The image of Asian-Americans as a homogeneous group of high achievers taking over the campuses of the nation’s most selective colleges came under assault in a report issued Monday.
The report, by New York University, the College Board and a commission of mostly Asian-American educators and community leaders, largely avoids the debates over both affirmative action and the heavy representation of Asian-Americans at the most selective colleges.
But it pokes holes in stereotypes about Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, including the perception that they cluster in science, technology, engineering and math. And it points out that the term “Asian-American” is extraordinarily broad, embracing members of many ethnic groups.
“Certainly there’s a lot of Asians doing well, at the top of the curve, and that’s a point of pride, but there are just as many struggling at the bottom of the curve, and we wanted to draw attention to that,” said Robert T. Teranishi, the N.Y.U. education professor who wrote the report, “Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight.”
“Our goal,” Professor Teranishi added, “is to have people understand that the population is very diverse.”
The report, based on federal education, immigration and census data, as well as statistics from the College Board, noted that the federally defined categories of Asian-American and Pacific Islander included dozens of groups, each with its own language and culture, as varied as the Hmong, Samoans, Bengalis and Sri Lankans.
Their educational backgrounds, the report said, vary widely: while most of the nation’s Hmong and Cambodian adults have never finished high school, most Pakistanis and Indians have at least a bachelor’s degree.
The SAT scores of Asian-Americans, it said, like those of other Americans, tend to correlate with the income and educational level of their parents.
“The notion of lumping all people into a single category and assuming they have no needs is wrong,” said Alma R. Clayton-Pederson, vice president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, who was a member of the commission the College Board financed to produce the report.
“Our backgrounds are very different,” added Dr. Clayton-Pederson, who is black, “but it’s almost like the reverse of what happened to African-Americans.”
The report found that contrary to stereotype, most of the bachelor’s degrees that Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders received in 2003 were in business, management, social sciences or humanities, not in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering or math. And while Asians earned 32 percent of the nation’s STEM doctorates that year, within that 32 percent more than four of five degree recipients were international students from Asia, not Asian-Americans.
The report also said that more Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders were enrolled in community colleges than in either public or private four-year colleges. But the idea that Asian-American “model minority” students are edging out all others is so ubiquitous that quips like “U.C.L.A. really stands for United Caucasians Lost Among Asians” or “M.I.T. means Made in Taiwan” have become common, the report said.
Asian-Americans make up about 5 percent of the nation’s population but 10 percent or more — considerably more in California — of the undergraduates at many of the most selective colleges, according to data reported by colleges. But the new report suggested that some such statistics combined campus populations of Asian-Americans with those of international students from Asian countries.
The report quotes the opening to W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1903 classic “The Souls of Black Folk” — “How does it feel to be a problem?” — and says that for Asian-Americans, seen as the “good minority that seeks advancement through quiet diligence in study and work and by not making waves,” the question is, “How does it feel to be a solution?”
That question, too, is problematic, the report said, because it diverts attention from systemic failings of K-to-12 schools, shifting responsibility for educational success to individual students. In addition, it said, lumping together all Asian groups masks the poverty and academic difficulties of some subgroups.
The report said the model-minority perception pitted Asian-Americans against African-Americans. With the drop in black and Latino enrollment at selective public universities that are not allowed to consider race in admissions, Asian-Americans have been turned into buffers, the report said, “middlemen in the cost-benefit analysis of wins and losses.”
Some have suggested that Asian-Americans are held to higher admissions standards at the most selective colleges. In 2006, Jian Li, the New Jersey-born son of Chinese immigrants, filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department, saying he had been rejected by Princeton because he is Asian. Princeton’s admission policies are under review, the department says.
The report also notes the underrepresentation of Asian-Americans in administrative jobs at colleges. Only 33 of the nation’s college presidents, fewer than 1 percent, are Asian-Americans or Pacific Islanders.
Two new reports document the continued growth in the overall number of students coming to the United States from other countries. Those pursuing undergraduate degrees in so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields make up 45% of the undergraduate total, and their share of the graduate pool is even larger. But within that broad picture are some surprising trends involving China and India, the two countries that supply the largest number of students (see graphic, above).
