need to realize is that you need to keep reaching out to him. In Asian Families, the husband is the workhorse, and the wife is the loving director. She sets the tone of the household and general conduct. For your Chinese boyfriend the only way he might be able to show his love is to work even harder for you, and if you never show appreciation for it (which I know you express your gratitude), he will just work even harder hoping you will. I know it’s a sad thing to say, but it is the truth. I suppose I am more fortunate because of my Western upbringing and I have a dual-identity of Asian and Western values. For those who are born and raised in Asia, it is more difficult, but not impossible. 🙂

      – Brian

      • Vv says:

        Thanks for getting back so quick Brian, and I can see that my comment was well received and you gave me so much to think about.

        I would like to mention that in our case I doubt that the incredibly hard work he puts in is to provide for me, as he was ambitious far before I met him. Perhaps since he met me he became even more focused and dedicated to his goal. So there is a small part of me which thinks the “providing for the family” part could be an excuse for men who are workaholics, but I guess in Chinese culture, that is how you set yourself above the rest and how a poor man can make all the difference in his life. Come to think of it, my bf is from a farmer’s background even though he is successful in what he does, perhaps he feels all the pressure to turn everything around for his family, considering he is the one who was born under the lucky stars. So interesting how conversation can make you come to your own realisations, but if only he would tell me these things himself, instead of me having to spend my days thinking over something he could tell me in 2 minutes. Or even worse, I have been in trouble with him in the past for speaking our private things to other people… but the long distance, language barriers AND a lack of interest to talk??? Well, come on! I have to talk to SOMEONE! lol!

        When you say about your parents: they talked about work and spent time together.. I wonder, what type of activities to Chinese married couples do to spend time together (both from your generation and ours). One classic of my boyfriend after a year of not being with eachother hahah and this one will never go out. Me: ” We should do things together more”Him ” Like what” Me: “Anything, it doesn’t matter”. He” You mean go to a restaurant together” Me” Yes, something like this. This is ok.” Him: “But why, we did that last year?”

        …………

        Believe me, this one will never drop. But what is fascinating is that he really means the why. When I suggested taking walks together or something like this, he would just ask me why… perhaps he means if there is something specific I would like to do. Anyway, you can’t get these laughs with a boyfriend/ girlfriend from the same culture! lol!!!!

        I’m taking heed of your advice to keep reaching out to him but I don’t want to be a nag! If I’m honest, I don’t have much experience in relationships or GOOD men!

        I would really like you to write an article about what you mention the role of the wife as the Loving Director. I would love to have the skills to become just that! In fact, I have been so consumed in thought of how I can be a good wife to him, and I’m not getting very good answers anywhere! How can I set the tone of the household and general conduct? What does a Traditional Chinese guy finds as supportive, loving etc. OUTSIDE of cooking,cleaning and having a child… which seem to be the answers I get….

        So I guess an article on the expectations of and how to be a good wife to an Asian Man together with what makes the AM swoon with emotional pleasure (hehe) would be pretty handy!

        He really does so much for me, yet I don’t really know what my role is yet. Even when I told him that I can’t cook, he exclaimed “no problem! I’ll cook!” oww I love my anti-social boyfriend. hehe

      • AMWF Love says:

        Thanks Vv I totally didn’t realize you changed your alias (only recognized the yingyangjinfeng on the mouseover),

        That is sure an awful lot of writing you have there. Sounds like there has been a lot on your mind lately and you haven’t had somewhere to talk it out. I’m glad I could help you speak what’s on your mind.

        The workaholic mentality is ingrained in our minds as we are raised by our parents. Clever parents will place their children in extra curricular academics activities, Asian language school, piano/violin lessons, and/or religious/community events. Somehow we have this belief that the harder we work, the better things will become – that which I believe only works when the marginal input equals to the marginal output. My father to this day is a workaholic and I remember him working 12-14 hours a day 6-7 days a week. He believes it was because of his discipline and hard work in his profession that he managed to get well established at a very young professional age. (I would say anywhere from 10-15 years sooner than most of his colleagues). He did eventually burn out, but picked himself back up and he’s still at it.

        I was fortunate enough to be raised in a single income family. My mother never had to work, and instead she raised the kids with love and care (I didn’t have a “Tiger” Chinese Mom). Despite the fact that I agree with you on the workaholic excuse, even I would love to be the sole income earner and my wife would have the option of working – probably part-time just really to be around others and still enjoy life.

        When it comes to disclosing your thoughts and feelings about your relationship to others, your Chinese boyfriend does want to be the number one go-to person when there are issues. The problem is with Asian Men is that we don’t understand that we don’t have to solve your problem, it’s about us being there for the woman – sharing our time, ears, and heart. Like any man, we make our decisions on whatever results in the least frustration. “If there’s a problem, then solve it” – that is our mantra, but it doesn’t always work. You have to understand as Asian Males, when we are with our best guy friend, we don’t even share our deep secrets with anyone (maybe family depending on how close we are to them). Perhaps our pride keeps us from asking others for help – that’s why women are much smarter with a support network of friends and family. I can understand the agony you face because you really do want to communicate with him, but it feels like he is unable to reciprocate anything.

        In terms of spending time together for my parents generation it’s really just being around each other. I can honestly say it really comes down to two things: walking together, and eating together (maybe with family and friends). Walking could just mean around the neighbourhood, a vacation, or the shopping mall (yes Asians guys for the most part are willing to shop with their woman). It’s kind of a soft companionship glow more than some burning passionate desire. Food is very central to Asians, the dinner table is where family gathers and most celebrations involve food. Granted I will never know what my parents did before I was born, but now that I have grown up, they have completely mellowed out. I don’t think it’s a bad thing being completely comfortable with each other, but I know that because I willingly choose to be in an AMWF relationship I have to do much more than provide.

        Anyways I had a small laugh reading some of your past classic conversations. While I tried to think it through with my Chinese side, I came up with the conclusion that the lines between dating and being together are very blurred. For us Westerners we might have a progress that goes from hanging out, dating (like going on first dates), seeing each other, exclusively dating/seeing, and marriage (or cohabitation in some odd circumstances). For Asians its like, being friends, then being companions, and then committing seriously to each other through marriage. What makes matters even more difficult is that speaking of intimacy is taboo in most Asian societies so all we really have left as Asian Males is to give gifts, spend time with her, and hopefully through all our acts of love the feeling is mutual. What happened to the emotional/spiritual connection or comunication? Well, for Asian Male Asian Female relationships that’s just how it works. In all honesty, it really isn’t there. The Asian Female understands how society operates so it is more managable at times.

        It’s a real shame it happens like that because as Asian Males we wanted to impress our lady of interest to be with us. It wasn’t about the great emotional connection, the thought-provoking conversations – only the fact that we hoped to see that lady again. Over time, the dating becomes more of a serious commitment to each other and it is just spending time together (like accompanying). In a strange sense I don’t think they are considered dates anymore. When I think of the Cantonese words for dating, in context it seems to apply for new couples (you will have to ask your boyfriend about it, because the closet related word is “escorting”). The other word would literally mean “walking the road/street together”. Actually to be honest historically polygamy was something to be proud of. The more wives you had the more respect you had from others. This was because the man had to support them all (like their own home, car, etc) and it showed how wealthy they were. Times have changed, but with the older Chinese men I can sense they hold to their traditional polygamous viewpoint. Where did all the emotional connection and intimacy go? Honestly, I’m not even so sure they developed it to the levels of Westerners which is a huge problem for AMWF relationships.

        Anyways before this gets way too long, the secret way to nagging is not to nag to him, but to his mother who can veto her son. You really need to have his family on your side if you really want significant influence. If what you have to say is something beneficial to him and the family then you will definately have a strong case to say something. However, some issues they don’t understand won’t work either.

        Until I actually write a full article on what Asian Men want from women, I’ll simplify it like this: Asian-Asians want their woman more Asian like. Westernized Asians born and raised outside of Asia don’t mind a White Female slightly Asian-like, but they would much rather accept their White Female as a person more than anything. They definately do want to impress their parents with a woman who can deal with the Asian mindset – it’s a case by case situation. I will have to write that article another time. I hope this is enough for you to read! 🙂

        – Brian

  2. Vv says:

    Hi Brian,

    Again, thanks for taking your time to get back to me and so quick, and thank you for sharing your personal experience!

    Yup, deffo a lot on my mind lately, but I think there always is and you touch upon that the WF will think more deeply about things, whereas my bf seems to be perfectly happy just the way things are and I’m not sure if that is such a bad thing AT ALL. I think I would probably learn from that and become more that way. There are perks in both approaches.

    I would ask you to consider writing an article on the main chinese values for Chinese when raising children, as I would like to learn more about this topic. If I’m honest, one of the things that made me fall in love with China when I first came last year was how kindly children were being doted on by parents in a manner I liked very much. Though, ofcourse the whole “be the best in the class or else” pressure is not my cup of tea.

    It’s very strange that you mention AM like to be the number one go to when there are issues, because in fact, my AM always beckons me to contact him if there is something wrong straight away. When my money was stolen this summer, I don’t know if he was more happy or peeved when he replaced the whole sum of the stolen money because he was the hero. haha

    Thanks for the insight that AM don’t share their private thoughts even with some of their best friends or family. I have also seen this.

    I have more funny stories, maybe I will share in the future. hehe All I know is that I am 100% confident in him and his feelings, the rest is just details.

    About the emotional/ spiritual connection and intimacy, well, that is not lacking at all between us, however the emotional side is MUCH better developed when we are face to face and in different ways to what WF are used to. At the moment, there are no mind blowing stimulating conversations yet, gestures like the one I mention earlier also do wonder to build a strong bond! When we are physically together, he doesn’t shut up (although still not about interesting life topics) but add the distance and then can barely get a word out of him edge ways. I have several girlfriends who have this problem with their totally committed but anti-social Chinese boyfriend. lol

    Why you wouldnt want to talk with your lover/girlfriend/ wife about more than “how are you? How is your health? How is your family? How is your work?” just BOGGLES the mind….

