More Asian?

by Paul Wells

It’s a veritable blitz the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has launched in India this month, in an attempt to put Canadian universities higher on the list of options the best Indian students consider when they head off to higher education. Fifteen Canadian university presidents are in India, along with federal science and technology minister Gary Goodyear.

The AUCC is running a blog on the events here. AUCC president Paul Davidson curtain-raised the trip with a Times of India op-ed you can read here. Eight universities banded together to announce a $3.5 million program to ensure that top-tier Indian students who’ve already checked Canadian universities out are encouraged to stay here to continue that education.

Western’s Amit Chakma, who’s not on the India trip but who’s participating in the $3.5 million stay-in-Canada scholarships, tried to explain why Ontario government scholarships for outstanding international students are a good idea. His argument ran smack into the legendary Globe online comment boards. Oh well.

UBC president Stephen Toope gave a speech today that tries to explain to an Indian audience what this delegation is doing over there, and why the country’s students should consider studying here:

“We take intercultural understanding very seriously. As I implied earlier, societies that have promoted cultural understanding and cooperation (India prominent among them) have proved in the past to be the most resilient, the most innovative and the most creative.

“People who live in an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding are more comfortable to do their best work. At UBC, we have found that cultural diversity creates an intellectual and social vitality that is itself so valuable that we – as with many other Canadian institutions – now actively work to further diversify our student body, and our faculty.

“Indian students who have already studied in Canada have also reported finding a concentration on critical thinking and problem solving rather than rote learning. We work hard to ensure that our students understand how to think, rather than trying to convince them of what to think.”

If it needs saying, I think this is all an excellent idea.




Browse

More Asian?

  1. I agree it's an excellent idea!

    Same thing should be done elsewhere.

    So why the article on 'Too Asian' which as of this moment has 519 comments?

  2. No surprise that Chakma's "attempt to explain" bombed. Just look how he starts it: by saying that the program "will help Ontario universities compete with the world's best international schools". HIs focus is on his school's prestige and ranking. Ontario taxpayers understandably have their focus set on themselves and their children. So when they look at the rest of Chakma's argument—basically a set of numbers showing that higher education is a good thing—they say great, let's get more of it to *our* kids. For a university president, the guy just doesn't make the case at all well.

  3. How can you write for a publication that would print the nonsense in the "too Asian" article?

  4. Is this a way to rectify the "Too Asian" article? It's a pathetic attempt.

  5. There is a powerful argument that going forward Canada's most important strategic economic advantage will not be RIM, potash or even PEI potatoes. Instead it will be our position as perhaps the world's most "global" country. The initiatives that Paul touches upon are cost effective approaches to leveraging this strategic advantage and transforming it into real outcomes. On the education front, I would personally like to see a substantive investment in language education at the highest level. Canada needs more multi linguistic people as bridges to bring interactions with other economies into our mainstream rather than have them (almost) exclusively stopping within ethnic communities.

  6. Write for it? Mr. Wells, who I otherwise respect tremendously, actually defended the article on Twitter.

    As an interesting thought experiment, he should substitute "Jewish" for "Asian" in that article and see how it reads.

  7. I think if the UBC student population were 43% Jewish somebody might have written that article.

    Just sayin', as an interesting thought experiment, consider that if "white" students were having success getting in to university as out of proportion to their representation in the general population as Asian students are, then UBC would be 106% "white". If that were the case, would it then be OK to discuss why that might be happening, and whether or not it constitutes a problem that needs to be addressed?

  8. Just look how he starts it: by saying that the program "will help Ontario universities compete with the world's best international schools". HIs focus is on his school's prestige and ranking.

    Isn't his focus on his school being among the best in the world? Shouldn't it be?

    So when they look at the rest of Chakma's argument—basically a set of numbers showing that higher education is a good thing—they say great, let's get more of it to *our* kids. For a university president, the guy just doesn't make the case at all well.