One is that the flow of Chinese students into U.S. graduate programs is plateauing at the same time their pursuit of U.S. undergraduate degrees is soaring. Another is the recent spike in graduate students from India occurring despite a continuing small presence of Indian students at the undergraduate level.
In August, ScienceInsider wrote about a report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) on the most recent acceptance rates for foreign students at U.S. graduate programs. Last week the report was updated to reflect this fall’s actual first-time enrollment figures. And yesterday the Institute of International Education (IIE) issued its annual Open Doors report, which covers both undergraduate and graduate students from elsewhere enrolling in the United States as well as U.S. students studying abroad.
According to IIE, 42% of the 886,000 international students at U.S. universities in 2013 to 2014 hailed from China and India. China makes up nearly three-fourths of that subtotal. In fact, the number of Chinese students equals the total from the next 12 highest ranking countries after India.
This year’s IIE report also includes a look at 15-year trends. For example, foreign students compose only 8.1% of total U.S. enrollment, but their numbers have grown by 72% since 1999, making international students an increasingly important part of U.S. higher education.
Their presence has long been visible within graduate programs in science and engineering fields, of course. But the new Open Doors report documents a surge in undergraduate enrollment from China, to the point where it almost equals the number of graduate students in the country—110,550 versus 115,727. In 2000, the ratio was nearly 1-to-6.
Trying to understand such trends keeps university administrators up at night. And the more they know, the better they can be at anticipating the next trend. That’s why ScienceInsider turned to Peggy Blumenthal. She’s spent 30 years at IIE, most recently as senior counselor to its current president, Allan Goodman, and that longevity has given her a rich perspective on the ebb and flow of international students. Here is her perspective on what’s moving the needle for Chinese and Indian students.
An explosion of Chinese undergraduates
The numbers: Chinese undergraduate enrollment in the United States has grown from 8252 in 2000 to 110,550 last year. Almost all of that growth has occurred since 2007, and there has been a doubling since 2010.
The reasons: A high score on China’s national college entrance examination, called the gaokao, enables a Chinese student to attend a top university and can punch their ticket to a successful career. It requires years of high-stress preparation, however. A growing number of parents choose to remove their children from that pressure cooker, Blumenthal says, and look for alternatives abroad. The chance for a liberal arts education at a U.S. university is an attractive alternative to the rigid undergraduate training offered by most Chinese universities, she adds.
The U.S. system of higher education, Blumenthal says, offers Chinese families “a unique opportunity to shop” based on the price, quality, and reputation of the institution. The cost of out-of-state tuition at a top public U.S. university is a relative bargain for China’s growing middle class, she notes, and community colleges are dirt cheap.
Recent changes in immigration policies have made the United Kingdom and Australia less desirable destinations among English-speaking countries, according to Blumenthal. She also thinks that U.S. colleges have built a sturdy support system based on their decades of experience in hosting foreign students. “In Germany or France you’re pretty much on your own” in choosing classes, completing the work, and earning a degree, she says. “Nobody is there to help if you’re having trouble.”
Flat Chinese graduate enrollment
The numbers: The CGS report says that the number of first-time graduate students this fall from China fell by 1%, the first time in the decade that it has declined. Thanks to that dip, the growth in the overall number of Chinese graduate students on U.S. campuses slowed to just 3% this fall, compared with double-digit increases in recent years. U.S. academic scientists may not be aware of this emerging trend because of the sheer number of Chinese graduate students on U.S. campuses. IIE puts the number last year at 115,727, and the CGS report says they represent one-third of all foreign graduate students.
The reasons: Chinese graduate students have more options at home now. “China has pumped enormous resources into its graduate education capacity” across thousands of universities, Blumenthal says. An increasing proportion of the professors at those universities have been trained in the United States and Europe, she says, and upon their return they have implemented Western research practices. “They are beginning to teach more like we do, publish like we do, and operate their labs like we do.”
At the same time, she says, the added value of a U.S. graduate degree has shrunk in relation to a comparable Chinese degree. “That’s not true for MIT [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] or [the University of California,] Berkeley, of course—those degrees still carry a premium in the job market,” she says. “But for the vast majority of Chinese students, it’s not clear that an investment in a U.S. degree is worth it, especially when the rapid growth of the Chinese economy has created such a great need for scientific and engineering talent.”
