The Southeast Asian American educational experience is marked by the legacies of Confucian social values and Buddhist education (including literacy) in temples, as well as French colonial education and the disruptions to formal schooling caused by war and social revolutions in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Historically, Buddhist monks offered the only available education, and later, elites were educated in private Catholic schools established by the French or educated abroad in France or other countries. The French concentrated their educational efforts on Vietnam, where educational institutions and attainment are more prevalent than in the other two colonized countries.
Education in Refugee Camps
Those who lived in refugee camps in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia,
Indonesia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines) during the late 1970s-1990s
faced especially limited opportunities for education. Older children
and adults had difficulty adjusting because of the language barriers,
while younger children could acclimate themselves more readily. Parents
who were well educated in their homeland, even though they may have
gone through a different educational process, are able to pass their
class privileges on to their children. This is in contrast to parents
who came from rural areas and did not receive any formal schooling.
Initial Education and Retraining
First-generation adults were given some educational exposure in the form of English language, cultural and social adjustment, and job training courses in the refugee camps. Once they arrived in the U.S., some were given the resources to attend trade schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges. In some cases, they were retrained for a new occupation; others needed to be re-certified in their former occupation to meet U.S. standards. Many had to dispense with their own personal educational goals in order to make a living and have placed great emphasis on enabling their children’s educational achievements.
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