    Isn't his argument that "our" (gawd) kids benefit from having a more diverse peer group? That "cultural diversity creates an intellectual and social vitality that is itself so valuable"? Isn't ensuring students get to work within a diverse student population with perspectives and experiences from a variety of cultures, religions and nationalities a benefit to Canadian born students?

  9. A non sequiter.

    Just the same, when that article is written, I trust that Macleans will add a photo of a white student waving a German flag.

    For balance, of course

  10. I'm not sure these factors are of tremendous importance to the parenting demographic targetted by the "Too Asian" article.

  11. Jason Cherniak/MaggiesFarmboy

    What are your objections to the Too Asian article. Do you believe it is not happening or is it too sensitive a topic for hoi polloi to be exposed to?

    I would have thought articles on how Asians and Orientals are kicking white people's arses when it comes to academics would be something liberals and progressives would be delighted with.

    I thought article was rather funny and ironic because I lived in South Korea, and know lots about China, and their universities are not at all difficult. Kids in those two societies work extraordinarily hard in high school to get into university and than basically party for four years with little work.

  12. Here's the shorter version of that article:

    Asians (Chinese international students and/or Chinese-Canadian students…. Not clear which, but apparently it doesn't matter to Macleans) are high achieving socially-inept robots who pose a threat to "real" Canadian college students.

    Also, judging by the accompanying photo, they have a loyalty problem and shouldn't be trusted.

    No clear answer to the "problem"' is presented, but if you are white, you may want to avoid U of T.

    As for the "model minority" issue, look it up.

  13. If they can find a picture of a white student waving a German flag on a Canadian university campus, sure (and, admittedly, if UBC was over 100% "white" they probably could).

    Some might also say that waving the flag of a democratic country is different from waving the flag of a totalitarian communist state, but not me.

  14. I hope they didn't let Gary Goodyear explain evolution to them…that would pretty much frighten off any potential science students.

  15. A guy I went to law school with used to display a Nazi flag in his window. But I never thought that he was representative of his fellow German-Saskatchewanians, like me.

    I guess that you are suggesting that since macleans found this authentic photo in its archives, its inclusion next to the article is perfectly justified?

  16. You seem much more concerned about Asian students being stereotyped as over-achieving workaholics with little to no exposure to the broader university community, than you are about white students being stereotyped as alcoholic, racist party fiends.

  17. Sorry forgot to add your latter point. Also a worthy criticism.

  18. You mean the demographic that thinks it's worth investigating the implications of one group of students being vastly more successful at attaining places in post-secondary institutions than the general population?

    Again, if European students represented 43% of the population of UBC despite representing only about 25% of Vancouver's population and less than 5% of Canada's, would we not discuss that?

  19. I actually didn't make much of a picture of a kid, presumably from China, holding a Chinese flag. Perhaps I'm just less sensitive than you.

    I do think including a Nazi flag in a story would be pretty inflammatory… unless it was a story about Nazis.

  20. Of course, if there's some truth to white students not working hard enough and drinking too much, or to Asian students not integrating enough into the University community (for Pete's sake, one story was of a Chinese student who spent an entire semester studying at an English university in Canada without ever speaking English to anyone!) shouldn't we perhaps address these issues in the open rather than pretending they're just racists stereotypes?

  21. This is a complete strawman. No one is saying that the Asian students are not "real" Canadian college students. In some respects, they're better. In some respects, they're different. In some respects, there are conflicts in which neither side is simply right or wrong (working hard and getting good grades = good! but also can be overdone; partying = good! but also can be overdone). Their are real and legitimate differences. It is possible to talk about them and have opinions about them without engaging in the sort of nonsense that your characterization suggests. Incidentally, no one ever suggested that Chinese Canadian students are "socially inept", but that they are part of a different social scene. Again, whether or not that's good or bad, and whose "fault" it is, is a complicated issue. But the fact that a phenomenon like that exists for some students (by no means does it apply to all) is just a fact. Don't hide from it.

  22. Is there a way to rectify your comment? It's a pathetic attempt.

    (attempt at……?)

