Francois Legault, leader of the new Coalition party of Quebec, recently criticized the work ethic of today's Quebecois youth and concluded they should study harder, like their Asian-Canadian peers. But how wise is this suggestion?
Asian teenagers are indeed among the hardest working of all high school students. So says the American Time Use Survey, which concluded that Asian-American high school students averaged 13 hours of study per week over the entire calendar year compared with 5.5 hours for white students, and even less for other students.
Asian teens do work harder. I don't need a study to prove this to me. I have seen it time and time again in my children's schools and in my own experience at school. Many of the highest ranking schools in Canada are located in mostly Asian sections of Markham and Richmond Hill, Ontario. A good percentage of their students attend enrichment tutoring classes so they are always one step ahead of the teacher. They spend hours studying every night and know, without a doubt, that not only will they attend university but that they will excel in it.
But what price do these students pay for all that extra studying?
The American Time Use Survey shows that Asian children spend less time doing sports and socializing than any other ethnic group. Time and time again, pediatric studies have demonstrated the importance of both these activities in the lives of children and youth.
Asian students are often under tremendous pressure from their parents to excel academically. I have seen - on numerous occasions - teens in high school devastated because they only received an A- on a math test. I have seen a girl in fifth grade burst into tears because her classroom teacher suggested she might benefit from receiving extra help from the resource teacher.
Psychologist Madeline Levine has suggested that young people who come under such pressure may achieve high grades but are more prone to self abuse and despondency about their future.
Highly driven students may also be more likely to take ADHD stimulant medications like Adderall to improve their concentration. At some competitive schools, Adderall is quite a popular drug.
I do not know if Asian youth are prone to Adderall use, self abuse or despondency as there is very little research on mental health issues in Asian-Canadian youth. However, these issues are general concerns among teens who face intense pressure to succeed academically.
On the other hand...
Legault may have a point that Quebec teens might want to work harder on their education and complain less. Quebec has the highest drop out rate in Canada and it is unlikely many of those dropouts are Asian-Canadian. Also, there did not seem to be many Asians involved in the Occupy Montreal protests.
As long as he realizes that people who study intensely do pay a price.
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