The communities that constitute the racialized category of Asian Americans consist of approximately 20 million people in the United States, or about 5% of the total population. About 20% or 4 million are of primary or secondary school age, and over 1.1 million are in higher education. Both in popular and academic discourse, “Asian American” generally refers to people who have ethnic backgrounds in South Asia (e.g., Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), Southeast Asia (e.g., Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), and East Asia (e.g., China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan). As “Asian American” is an umbrella term used to categorize a very diverse, heterogeneous, and transnational set of populations, Asian Americans as a group present various challenges to education and research in and about the United States. These challenges can concern paradigms of achievement, citizenship, family involvement, access (e.g., higher education, bilingual education), language and culture, race and ethnicity, and school community.
In order to address these paradigmatic challenges, a great deal of scholarship has called for a disaggregation of the data on populations that fall under the pan-ethnic “Asian America” umbrella term, to gain a more nuanced and dynamic understanding of the many diverse populations and their historical, cultural, economic, and political experiences. To further address the problematic framing of Asian Americans in education and related fields, scholars have applied critical lenses to key tensions within conceptualization, policy, curriculum, and pedagogy. More recently, the notions of intersectionality and transnationalism have been generative in the study of Asian Americans, within not only educational research but also Asian American studies, which generally falls under the field of ethnic studies in the U.S. context, but has also been categorized under American studies, cultural studies, or Asian studies. While characterizations of Asian Americans as “the Model Minority” or “the Oppressed Minority” persist, the relevance of such static binaries has increasingly been challenged as the Asian American populations and migrations continue to diversify and increase.
Autoethnography is an increasingly popular form of postpositivist narrative inquiry that has recently begun to appear in educational contexts. The multiple lineages of autoethnography include the insider accounts of early anthropologists, literary approaches to life history and autobiography, responses to the ontological/epistemological challenges of postmodern philosophies, feminist and postcolonial insistence on including narratives of the marginalized, performance and communication scholarship, and the interest in personal stories of contemporary therapeutic and trauma cultures. Approaches vary widely from fragmented, experimental, performative, and multimodal texts through to realist tales. Advocates claim that autoethnography enables us to live more reflective, more meaningful, and more just lives.
Ming Chee Ang
Despite the fact that Mandarin is not accorded official language status in Malaysia, and that ethnic Chinese communities accounted for less than 30% of the country’s overall population, Malaysia is the only country outside China and Taiwan with a comprehensive and complete Chinese education system. It is also the only country in Southeast Asia that has perpetuated the Chinese education system established during the colonial era.
The prolonged endurance of the Chinese education system in Malaysia is the result of many factors: heavy brokerage and lobbying efforts by ethnic Chinese political leaders; incorporation of vernacular schools into the Malay-dominated national education system in the backdrop of the Malayan nation formation stage; social mobilization of the Chinese education movement in Malaysia; and the increasing significance of Mandarin proficiency in the world.
In particular, the assimilation policies for nation building by the Malay-dominated regime have threatened the cultural distinctiveness of the Chinese-speaking communities. Resistance from the Chinese speaking minorities is manifested through their support of the Chinese schools. Moreover, the elimination of English schools during the 1970s has unintentionally favored the Chinese primary schools. Despite their standing at that time as the “second-best” option after the English school, Chinese schools that offered the benefit of trilingual education, stricter discipline, and more competitive academic performance enjoyed an accelerated boost in student enrollments. More importantly, many parents who do not speak Chinese began to appreciate the quality of Chinese schools, and the enrollment of non-ethnic Chinese students has continued to rise ever since.
Above all, China’s rapid economic ascendancy and growing political influence since the 1990s has enhanced the importance of Mandarin as a global language. This has added value to the importance of Chinese schools as language and cultural learning institutions for Malaysian. Such opportunity has enabled the Chinese school model to become one of the most successful and inclusive educational institutions for multicultural Malaysians.
Paula Groves Price
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.