  23. I am a liberal individualist who tries to judge everyone by their character and achievements, rather than their skin colour or ethnicity.

    I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

  24. This is another strawman. Above I note that what is generally true "by no means applies to all". Group dynamics certainly exist, and no sort of liberal needs to deny that. Moreover, this isn't simply a matter of "judging" in the sense your usage of the term connotes, because, as noted above, it's not a simple matter of right/wrong, good/bad.

  25. "Again, if European students represented 43% of the population of UBC despite representing only about 25% of Vancouver's population and less than 5% of Canada's, would we not discuss that? "

    Exactly right. Of course we would be talking about and we would be focused on what the Europeans were doing to be so successful. I honestly don't understand the argy-bargy caused by Too Asian article – Asians and Orientals doing well is a good thing, other ethnic groups should be investigating them so we can emulate.

  26. We are moving into the knowledge economy now…yet we have no universities in the top ten…..only one university in the top 20…U of T at 17….and the rest of them are nowhere.

    That should be of major concern to everyone.

    And if 'foreign' students party less, and study more….then by all means lets welcome them!

  27. Let's keep that top 20 in perspective too.

    15 of the top 20 are in the U.S., 3 are in the U.K., 1 in Canada and 1 in Switzerland.

    No country outside of the U.S. and the U.K. has any institution in the top ten either. So, while only having one university in the top twenty may superficially seem to be of great concern, it's worth noting that that measure puts Canada ahead of France, Germany, China, Russia, Australia, India, New Zealand… basically all but three other countries on the planet. If you look at the top 50, only 13 countries are represented, and Canada has the third most schools in the top 50 behind only the U.S. and the U.K. (U of T, UBC and McGill).

    Keep in mind too, of course, that those types of rankings are always somewhat subjective. There's an argument to be made that there's precious little difference in quality between university #1 and university #20. I'm all for anything that encourages us to invest more heavily in post-secondary education, but I don't think being the third most highly represented country in the top 20 (and top 50) of the THE World University Rankings needs to be of "major concern" to everyone. Maybe if we were outside of the top 5 I'd worry more, but third place behind the U.S. and the U.K. looks pretty good from where I'm sitting. Japan's highest ranked school is 26th. Australia's highest is 36th, behind three Canadian universities. None of the Norwegian countries appears on the list until the Karolinska Institute in Sweden at 43rd.

    We can always do better, but I think we're doing OK.

  28. In retrospect, I suppose I should have actually said that we're ahead of China only if you don't consider U of T and UBC to be Chinese universities! (ohhh…. somebody's gonna make me pay for that one, aren't they :-) )

  29. So if we're as bad as all the rest, then we're OK

    Long live Canadian mediocrity.

  30. I have never understood why Canada has hitched its wagon so tightly to China and seemingly neglected India. We need more India, and if resources are limited and we can't have both, less China. India is a democracy, China is still a totalitarian dictatorship and shows no signs of becoming a democracy any time soon despite what many China apologists may claim. If China ever experiences an economic crisis, it will implode and something violent will follow. India is more stable like all democracies are by their very nature. Anything which encourages the best and brightest from India to study in Canada is a very good thing.

    Perhaps slightly off topic, but something from the "Too Asian ?" article really struck me :

    "Sweet's latest study, “Post-high school pathways of immigrant youth,” released last month, found that more than 70 per cent of students in the Toronto District School Board who immigrated from East Asia went on to university, compared to 52 per cent of Europeans, the next highest group, and 12 per cent of Caribbean, the lowest. This is in contrast to English-speaking Toronto students born in Canada—of which just 42 per cent confirmed admission to university."

    12% of those from the Caribbean ?! The extent of these disparities indicate that something is seriously wrong with our society in general and our education system in particular. These differences in levels of education propagate themselves through to everything from income and poverty levels to health. This has to be addressed. We're doing something wrong. We need to make sure that those who are the product of our own educational system at the secondary school level are reaching the levels of achievement we need to ensure our continuing economic success. Otherwise, our only alternative will be to import the expertise needed, which is a very risky strategy to say the least.

