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Contexts of Achievement: A Study of American, Chinese, and Japanese Children

Harold W. Stevenson, Shin-Ying Lee, Chuansheng Chen, James W. Stigler, Chen-Chin Hsu, Seiro Kitamura and Giyoo Hatano
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Vol. 55, No. 1/2, Contexts of Achievement: A Study of American, Chinese, and Japanese Children (1990), pp. i+iii-vi+1-119
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for Research in Child Development
DOI: 10.2307/1166090
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1166090
Page Count: 124
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Contexts of Achievement: A Study of American, Chinese, and Japanese Children
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Abstract

The major purpose of this study was to attempt to understand some of the reasons for the high academic achievement of Chinese and Japanese children compared to American children. The study was conducted with first and fifth graders attending elementary schools in the Minneapolis metropolitan area, Taipei (Taiwan), and Sendai (Japan). 1,440 children (240 first graders and 240 fifth graders in each city) were selected as target subjects in the study. The children were selected from 20 classrooms at each grade in each city and constituted a representative sample of children from these classrooms. In a follow-up study, first graders were studied again when they were in the fifth grade. The children were tested with achievement tests in reading and mathematics constructed specifically for this study, the children and their mothers were interviewed, the children's teachers filled out a questionnaire, and interviews were held with the principals of the schools attended by the children. In the follow-up study, achievement tests were administered, and the children and their mothers were interviewed. Background information about the children's everyday lives revealed much greater attention to academic activities among Chinese and Japanese than among American children. Members of the three cultures differed significantly in terms of parents' interest in their child's academic achievement, involvement of the family in the child's education, standards and expectations of parents concerning their child's academic achievement, and parents' and children's beliefs about the relative influence of effort and ability on academic achievement. Whereas children's academic achievement did not appear to be a central concern of American mothers, Chinese and Japanese mothers viewed this as their child's most important pursuit. Once the child entered elementary school, Chinese and Japanese families mobilized themselves to assist the child and to provide an environment conducive to achievement. American mothers appeared to be less interested in their child's academic achievement than in the child's general cognitive development; they attempted to provide experiences that fostered cognitive growth rather than academic excellence. Chinese and Japanese mothers held higher standards for their children's achievement than American mothers and gave more realistic evaluations of their child's academic, cognitive, and personality characteristics. American mothers overestimated their child's abilities and expressed greater satisfaction with their child's accomplishments than the Chinese and Japanese mothers. In describing bases of children's academic achievement, Chinese and Japanese mothers stressed the importance of hard work to a greater degree than American mothers, and American mothers gave greater emphasis to innate ability than did Chinese and Japanese mothers.

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