Race has historically been, and continues to be, a significant issue in all aspects of American society. In the field of education, racial inequality is prominent in the areas of access, opportunity, and outcomes. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a framework that offers researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers a race-conscious approach to understanding educational inequality and structural racism to find solutions that lead to greater justice. Placing race at the center of analysis, Critical Race Theory scholars interrogate policies and practices that are taken for granted to uncover the overt and covert ways that racist ideologies, structures, and institutions create and maintain racial inequality.
In the field of education, CRT is a helpful tool for analyzing policy issues such as school funding, segregation, language policies, discipline policies, and testing and accountability policies. It is also helpful for critically examining the larger issues of epistemology and knowledge production, which are reflected in curriculum and pedagogy. As education is one of the major institutions of knowledge production and dissemination, CRT scholars often push the field to critically examine the master or dominant narratives reproduced in schools and the counter-narratives that are silenced. CRT is a theoretical framework that provides education researchers, policy makers, and practitioners with critical lenses to deconstruct oppressive policies and practices and to construct more emancipatory systems for racial equity and justice.
In 1903, standing at the dawn of the 20th century, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote that the color line is the defining characteristic of American society. Well into the 21st century, Du Bois’s prescience sadly still rings true. Even when a society is built on a commitment to equality, and even with the election of its first black president, the United States has been unsuccessful in bringing about an end to the rampant and violent effects of racism, as numerous acts of racial violence in the media have shown. For generations, scholars of color, among them Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Franz Fanon, have maintained that whiteness lies at the center of the problem of racism. It is only relatively recently that the critical study of whiteness has become an academic field, committed to disrupting racism by problematizing whiteness as a corrective to the traditional exclusive focus on the racialized “other.”
Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) is a growing field of scholarship whose aim is to reveal the invisible structures that produce and reproduce white supremacy and privilege. CWS presumes a certain conception of racism that is connected to white supremacy. In advancing the importance of vigilance among white people, CWS examines the meaning of white privilege and white privilege pedagogy, as well as how white privilege is connected to complicity in racism. Unless white people learn to acknowledge, rather than deny, how whites are complicit in racism, and until white people develop an awareness that critically questions the frames of truth and conceptions of the “good” through which they understand their social world, Du Bois’s insight will continue to ring true.
Hannu Simola, Jaakko Kauko, Janne Varjo, Mira Kalalahti, and Fritjof Sahlström
The international debate on Finnish educational “success” had made relevant a cultural and historical analysis of Finnish education, with a focus on the effects of the ongoing preoccupation with the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results on basic education. Such international comparisons demand a strong theoretical approach, in part because the contrastive analysis of empirical “facts” and “realities” requires that they be situated in relation to their local and, in this case, national systems and contexts. It may be assumed that the quantitative indicators agreed on in intergovernmental negotiations between senior bureaucrats do indeed provide valid comparisons of education systems, as is the conventional wisdom in the field of economics. Nevertheless, these remain value-loaded collections of indicators of development that offer at best parallel lines of comparative analysis. The Finnish case argues for strong theory-based conceptualizations as the basis for, first, complex comparison and, second, shared models of policy action and intervention.
The comparative education field faces four interlinked challenges. First, there is a lack of theory building and development in the field, where politically and ideologically motivated investigative large-scale assessment practices are defining the state of the art. Second, the focus of the studies tends to be on empirically measurable end products instead of documented processes, which makes it possible to generate competitive rankings but reveals little about specific and shared developmental processes in educational systems. Third, although complexity and contingency are widely accepted in the social world on the general level, they appear to seldom reach empirical studies; the vast majority of standard approaches still advocate simple explanatory models. Finally, and paradoxically enough, there is a form of intellectual nationalism that inhibits the conceptualization and understanding of the relationship between, for example, transnational processes and nation-states. In this regard, comparative education needs a strong and ambitious theory-based framework with the potential to incorporate sociohistorical complexity, cultural relationality, and sociological contingency. Without a strong theory-driven approach, it is hard to go beyond merely listing the similarities and differences that facilitate the rankings but blur the processes.