  31. I don't care what their political system is…..the fact they have economic growth and we don't is all that matters.

  32. I love that this piece gets 3 down arrows. You're right. University presidents in India? It's an outrage.

  33. Yes, we're the third most successful country in the world according to this survey, behind the world's largest superpower, and the world's former largest super power. Sure seems mediocre to me!

    Just imagine how pathetic the other 189 UN member states below us on the list must feel! If we're an example of "mediocrity" by being in third place, how do all of the educators in Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America even get out of bed every morning?

  34. I think some commenters, a la Cherniak above, are actually blaming you for not immediately quitting your job when the "Too Asian" article came out.

  35. If we want to sell our education abroad, we have to have something worthwhile to sell.

    Third place [your estimation] is mediocre.

    I guess we don't want to 'own the podium' in something important… like education.

    We were 3rd place in the space race too….look where that got us. Passed by other countries not even in consideration back then.

    2 candidates for a top job…..one is a graduate of U of Sask. The other? Oxford.

    Who gets the job?

    We don't even strive for excellence

  36. Isn't his argument that "our" (gawd) kids benefit from having a more diverse peer group?

    If by "his argument" you're referring to the one sentence, in the entire article, in which he simply *asserts* this, then the answer is Yes. Me, I like my "arguments" to contain reasons for believing the conclusion. (BTW I do believe the claim in question, but presumably the point of writing an opinion piece in a newspaper is to convince those who don't. By that standard Chakma's piece is really weak.)

  37. What are you talking about? How is third place ON THE PLANET mediocre? Even if we're just top 5, that means we're ahead of 97.4% of UN member states. Mediocre? Only three countries have any universities ranked higher than our highest, and only two countries have more universities in the top 50. The U.S. beats us. The U.K beats us. Arguably, NO OTHER COUNTRY ON THE PLANET is ahead of us in this survey (at least if you look at the top 50).

    Also, while I hate to lend credence to your "we're mediocre" argument, I'm wondering by what standard you have us "third" in the space race? In terms of manned space flight, Wikipedia would suggest that by the time Marc Garneau made his first flight in 1984, astronauts from 14 different countries had already gone to space (mostly Soviet bloc of course, but including France, West Germany and India). Also, if you're talking about the actual manned space flight space race, we're not even technically in the race yet. Only the U.S., Russia, and China have ever sent humans in to space, so the best we can hope for as of today is fourth place.

    Your final point meanwhile is just COMPLETELY specious. Watch this:

    2 candidates for a top job…. one is a graduate of the University of Toronto. The other? Swansea Metropolitan University.

    Who gets the job?

    You don't even strive to make sense.

  38. Just on the space race thing, outside of manned space flight it occurs to me that you must be referring to Alouette 1 which was launched in 1962, at which point we became the third country to have a satellite in orbit (though it was not the third satellite, as the Americans and Soviets had several before us). I don't really count this as putting us third in the space race though since we just built the satellite and NASA (the Americans) put it in orbit. To my knowledge, Canada has never put anything into space on a domestic vehicle, whereas there are 12 or 13 countries who have.

  39. I know you're trying to make it sound good….but we are mediocre. Third rate.

    Talking about countries worse than us doesn't sell anything.

    We're losing this race just like we lost the space one.

    Patriotism doesn't pay the rent.

  40. How about the fact that the U of T President's comment is buried at the end:

    “This is a non-issue,” wrote U of T president David Naylor in an email. “We've never had a student complain about this. In fact, this is a false stereotype, as we know that Asian students are fully engaged… in extracurricular activities. So the whole concept is false.”

    How about the fact that some lazy high school students and their apparent racism against "Asians" is reported as if it is a widely held view?

    How about the fact that the article includes crazy, broad statements based on "Asianess" like:

    "That Asian students work harder is a fact born out by hard data. They tend to be strivers, high achievers and single-minded in their approach to university."