In the United States, a tight job market often translates into more students attending graduate school in the hope that it will give them an edge. But high unemployment rates among college graduates in China haven’t created a potentially larger pool of applicants to U.S. graduate programs, she says, because those students are not competitive with their U.S. peers.
“They are probably not English speakers and would have trouble passing the TOEFL [an assessment of English language skills],” she surmises. “So they might only get into a fourth-rate U.S. graduate program.” In contrast, she says, U.S. graduate programs have historically gotten “the cream of the crop” from China. And if a larger proportion of those students can build a career in China, fewer need apply to U.S. graduate programs.
Few Indian undergraduates
The numbers: India barely registers on a list of originating countries for U.S. undergraduates. Compared with China, home to 30% of all U.S. international undergrads, Indian students compose only 3% of the pool. And the overall total for 2013—12,677—actually reflects a drop of 0.5% from 2012.
The reasons: Top-performing Indian students are well-served at the undergraduate level by the country’s network of elite technology institutes, known as IITs. India has also never had a strong connection to the United States at the undergraduate level, according to Blumenthal. In addition, she says, “many Indian parents are reluctant to send their girls abroad, especially at the undergraduate level.” By contrast, she says, China’s one-child-per-family rule has meant that they have “one shot at success, male or female.”
Soaring graduate enrollment from India
The numbers: The incoming class of Indian students for U.S. graduate programs is 27% larger this year than in 2013, according to CGS’s annual survey. And that increase follows a 40% jump in 2013 over 2012. However, CGS officials note that the Indian numbers have historically been more volatile than those from China; the increases for 2011 and 2012 were 2% and 1%, respectively.
The reasons: U.S. graduate programs have benefited from several recent developments that, together, have opened the floodgates for Indian students. For starters, India’s investment in higher education hasn’t yet had much effect on graduate education, Blumenthal says. Unlike in China, she says, “in India there’s been very little effort to upgrade the quality of the faculty.”
At the same time, it’s becoming harder for graduates of India’s universities to follow the traditional path of doing their further training in Britain or Australia, as many of their professors had done in previous generations. For the United Kingdom, tuition increases, visa restrictions, and a tightening of rules for those seeking work permits after college have all created greater barriers to entry, Blumenthal says. “It sends a message from the U.K. government that [it’s] not really interested in international students,” she says. “They are now regarded as simply another category of immigrants” rather than a valuable future source of intellectual capital.
In Australia, Blumenthal notes, there’s a growing backlash against earlier government attempts to recruit more international students. “People think they let in too many,” she says. “They didn’t fit in, they didn’t speak English, and there was a perception that they were taking away jobs from Australians.”
A recent strengthening of the rupee against the U.S. dollar has made U.S. graduate education more affordable for the middle class, she adds. And sluggish economic growth in India has meant fewer jobs for recent college graduates.
Foreign Student Dependence
New report provides breakdown on international enrollments by discipline and institution, showing that there are graduate STEM programs in which more than 90 percent of students are from outside the U.S.
International students play a critical role in sustaining quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate programs at U.S. universities, a new report from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) argues.
It will come as no surprise to observers of graduate education that the report documents the fact that foreign students make up the majority of enrollments in U.S. graduate programs in many STEM fields, accounting for 70.3 percent of all full-time graduate students in electrical engineering, 63.2 percent in computer science, 60.4 percent in industrial engineering, and more than 50 percent in chemical, materials and mechanical engineering, as well as in economics (a non-STEM field). However, the report, which analyzes National Science Foundation enrollment data from 2010 by field and institution, also shows that these striking averages mask even higher proportions at many individual universities. For example, there are 36 graduate programs in electrical engineering where the proportion of international students exceeds 80 percent, including seven where it exceeds 90. (The analysis is limited to those programs with at least 30 full-time students.)
