School life is happier if you're South Asian
Hong Kong's South Asians are happier at school than Chinese pupils, a survey shows, with their religious beliefs and less pressure from parents cited as the likely reasons.
Asked to rank their level of satisfaction at school, South Asian children - first or second-generation Indian, Pakistani or Nepali immigrants - gave a mean rating of 4.45 out of six.
This compared with 3.81 for local-born Chinese pupils and 3.96 for children born on the mainland. The small number of overseas-born non-Chinese students reported the highest level of satisfaction with school life, giving a rating of 4.5.
South Asians were also happier about family life, with a satisfaction rating of 4.64, compared with 4.23 for local Chinese pupils and 4.26 for those from the mainland. They also had higher self-esteem than the two Chinese groups.
The survey found that pupils with religious beliefs were more satisfied with various aspects of their life, including their living environment, family, school and relationships with friends. Those who prayed every day were most content with their 'self' or who they were.
Dr Celeste Yuen Yuet-mui, associate professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education's department of education policy and leadership, carried out the survey from the end of last year to this summer. She collected 1,920 questionnaires from five secondary schools whose students had different backgrounds.
'South Asians tend to come from religious families, which give them different values from Chinese families' who put more emphasis on academic excellence, said Yuen, who was motivated to carry out the survey by the rising number of pupils committing suicide. 'Religious faith helps one ascribe meaning to life and gives a sense of control and purpose.'
Gender and age appeared to play a part, too, in the respondents' level of personal satisfaction. Younger pupils were happier at school, with a rating of 4.27 out of five, compared with 4.05 for those in senior forms. Among all respondents, junior form Muslim girls appeared to be the happiest, Yuen found.
Older Chinese boys were the least satisfied. They are at a disadvantage because their parents tend to have high expectations for them, Yuen says. The expectation for males to excel is a deep-rooted traditional Chinese value, said Yuen, who is planning to interview the pupils again for a follow-up study.
'Those in senior forms may wonder what prospects they have if they cannot enter university.'
Those who remain dissatisfied with their school life and family are at risk of developing anti-social behaviour, Yuen warns.
'Schools should review their guidance and counselling programmes in order to meet students' social and emotional needs. Pastoral care is needed for senior form students because those who are not performing well academically and are ignored by their teachers may give up on themselves. Schools should help them discover more career paths.'
Proportion of Hong Kong's population of Indian, Pakistani or Nepalese descent in 2006
Source: Census and Statistics Department