Why this Hong Kong-born mother won’t send her kids to selective schools

Why this Hong Kong-born mother won’t send her kids to selective schools, by Masako Fukui.

Dr Ho, who researches diversity as a senior lecturer in social and political sciences at UTS in Sydney, is decidedly against sending her two children to a selective high school.

The reason? According to her, the ethnic makeup of selective schools now no longer reflects Australian society.

In Dr Ho’s graduating class of 1991, Asians were in the minority. Today, there are more than 20 fully selective high schools in NSW and 25 partially selective high schools, and students with an Asian background dominate most public high schools for the gifted and talented.

A disproportionately large majority of these elite institutions are in NSW, and education commentators estimate that some Sydney school populations could be as high as 90 per cent Asian Australian. …

According to Trissha Varman, a 15-year-old selective school student who was born in Malaysia, south Asian kids tend to hang out in “curry groups”. Alissa, 17, who would rather be known by her first name, said a group dominated by white kids would be referred to as “skips”, short for Skippy the bush kangaroo.

Dr Ho points to terms like “the Asian five” — a cluster of maths-heavy subjects including science — which are contrasted against “white subjects”, mainly the humanities.

Many immigrants are selected for being smart:

In recent decades, Australia’s immigration policy has shifted, to rates skills, wealth and educational background over other factors like family reunion.

In education, too, government policies have shifted from more broad-based comprehensive models to a hierarchical, competitive system based on NAPLAN testing.

Dr Ho says the overall result is that Australia has hyper-selected migrants from countries like India, China and South Korea, who are on average more highly educated than Australians.

Private tutoring now the norm to gain entry to a selective school:

According to her, these aspirational migrants value education as the key to a successful future for their children, and to gain a competitive edge, they’re more likely to encourage attendance at private coaching colleges and tutoring.

In fact, extra-curricular academic support is now the norm for any family wanting their child to gain entry into any of the prestigious and public, selective programs around Australia. Unsurprisingly, the private tutoring industry has almost doubled in the past decade.

This trend is now a major cause of tension, especially in NSW. Coaching and tutoring is expensive, and can lead to inequities. But mostly, it’s considered unduly taxing for kids.