  41. BTW, I believe there is a problem with university students graduating without sufficient understanding of English. There's also a problem with some self-segregation. However, it is not limited to "Asians". To focus on the "Asian" nature is to essentially focus on the fact that we have a high number of Chinese immigrants in the GTA. Turning it into something about a specific group of people instead of new immigrants in general is to take it far beyond anything reasonable.

    I also find the comparison to the Ivy League without merit. American schools have this whole football/sports culture that warps just about every admission program. It isn't about not admitting Asians – it is about not admitting too many people who don't play sports. In Canada, the best universities are actually about academics. If it weren't "boring" Asian students with high grades, it would be "boring" Anglicans from Trinity College, Jews from University College and Catholics from St. Mikes. In other words – this is a compelte non-story except to the extent that Canada has allowed a lot of Asian immigration since the 1960s.

  42. I felt bad to have focused so much on just the top 50, so here are the number of schools by country for the whole top 200 for a selection of obvious competitors:

    U.S.A. 72 (OK, I'll give you that the Americans are kicking our butts)
    U.K. 28 (The Brits are doing great too)
    Germany 14 (more than us, but their top school is ranked 43rd and they only have 3 in the top 100)
    Canada 9 (3 in the top 50, second only to the U.S. and U.K.)
    Australia 7
    Sweden 6
    China 6
    Japan 5
    France 4
    Spain 2
    Finland 1
    New Zealand 1
    Russia 0
    Brazil 0
    India 0
    Italy 0

    Again, we're clearly being beaten by the Americans and the British (the smaller of which is a country with almost 30 million more people than us and a nominal GDP over $600 billion more than ours) but how on Earth can one describe us as "mediocre" given the above? There's one country ahead of us in North America, and maybe two in Europe, and that's it (though I'd argue Germany isn't ahead of us because even with more ranked schools in total, their highest ranking of 43rd doesn't come close to matching our 17th, nor does their 3 in the top 100 match our 3 in the top 50).

    It's a big planet with lots of countries and lots of universities. If we're only being beaten in this top 200 ranking by the single most powerful country in the world, and the country that used to be the single most powerful country in the world, I'd say that's a fair bit better than "mediocre".

    And if we are "mediocre" imagine how Italy, Brazil, India and Russia feel!!!

  43. We are still mediocre….no matter how many ways you try and slice it.

    Now do we mean it, or are we just messing around again?

    Like we mess around with so many things, and lose out

    Because in a knowledge competition with the world….we just aren't cutting it.

    I told you before….all you're doing is coming up with excuses.

    Patriotism doesn't pay the rent.

  44. on the topic of the actual post, I could not agree more with Paul's assessment that this is all an excellent idea..

    As a Canadian doctoral student at a Canadian uni who just recently finished a term doing research at a European uni on that uni's dime, there are concrete benefits to making a stronger effort to get more people travel abroad for part, or all of, their university education. In talking my colleagues it is clear that while there are concrete benefits that have accrued to me (being exposed to other research in a more explicit and active way, expanding my network, getting broader input into my own research, etc) there are also benefits for the folks where I visited and colleagues back home. I have facilitated connections between other research at my home uni and the uni i was a guest at that might otherwise not been made that will likely strengthen both folks research. I have on a number of occasions passed on articles and other research i was exposed to in one jurisdiction to folks in the other broadening the influence of research in both jurisdictions and have laid the groundwork for a probable long-term collaboration with international peers. so yeah, i could not agree more with Well's assessment.

  45. sorry about the botched spelling of your last name Paul. apparently proper spelling of your name was not included in the benefits accrued!

  46. So, we're mediocre losers until we surpass the U.S. and the U.K.?

    OK then, I guess we're doomed to mediocrity at least for my lifetime.

    Maybe someday, somehow, we'll surpass the U.K. but I'd love to see your plan to get us ahead of the world's sole remaining super power. Until then, I guess I'll just have to learn to live with the "mediocrity" of Canada only being the third most impressive nation in the solar system according to this measure.