Graduate Electrical Engineering Programs With More Than 90 Percent International Enrollment
|University||Number of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents Enrolled Full-Time||Number of International Students Enrolled Full-Time||Percent International Enrollment|
|University of Texas at Arlington||16||229||93.5|
|Fairleigh Dickinson University||3||42||93.3|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||31||400||92.8|
|University of Houston||16||180||91.8|
|State University of New York at Buffalo||19||189||90.9|
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||21||201||90.5|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||11||105||90.5|
National Foundation for American Policy analysis of National Science Foundation data from 2010.
“International students help many universities have enough graduate students to support research programs that help attract top faculty and that also thereby help U.S. students by having a higher-quality program than they otherwise would have,” said Stuart Anderson, NFAP’s executive director and author of the report. Without them, he said, “you’d see a shrinking across the board where you’d have just certain schools that are able to support good programs. That would lead to a shrinking of U.S. leadership in education and technology if you have many fewer programs with high-quality research and top-level professors.”
“To some extent this reflects some of what’s going on in our society within the U.S. in terms of trying to push for more interest in STEM fields,” said Jonathan Bredow, professor and chair of the electrical engineering department at the University of Texas at Arlington, a program with more than 90 percent international enrollment. “Domestic students tend to be more interested in going out and getting a job right after a bachelor’s degree. Some see a value of getting a master’s degree but in terms of the Ph.D., I think it’s largely seen as unnecessary.”
“There’s a relatively small number of high-quality domestic students who can be accepted into our master’s and Ph.D. programs,” said Leonid Tsybeskov, professor and chair of the electrical and computer engineering department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He added that those domestic students who are strong candidates typically apply to higher-ranked programs than NJIT’s.
Indeed, said Anderson, “You talk to the professors, they say, ‘O.K., if we were MIT or Stanford we could get all the top U.S. students,’ but by definition there are only a few of those schools. Obviously everyone can’t be MIT or Stanford. » At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the proportion of international students in graduate electrical engineering programs is 52.5 percent and, in computer science, 35.3 percent. At Stanford, 56 percent of graduate electrical engineering students and 43.7 percent of graduate computer science students are international.
The report also emphasizes the value that international students can bring to the U.S. economy after graduation as researchers and entrepreneurs. Measures that would make it easier for STEM graduate students to obtain visas to work in the U.S. after graduation – measures that many in higher education see as crucial to the U.S. maintaining its edge in attracting international graduate students — are pending in Congress (and are included in the comprehensive immigration bill recently passed by the Senate).
« This report is very well-timed,” said Julia Kent, director of communications and advancement for the Council of Graduate Schools. “Obviously, for the policy reasons — the pending legislation about STEM visas — and second because there is data out there right now which suggests that we have some cause for concern in this country about the flow of international graduate students to the United States which we have always counted on. There is now more competition for international graduate students. Other countries are developing policies to promote the influx of foreign students to their shores, and there are also ways in which the current economy in the United States has reduced funding support for graduate students, which makes it more difficult to attract students to U.S. programs with attractive funding packages.”
CGS data on applications to U.S. graduate schools released in April show that total international applications grew by a meager 1 percent this year and that there were actually drops in applications from certain key sending countries, including China (-5 percent), South Korea (-13 percent) and Taiwan (-13 percent). On the plus side, applications from India increased 20 percent.
« It’s too soon to know how this data will actually affect enrollments, but the preliminary data show that there is some cause for concern,” Kent said.
Graduate Computer Science Programs With More than 90 Percent International Enrollment
|University||Number of U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents Enrolled Full-Time||Number of International Students Enrolled Full-Time||Percent International Enrollment|
|San Diego State University||13||160||92.5|
|Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi||6||70||92.1|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||35||392||91.8|
|University of Missouri at Kansas City||8||81||91|
|University of New Haven||5||49||90.7|
|San Jose State University||35||323||90.2|
|Fairleigh Dickinson University||6||55||90.2|
National Foundation for American Policy analysis of National Science Foundation data from 2010.
Voir par ailleurs:
The Chosen The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale and Princeton By Jerome Karabel Illustrated. 711 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $28.
Nick Carraway and Sherman McCoy went to Yale. Amory Blaine and Doogie Howser went to Princeton. Oliver Barrett IV and Thurston Howell III went to Harvard. Charles Foster Kane was thrown out of all three. What these fictional characters all have in common, of course, is that they are all white, privileged males — completely representative figures, until the late 1960’s and early 70’s, of the student population at those three Ivy League schools.
In his informative but often vexing new book, Jerome Karabel, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, looks at the admissions process at the so-called Big Three and how the criteria governing that process have changed over the last century in response to changes in society at large. His book covers much of the same ground that Nicholas Lemann covered — a lot more incisively — in his 1999 book « The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, » and it also raises some of the same questions that Jacques Steinberg, a reporter for The New York Times, did in his 2002 book, « The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College. »
Mr. Karabel writes that until the 1920’s, Harvard, Yale and Princeton, « like the most prestigious universities of other nations, » admitted students « almost entirely on the basis of academic criteria. » Applicants « were required to take an examination, and those who passed were admitted. » Though the exams exhibited a distinct class bias (Latin and Greek, after all, were not taught at most public schools), he says that « the system was meritocratic in an elemental way: if you met the academic requirements, you were admitted, regardless of social background. »
This all changed after World War I, he argues, as it became « clear that a system of selection focused solely on scholastic performance would lead to the admission of increasing numbers of Jewish students, most of them of eastern European background. » This development, he notes, occurred « in the midst of one of the most reactionary moments in American history, » when « the nationwide movement to restrict immigration was gaining momentum » and anti-Semitism was on the rise, and the Big Three administrators began to worry that « the presence of ‘too many’ Jews would in fact lead to the departure of Gentiles. » Their conclusion, in Mr. Karabel’s words: « given the dependence of the Big Three on the Protestant upper class for both material resources and social prestige, the ‘Jewish problem’ was genuine, and the defense of institutional interests required a solution that would prevent ‘WASP flight.’ «
The solution they devised was an admissions system that allowed the schools, as Mr. Karabel puts it, « to accept — and to reject — whomever they desired. » Instead of objective academic criteria, there would be a new emphasis on the intangibles of « character » — on qualities like « manliness, » « personality » and « leadership. » Many features of college admissions that students know today — including the widespread use of interviews and photos; the reliance on personal letters of recommendation; and the emphasis on extracurricular activities — have roots, Mr. Karabel says, in this period.
Despite the reformist talk of figures like the Harvard president James Bryant Conant, Mr. Karabel contends, the admissions policy of the Big Three remained beholden to « the wealthy and the powerful. » And despite changes wrought by the G.I. Bill and the growing influence of faculty members, the Big Three still looked in 1960 much as they had before World War II: « overwhelmingly white, exclusively male and largely Protestant. »
Mr. Karabel reports that on the eve of President John F. Kennedy’s election, the three schools were « still de facto segregated institutions — less than 1 percent black and, in the case of Princeton, enrolling just 1 African-American freshman in a class of 826. » And while anti-Semitism was officially taboo, he notes, « Harvard rejected three-quarters of the applicants from the Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant that year (compared to just 31 percent from Exeter and Andover) while Yale limited the Jewish presence in the freshman class to one student in eight. »
All that changed in the 1960’s and 70’s, with new admissions policies pioneered by reformers like the Yale president Kingman Brewster and his dean of admissions, R. Inslee Clark Jr., known as Inky. With federal research money and foundation grants pouring into the Big Three, the schools became less dependent on the largess of their alumni, and a radically altered social environment — galvanized by the civil rights and student protest movements — spurred the impetus for change.
« By the mid-1970’s, » Mr. Karabel writes, « the formula — that is, the new admissions criteria and practices — used by the Big Three had been fully institutionalized: need-blind admissions, no discrimination against women or Jews, and special consideration for historically underrepresented minorities as well as athletes and legacies. »
It is Mr. Karabel’s thesis that these sorts of changes were adopted by the Big Three out of a desire « to preserve and, when possible, to enhance their position in a highly stratified system of higher education. » The institutions were « often deeply conservative » and « intensely preoccupied with maintaining their close ties to the privileged, » he writes, arguing that when change did come it almost always derived from one of two sources: because « the continuation of existing policies was believed to pose a threat either to vital institutional interests » (i.e., Yale and Princeton decided to admit women when they realized that their all-male character was hobbling them in their efforts to compete with Harvard for the very best students) or « to the preservation of the larger social order of which they were an integral — and privileged — part » (i.e., the Big Three’s adoption of vigorous race-based affirmative action after the race riots of 1965-68).
Although Mr. Karabel’s narrative becomes mired, in its later pages, in a Marxist-flavored philosophical questioning of the very idea of meritocracy, his account of changing admissions policies at Yale, Harvard and Princeton serves a useful purpose. It puts each school’s actions in context with the others’ and situates those developments within a broader political and social context. While at the same time it shows, in minute detail, how the likes of Nick Carraway, Oliver Barrett IV and Amory Blaine went from being typical students at the Big Three to being members of just one segment of coed, multicultural and increasingly diverse student bodies — if, that is, they could even manage to be admitted today.
La spectaculaire réussite des enfants d’immigrés asiatiques se confirme au bac. Et pourtant, leurs parents s’impliquent peu dans leurs devoirs, mais ils veillent à leurs horaires, les placent souvent dans le privé et jouent à fond la carte du bilinguisme.
À force d’entendre «si j’avais eu ta chance…», ils sont d’autant plus motivés. Leurs parents sont venus de loin et ont choisi la France pour offrir à leur progéniture un meilleur avenir.
Les jeunes Asiatiques ont particulièrement bien compris la leçon et fusent comme des comètes au-dessus du lot. Lycée, bac, études supérieures, ils se montrent performants à chaque étape. «Petits déjà, ils redoublent peu à l’école», assure Yaël Brinbaum, co-auteure de l’étude Trajectoires et Origines conduite par l’Insee et l’Ined. Plus de 60% d’entre eux seront orientés dans des filières généralistes. Plus que la moyenne nationale (50%).
Parmi les enfants de non bacheliers, les jeunes d’origine asiatiques se distinguent tout particulièrement. Ils seront encore 60% à décrocher le bac ,contre 50% pour les autres. Un quart iront jusqu’à bac+3 voire plus lorsque seulement 16,5% des descendants d’immigrés y accèdent.
Moins de télé, plus de bibliothèques
Paradoxalement, les familles d’origine asiatique sont celles qui s’impliquent le moins dans les devoirs, réunions de parents d’élèves et rencontres avec les professeurs. «Les mères ne parlent pas très bien français, les pères ont des métiers très prenants. Par contre, ces familles croient fortement à l’école et investissent énormément sur la scolarité de leur enfant. Ils sont très exigeants», explique Jean-Paul Caille, ingénieur de recherche au ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur.
Les parents ne se mettent pas au bureau de leur enfant, mais s’assurent qu’il est sérieux dans son travail. «Ils contrôlent plus le temps devant la télévision, les horaires du coucher. Il faut aussi que les loisirs soient compatibles avec l’école, comme des cours d’apprentissage de leur langue maternelle». Ce bilinguisme est un trésor qu’ils soignent. Les mères d’Asie du Sud-Est sont celles qui parlent le plus leur langue maternelle à la maison (57%). D’après Jean-Paul Caille, les jeunes d’origine asiatique fréquentent plus que les autres les bibliothèques et sont deux fois plus que la normale à prendre des cours particuliers à l’entrée en sixième.
Travail rigoureux et autorité parentale stricte et aussi une meilleure naissance. Les parents d’origine asiatique investissent plus sur la scolarité car ils en ont les moyens. Là où environ 75% des jeunes d’origine turque ou portugaise ont des parents ouvriers, employés de service ou inactifs, ceux d’origine asiatique ne sont que 58% à exercer dans ces fonctions. «Souvent, leurs parents sont artisans, commerçants, tiennent des bars tabac et gagnent bien leur vie. Ils sont les enfants d’immigrés qui bénéficient des conditions socio-économique et origines sociales les plus favorables». Ce portefeuille plus fourni leur permet d’être 15% à fréquenter un collège privé, soit deux fois plus que les enfants d’origine marocaine ou turque.