    • AMWF Love says:

      Thanks for commenting Jin Feng, 🙂

      The reason why we tend to talk about the petty issues like how work was is the fact that indirectly it just shows appreciation for the relentless work we put in. Traditionally Asian Males are used to grueling hours and little communication with others. Really I could think of only two people an Asian Male can vent to: his romantic interest or family. When we talk about work, it’s more of an opener to lead into complete unwinding. This decompression time is common in all males regardless of their Asian heritage. When I look back at many Asian Male Asian Female relationships, the Asian Female always has things to rant about. It does start out with “how was your day?” but then it ends up being a whole venting affair. This is fairly easy to deal with as an Asian Male providing that the whole problem isn’t himself but some external issue. I mean you can’t jump straight into very personal questions until the conversation develops – which does need a little bit of a push.

      In regards to Chinese values or Asian values, I have written about the primary background to our whole family value system. I would say the most significant contributor to Chinese and Asian values stem from Confucanism and filial piety. They way we behave in society has been passed through over a thousand years to the point that we assume that it’s normal to have these qualities. Really the main principle is to show utmost respect for people above your rank (family members senior to your age) and below your rank (siblings, younger cousins, etc). The phrases, traditions, and other gestures can be learned over time providing that you understand what it means to completely submit into senority. At times I find it backwards and suffocating, but I do appreciate the family unit.

      The problem with family values is that it is sort of dependent on the values of the elders of the family. Hopefully good traits and habits are passed down to family members, otherwise things like greed and jealousy can rip families apart. As rosy as I would like to view our Asian values, I also see many shortcomings especially when it comes to being raised in a global society. The immense pressures we face from family and our own pressures to perform can either vault us into success or more likely than often become our own demise. What others see and think of us is deemed more important than what we think of ourselves – that is why bullying is so effective on Asians.

      Somehow that just reminds me about dating in general. Who would possibly want to date a passive scrawny Asian Male who may be brilliant and caring, but does not exhibit strong alpha qualities like his Caucasian, Latin American, or African colleagues? Believe me I’ve had my fair share of rejections (more than you would think), but I shrug it off. It really wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes I wonder if it is easier for the White Female to go to the Asian side in contrast to the Asian Male going over to the Caucasian side. I’d imagine the latter to be more difficult intitially. In the long run, I would think it would be easiest with a Westernized Asian Male with a Caucasian female because of the strengths in language and communication. Unfortunately when I think about that, there are a far smaller portion of Asians Males born outside of Asia than ones born in raised in Asia. Where I live in Canada, AMWF is remains fairly uncommon, and WMAF is much more prevalent.

      Bonds take time to develop in a relationship, and occur in their own unique ways. I think the real underlying and most critical thing is to get to the point where the couple are never in doubt of each other’s feelings for each other. Sometimes we do have a hyper-sensitive nature to us that we do our best to suppress. We really love spending time with our White Female love, and we really do try our best to give the world to her. Our silence should not always be interpreted as lacking enthusiasm or dissatisifaction, but hopefully a quiet approval. Actually it could mean a lot of things, depending on the situation. However as long as we are absolute about long term relationship potential, the anti-social behaviours of Asian Males are minor issues (can be dealt with).

      May we all find love. 🙂

      – Brian

      • Vv says:

        Sorry for the delay, have been settling back in. Wow I thought I was OK but a few days after leaving China and WOOOOSH I got the China fever. I refuse to eat with a fork and I’m trying to continue with a similar lifestyle to what I had back home in China. Anyway, sorry to stray, back to the topic at hand..

        What you said here- “passive scrawny Asian Male who may be brilliant and caring, but does not exhibit strong alpha qualities like his Caucasian, Latin American, or African colleagues”…. I would date this Asian, as long as he wasn’t passive!

        I don’t know, at the moment I’m thinking a lot about this lack of need/want for communication from my Chinese better half. In fact, I admire his wisdom and strong resolve to focus on work. In fact he confirmed that his attention was at the moment 70% on work and 30% on me but already we are facing challenges such as long distance, communication barriers and cultural difference, why the hell should I hang out to be scraping the bottom of his priority list. (This is what any White Female is thinking in a situation like this).

        On the other hand, as long as we know we are loved and that the work is to benefit both of US then we should find the strength to hold in there. But this is by no means OK. Priority should be family first.

        In life there will be many challenges and priorities, with time management being very important generally. Any man or woman should find some type of a balance between work and wife, otherwise no- way- Jose are we getting married or having a baby if already I’m not prioritised!

        The question is how to share the Western beliefs and values to a traditional Chinese guy who is already sweet and set in his ways, whilst keeping cool and being a good girlfriend haha.

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