  47. I wouldn't call them "excuses" so much as "attempts to convince Emily that being behind only two countries on the entire planet probably doesn't deserve the pejorative 'mediocre'".

    I don't at all disagree that we could do a lot more, a lot better, but unless your standard is that every single nation in the world outside of the U.S. and the U.K. is "mediocre" based on this measure, then we're not mediocre.

  48. On the topic of the actual post???

    We can do that!?!?!?

  49. Well you're wasting your time if that's what you're attempting.

    I'm not into trips around the Mulberry excuse bush.

  50. We are mediocre until we make some attempt to 'own the podium' in something other than hockey.

    Which we haven't done since these 'top' lists began.

    PS… the US isn't a super power, so don't even attempt to drag the solar system into it.

    Exaggerate much?

  51. I think that's a consistent complaint around here — Wells doesn't quit his job often enough whenever an article that someone doesn't like gets published in Maclean's.

  52. Well we can, but some people would prefer to slag Gary Goodyear. Because that way, the thread can degenerate into the ususal partisan p_ssing match. Which many posters seem to prefer.

  53. I can't speak for anyone else, but I am disappointed in Wells for dismissively ignoring (and at one point defending) such a silly, racist and divisive piece.

    But I am not asking for him to quit macleans. And I have no idea how difficult it is too make a living trying to attract eyeballs to a weekly magazine or to a Canadian current affairs website. I imagine that it isn't easy.

    I would be interested in his views on this controversy when the dust settles.

  54. This is just stupid – you accuse other people of "racism" without any basis except their flattering description of Chinese Canadians. Or are you saying that Asian students are actually lazy, under-achieving, and unfocused in their approach to university then?

  55. Didn't the story kinda START on the American side of the border? After all, he title (Too Asian?) was taken from the title of a panel discussion at the AMERICAN National Association for College Admission Counselling annal meeting in 2006. Also, right there in the article is discussion of how American schools have been "dealing" with this situation for DECADES; how, in California, when affirmative action laws were eliminated by plebiscite the percentage of Asians in the state's schools skyrocketed to 40% (they represent 13% of the state's population) and that American studies have suggested that "Ivy League schools have taken the issue of Asian academic prowess so seriously that they've operated with secret quotas for decades".

    It's ironic seeing an American writer lay in to this article, which, to my mind, was at least partially about whether or not Canada should start actually DOING something about the percentage of Asian students in universities the way it's ALREADY BEING DONE STATESIDE!

  56. Well, I don't love the partisan b:tch-slapping much myself usually, but still, I'd suggest that the better response to the Goodyear comment is the response that everybody else seems to have taken, which is to say, IGNORE IT ALL TOGETHER.

  57. I'm trying to make sense of your argument here, but I'm having trouble. Are you actually saying that Canada's Universities are so craptacular that Indian students shouldn't even consider a Canadian school over an American one? Are you saying that you define mediocrity as anything OTHER than the very best?

  58. How on Earth do you claim that Canada doesn't have economic growth?!?! That doesn't even make sense as a statement!

  59. Careful what you say about the arrows. Someday they're going to be your editor :)

  60. I'm saying you cannot generalize positive or negaitve about any one ethnic group. Your argument is like saying it's ok to call all Jews rich, because it's a good thing to be rich. I'm complaining that the article perpetuates stereotypes in a manner that is meant to cause unnecessary fear.

  61. Sorry, but to suggest that a school is "too Asian" emphasizes the stereotypes and minimizes the worth of the individual. You cannot honestly deny that.

  62. That doesn't even make sense as a statement!

    Uh, sourstud, you're replying to a post by EMILY.

  63. Amazing how offensive this Maclean's article was, and 2000 comments to express outrage about it, and still Maclean's has not printed any kind of apology. Shame.

    I almost wish I had a subscription so that I could cancel it.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *