Do British Chinese choose subjects to please parents?

In a recent poll conducted by Nee Hao (120 asked), 65% of British Chinese students studied a subject at university to please their parents rather than themselves. One person claimed he could have become a great artist had he developed his training through further study in the Arts, but chose an accounting and finance degree to satisfy his parents.

A running joke among many young Chinese people is that if you do not grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer, you are a disappointment to your parents. However, the basic sentiment of the joke is true; many British Chinese people will probably tell you of their parents’ wishes for them to pursue a career in medicine and law or other “well-respected” and high earning professions. But if you go to university and study “soft subjects” like English language (unless you want to be a teacher), or those within the Arts, you may run the risk of displeasing your parents as many see these as a unstable career choice.

And what about those children who were pressured into learning to play an instrument and excelled at doing so and then wanted to study music? Parents might also be disappointed, as you learning an instrument was simply a way for them to discipline you into the “practice makes perfect” motto and to show you are more than just a brainiac, not because they actually believed a future in music was what you were destined for.

So for children put on this road to getting a great education from a young age, what are the implications? Some may find it hard to make friends at school, either because they are kept so busy after school or because other children see them as “boffins” or too clever and boring. This in turn could lead to problems later in life when it comes to socialising with others. Others might grow up resenting the idea that they represent the stereotypical, hardworking Chinese person who is just known for getting good grades and nothing else and some may even grow up resenting their parents due to their compulsive nagging and controlling tendencies they were subject to. And for those who, despite their parents efforts to push private tuition and the idea of studying hard on them, see little to no academic improvement, their fear of both personal and their parents’ disappointment could sometimes be potentially too overwhelming.

For example, rarely do we hear of British Chinese people committing crimes in Britain and statistics show that Chinese people consistently perform better at practically all levels of education than any other ethnic group. Around a third of British Chinese people over the age of 16 are in full-time education, more than three times the national average and studies prove that Chinese people rank highly in employment and self-employment rates and in terms of receiving wages. It would not be too much to assume that there is an obvious connection between a good education and upbringing and therefore less chance of a life of crime and higher chance of a better job and earning more money.

Parents should continue to encourage their children to do well at school, but perhaps this should be less forceful and they should be more mindful of their children’s wishes, as well as their interpersonal skills. A well rounded child would be one who not only does well at school but one who is allowed to open their mind to other opportunities in life like choosing what they study at university and what career they want to pursue, as well as one who can grow up with a normal childhood where they can interact and play with other children. Surely this is better than a child who grows into an adult who is too focused on studying and working and is more of a loner and socially awkward?

Of course, if children even as young as babies and toddlers, show a keen interest in a certain subject or appear to have a talent such as dancing or music, this should always be nurtured first and foremost before piling on the pressure of doing well in Maths before they’ve even started school. Maybe the current generation of British Chinese people will have a different and more Western outlook on the upbringing of their children as the two cultural mindsets merge together.

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