64 percent of American parents think they don’t put enough pressure on students according to a new study from the Pew Global Project. Guess which country thinks parents put too much pressure on their children to succeed academically?
If your thought was China, whose economy is growing at about 9 percent, you are very right. The study finds that just over two-thirds (68 percent) of Chinese parents think that there’s too much pressure on children.
Only 11 percent of American parents think that there’s too much pressure on students. 21 percent think there’s just the right amount of pressure.
After China, the countries that feel that there’s too much pressure on students are India (44 percent), Kenya (42 percent) and Pakistan (41 percent). After the US, the countries that say students aren’t being pressure enough are Lithuania (55 percent), Spain (52 percent) and — in an almost-three way tie — the Palestian territories and Brazil (both 49 percent) and Israel (48 percent).
But the discrepancy between the US and China in this particular study is notable, especially in view of the gaps between American and Chinese students. Students from East Asia hold the top five slots in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)’s assessment of reading, math and science skills. US students are ranked 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in reading. In contrast, Shanghai ranked number one, with students in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Finland and Canada. (More about the PISA scores in a post by Care2′s Judy Molland.)
The answer might seem to be that American parents need to put more pressure on their students and push academics — especially science and math — harder. Earlier this year, law school professor Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother book stirred up a parenting controversy. Chua described how she put immense pressure on her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, to be successful (Carnegia Hall-playing, etc.) musicians and success stories by using seemingly draconian measures, like threatening to give away one child’s stuffed animals to the Salvation Army and insisting both children practice for hours everyday, including vacations to foreign countries. Chua’s deep fear was that her American-born, half-Asian children would be “softened” by more permissive American culture, which she directly contrasted to the very tough love of Asian parents.
Some Chinese parents actually said that the sort of harsh and demanding parenting Chua described in her book was characteristic of a previous generation, but that they were more interested in nurturing their children’s individuality and creativity. It’s not clear if such “more permissive” parenting is becoming the standard in China; the proof in the pudding will be if Chinese students’ test scores fall.
GOOD magazine points out that suicide is a leading cause of death among China’s young people; it’s the fifth biggest killer for those aged 15 to 34, according to the China Association for Mental Health. Such figures can’t be automatically connected to the pressure put on Chinese students to succeed academically. Indeed, test scores and even college degrees are not predictors of success; Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who just stepped down as the company’s CEO due to his health, only attended one semester of college.
Is it possible that American parents might be putting too much pressure on themselves to put the pressure on their kids?
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