Pourtant moins d’un tiers des jeunes d’origine turque a le bac
Les autres enfants d’immigrés tentent aussi de se distinguer. À classe sociale équivalente, ils feront mieux que le reste des Français. Mais les parcours sont inégaux selon le pays d’origine des parents, tout comme le traitement des élèves à l’école. 14% des enfants d’immigrés -trois fois plus que la moyenne- déclarent «avoir été moins bien traités» lors des décisions d’orientation. Une discrimination dont ne semblent pas souffrir les jeunes originaires d’Asie du Sud-Est, qui s’en déclarent à peine plus victimes que la moyenne.
Les 10 raisons du succès des Chinois en France
Dans cet article je vais expliquer les principales raisons qui font que la communauté chinoise en France réussit mieux que les autres communautés immigrées d’une manière générale.
Selon la seule étude disponible sur le sujet, publiée par l’Insee et l’Ined,
- 27% des descendants de parents asiatiques occupent aujourd’hui un poste de cadre,
- contre 14% en moyenne pour les Français toutes origines confondues,
- 9% pour les fils de Maghrébins
- 5% pour ceux d’Afrique subsaharienne.
48% des Français d’origine asiatique décrochent un diplôme du supérieur, contre 33% en moyenne en France. Enfin une autre statistique remarquable de l’étude : 27% des enfants d’immigrés chinois sont cadres, contre 14% en moyenne pour les Français
Comment expliquer une telle percée, alors que tant d’autres immigrés – et de Français de souche – peinent à gravir l’échelle sociale ?
- Le travail
- Une communauté soudée
- Un système de financement efficace
- Une hyperfocalisation sur la réussite scolaire des enfants
- L’enrichissement de la Chine
- La méconnaissance de la culture chinoise
- Une communauté peu politisée
- L’accent mis sur le pragmatisme dans la culture chinoise
- Une volonté de réussir (La « Face »)
- Le sens des affaires chinois
C’est un peu le grand cliché : le chinois est bosseur. Un cliché qui comme tous devrait être sérieusement relativisé notamment par des français qui aiment à s’adonner à une forme d’auto critique. Mais comme tout cliché il y a peut être une part de vérité.
Aujourd’hui on compte 600 000 Français d’origine chinoise. Certes plusieurs dizaines de milliers d’entre eux travaillent encore sans papiers comme petites mains dans la confection, la maroquinerie ou le bâtiment, pour des salaires de misère. On a tous en tête le passage de la vérité si je mens dans la fabrique chinoise clandestine.
Mais, après des années de labeur, beaucoup ont fini par s’en sortir en reprenant un commerce – restaurants, épiceries, fleuristes ou bars-tabacs. Ils en détiendraient désormais près de 35 000 ! Certains commencent même à créer des chaînes de magasins (la plus connue d’entre elles, l’enseigne Miss Coquine, compte près de 80 boutiques en France), ou encore à lancer leurs propres marques (Miss Lucy, par exemple).
Une communauté soudée
Contrairement à la majorité des étrangers présents en France – et en particulier aux Maghrébins, dont les différentes nationalités et ethnies ne s’apprécient guère – la plupart des chinois peuvent compter sur le soutien de leurs compatriotes.
Un système de financement très efficace
Les Chinois pratiquent un système de prêts proche de la « tontine » Africaine : les membres de la famille et les proches mettent une partie de leurs économies dans un pot commun, dans lequel les membres de la diaspora puisent pour monter leur affaire. Il n’y a pas d’intérêt ni même durée de remboursement fixe. La tontine repose sur la confiance, confortée par la réciprocité des dons : ceux qui reçoivent doivent eux-mêmes offrir de l’argent aux autres, notamment à l’occasion de leur mariage. Ces prêts informels, qui peuvent facilement atteindre plusieurs dizaines de milliers d’euros, sont une clé essentielle dans la réussite de la diaspora chinoise.
Après avoir économisé en moyenne 160 000 euros pendant une dizaine d’années, de nombreuses familles chinoises peuvent s’acheter un commerce sans passer par la case prêt bancaire ce qui ne manque pas d’alimenter le débat sur l’origine des fonds.