At the research unit for Sociology and Politics in Education (KUPOLI) at the University of Helsinki, a new conceptualization was formulated in early 2010s and an ambitious research plan, Comparative Analytics of Dynamics in Education Politics (CADEP), was launched. The thesis was that to progress beyond the state of the art and arrive at a comparative understanding of educational systems, it would be necessary to focus on dynamics, with a view to grasping the fluid and mobile nature of the subject. This heuristic starting point echoed relativistic dynamics in physics, characterized as a combination of relativistic and quantum theories to describe the relationships between the principal elements of a relativistic system and the forces acting on it. It is curious that, though on the conceptual level the dynamics of a system are constantly referred to as being among its key attributes, there has been little progress on the analytical level in the social sciences since the seminal work of Pitirim Sorokin in the 1950s. The CADEP develops conceptually the theoretical understanding of dynamics to resubmit a specific social field of education to scrutiny by analyzing the relations between the main actors and institutions and essential discursive formations and practices. It is assumed that given its connection with relations and movement, the concept of dynamics will not reduce a mobile and fluid subject of study to a stagnant and inanimate object. There are four constitutive dynamics that make the Finnish educational success story understandable. Success and failure in basic education seem to be relative, and to reflect intertwined dynamics in policymaking, governance, families’ educational strategies, and classroom cultures. The emphasis of the understanding is on the contingent, relational, and complex character of political history.
In 1982, Denny Taylor coined the term “family literacy” to reference the ways young children and their parents interact around texts. Since then, the term family literacy has generally been applied to the practices that occur in homes to support young children as they become readers and writers. However, 30 years later, this definition negates the full scope of possibilities that might inform our understandings of the literacy practices that occur within home spaces and among family members. These possibilities reflect two important trends increasingly recognized within literacy research communities. First, technological advances have affected the ways people read and write and the multimodal literacy practices that have come to define literacy in families and homes. These developments are often the focus of New Literacy Studies as defined by the New London Group and others. Second, while generally not addressed in terms of family literacy, a substantial and growing body of research has documented the out-of-school literacy practices of adolescents and youth. Many of these literacy practices are enacted and displayed in home settings. While connections between out-of-school literacy practices and family literacy are generally not explicit, homes and families provide significant social contexts that are critical to engaging in technological, peer-informed, and popular culture practices. In short, family literacy does not end once children learn to read. In contrast, family literacy assumes new forms and involves new modalities that both echo and extend the literacy practices found within families. This is significant, as it challenges conceptions of adolescent and youth literacy as being separate from the literacy practices of families.
To extend what is meant by family literacy, it is redefined as more than traditional activities that involve young children with texts. Instead, researchers are challenged to consider the full range of literacy practices that occur among family members and within homes across time. In doing this, family literacy and new literacy studies are brought together. Thus, the term family/home literacy is used to recognize not only the literacy practices that are enacted between children and parents, but the full range of literacy practices that occur among all family members—including siblings, extended family members, and friends. In short, family/home literacy practices are intertwined with home literacy affordances, which include the texts, opportunities, and technological resources that are available and used in homes. In order to explore family/home literacies over time, children’s literacy practices, including traditional and technological family/home literacy practices, are explored. Issues raised include parental mentoring of school-age children as they encounter new technologies at home, the adaptation of available resources by children as they move into and through adolescence, and transactions involving texts (both traditional and digital) among adolescents, young adults, and their parents.
Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Dustin W. Louie, Aubrey Jean Hanson, and Jacqueline Ottmann
The need to decolonize and Indigenize education stems from shared experiences of colonialism across the globe. In a world divided by ongoing conflict, and fueled by issues of power and control, the need to closely examine the ways that education has served hegemonic interests will help to inform future educational initiatives as well as serve as a form of reparation for those Indigenous peoples who have endured the dire consequences of colonialism. Present-day efforts to reclaim, restore, and revitalize threatened traditions are supported by international bodies such as the United Nations, in tandem with a range of approaches at national levels.
Decolonizing education entails identifying how colonization has impacted education and working to unsettle colonial structures, systems, and dynamics in educational contexts. We use the term education in these descriptions broadly to name the sociocultural task of understanding ways of knowing and being (epistemological and ontological systems) and the ongoing formation and transmission of knowledges: for instance, we mean both formal education as structured through Western schooling and other forms of education such as those traditionally practiced within Indigenous families and communities. Decolonizing education fits within larger understandings of decolonization and Indigenization at socio-political levels. However, these undertakings address in particular the colonization of the mind, of knowledge, language, and culture, and the impacts of colonization at personal and collective levels of physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, and intellectual experience. In this time of transition, the work of decolonizing schooling necessarily precedes that of Indigenizing education for most educators and learners; yet, in keeping with Indigenous knowledge traditions, education must remain in a state of flux as we come to know this work collectively.
There are at least three approaches to Islamic education: interpretive, critical, and deconstructive understandings of Islamic education. These mutually intertwined approaches to Islamic education lend themselves to various practices through which they engender specific human actions. In the main, the notion of Islamic education can be attentive to some of the ethical dilemmas in the contemporary world, such as human trafficking, global warming, and global terrorism. First, education in Islam is constituted by the notions of hudā (guidance), tarbiyyah (socialization), and hikmah (wisdom)—underlying meanings that give Islamic education its distinctive form. These are also referred to as three intertwined theoretical approaches to Islamic education. In turn, these concepts can give rise to various human actions referred to as practices of Islamic education. Therefore, second, the aforementioned educative concepts engender a’māl (human actions) that can be responsive to undermining ethical dilemmas in the contemporary world, such as ijtihād (individual striving), shūrā (dialogical/deliberative engagement), and ummah (communal action). As a consequence of the prevalence of major ethical predicaments in and about Islamic education in especially the Arab and Muslim world, it is argued that dilemmas of parochialism and male chauvinism, religious and ideological differences, and Islamophobia can most appropriately be addressed through critical and responsible human action. Therefore, third, the a’māl of ijtihād (individual striving), shūrā (dialogical/deliberative engagement), and ummah (communal action) can cultivate responsibility, humanity, diversity, and concern for the other in dealing with the aforementioned human predicaments.
As Japanese society diversifies with an influx of foreigners, multicultural education has a critical role to play in achieving educational equity and affirming cultural diversity of students from various cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. Since the 1980s, Japanese scholars and educators have introduced, interpreted, and reappropriated multicultural education from the West, and have developed the field in conjunction with different education genres (e.g., human rights education, Dowa education, Zainichi Korean education, and education for international understanding). Scholars often use the term multicultural coexistence education (tabunka kyosei kyoiku) to discuss the role of education to realize a society of multicultural coexistence. Contemporary debates and controversies regarding multicultural education focus on the “3F” (namely, food, festival, and fashion) approach, the absence of social justice perspectives, its narrow scope, and the invisibility of majority Japanese.
Although the concept of multicultural education was imported from the West relatively recently, when the number of newcomer students increased in public schools during the early 1990s, Japan has its own versions of multicultural education, such as Dowa education and Zainichi Korean education. These forms of multicultural education policies and practices, which were primarily developed in the Kansai area, take a somewhat progressive approach toward achieving educational equity and reducing discrimination against minorities. Today, multicultural education is often associated with education for newcomer students.
Although the national government has provided remedial education (e.g., Japanese language and adaptation classes) under the notion of equal treatment, numerous nonformal education sites have played critical roles in achieving equity and empowering newcomer students. Multicultural education policies and practices remain peripheral in Japan at the national government level; nevertheless, grass-roots movements have emerged where local governments, nonprofit organizations (NPOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), concerned teachers, researchers, minority youth and parents, and community organizers are attempting to transform assimilative education policies and practices into more equitable and inclusive ones. With the rise of multicultural coexistence (tabunka kyosei) discourse, Japanese society is taking incremental steps toward achieving the goals of multicultural education.