Une hyperfocalisation sur la réussite scolaire des enfants
Depuis plus de mille ans, les élites de Chine sont recrutées par un système d’examen national accessible à tous, qui permet aux plus pauvres de se hisser tout en haut de la pyramide. Résultat : même lorsqu’ils quittent leur patrie, les adultes s’échinent au turbin et ils poussent leur progéniture à en faire autant à l’école. La focalisation sur la réussite scolaire fait partie des valeurs familiales chinoises. Ceci est vrai pour l’ensemble des asiatiques en France :
L’enrichissement de la Chine
Si la Chine n’avait pas connu un boom économique depuis la fin des années 70, les migrants ne s’en sortiraient pas de façon aussi spectaculaire. La montée en puissance de l’empire du Milieu leur a en effet ouvert des opportunités immenses notamment dans l’import-export. En fait, les Chinois de France ont procédé exactement comme des multinationales : ils ont créé des comptoirs commerciaux pour vendre les produits fabriqués en Chine.
La méconnaissance de la culture chinoise
Pour beaucoup de français la culture chinoise reste un mystère. L’ignorance est souvent totale vis-à-vis d’un peuple qui suscite autant d’intérêt que de craintes. Et cette ignorance est un atout sur lequel les chinois peuvent jouer. Il connaissent les codes des chinois avec qui ils négocient. Certains réseaux commerciaux à la limite de la mafia profitent de cette opacité de la communauté chinoise.
Une communauté peu politisée
Il y a une communauté assez puissante de français d’origine chinoise en France mais qui est très discrète et qui réussit. Le communautarisme chinois a longtemps été un communautarisme de séparation. Les chinois pour parler de façon brutale n’ont jamais emmerdé les français, jamais fait dans le communautarisme victimaire. Ils ne reprochent pas la colonisation à la France, ils réussissent économiquement ce qui fait qu’il y a très peu de racisme anti chinois.
En fait souvent les chinois en France ne prétendent pas vraiment être assimilés mais ne posant pas de problèmes finalement on ne leur demande que l’intégration. C’est le contraire du communautarisme victimaire des autres minorités avec des institutions politiques telles que le CRAN (Conseil Représentatif des Association Noires) ou encore le CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France).
Néanmoins aujourd’hui avec la création du CRAF (Conseil Représentatif des Associations Asiatiques de France) ont peut s’interroger pour savoir si une forme de communautarisme victimaire asiatique ne va pas être mis en place.
Certains estiment à tort selon moi que le succès économique des chinois en France tire profit de leur retard dans leur reconnaissance politique. Ce serait un succès en trompe l’œil. Voici un exemple de revendications antiracistes qu’on peut entendre ces temps-ci provenant de représentant souvent auto-proclamé de la communauté asiatique :
L’accent mis sur le pragmatisme dans la culture chinoise
Les chinois contrairement à l’image de sagesse teinté d’exotisme de beaucoup de français sont sans doute le peuple le plus pragmatique du monde. L’accent est toujours mis sur le consensus et l’efficacité (le maximum d’effets pour un minimum de coût) ce qui facilite leur intégration. Ce pragmatisme chinois est selon moi tout entier contenu dans la phrase célèbre de Deng Xiaoping au moment du virage réformiste des années 80 : « peu importe que le chat soit gris ou noir pourvu qu’il attrape les souris ».
Une volonté de réussir (La « Face »)
Les chinois ont une volonté de réussir qui est d’abord assez matérialiste. Réussir c’est d’abord devenir riche. Mais cela renvoie aussi à la notion de « face » en Asie. On peut le traduire par l’honneur, la volonté de ne pas déchoir. C’est particulièrement vrai pour les membres de la diaspora dont on attend qu’ils ramène le plus de devises étrangère possible. C’est l’oncle d’Amérique sauce chinoise…
Le sens des affaires chinois
Les chinois sont avant tout un peuple de commerçants. Leurs réseaux sont issus de la diaspora, forme de solidarité au fond assez proche de ce qu’a pu être la communauté juive dans la France d’avant guerre. Souvent les membres de la diaspora qui ont le mieux réussi sont approchées par de riches Chinois, désireux d’investir en France, notamment dans l’immobilier.
Alors les chinois : enfants modèles de l’intégration Républicaine à la française ? Le débat est ouvert