Fast Facts for Teachers

Fast Facts

Below is a collection of basic facts and important things to know about South Asian American students. This is geared towards teachers and other education leaders, but can be shared with anyone.

Who are South Asian American students?

South Asian Americans include very diverse individuals, united by their identification as both American, and South Asian. They are diverse, and each South Asian American student is unique.

Regions – South Asia can include a variety of countries and regions, but typically means Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.

Language – These students may may speak one or more of hundreds of languages (or they may not). They may have an accent, or they may not.

Religion – They may be Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, another religion, or non-religious.

American-ness – They may be U.S. citizens, one of many generations of Americans, or first generation.They may identify with their South Asian heritage, or may identify as primarily (or even solely) as American.

Race – They may be brown, white, black, or any color, and may identify as a race you do not expect.

What are their experiences in School?

In K-12 schools, Many South Asian American students feel their teachers unfairly hold them to the model minority stereotype, also called the model minority myth. Many teachers even admit to believing the model minority myth, and assuming South Asian American students need less help than others. However, the model minority concept is false, and can cause harm, especially to those who are furthest from the stereotype, need the most support, or have needs that go overlooked. Below are some relevant key findings:

  • Nearly 80% felt that their teachers believed the model minority myth
  • Nearly 70% of participants reported their teachers thought they needed less help than peers of other groups, and consequently felt their own needs went overlooked by teachers
  • Nearly 40% of participants reported their overall experience of school was not ideal
  • Nearly 60% of participants said peers they felt less connected to school than their peers from other cultural groups, and sometimes attributed this to not feeling understood by teachers
  • Some reported that their teachers made ignorant comments to them, and in some cases, that their teachers made blatantly racist comments to them about their backgrounds

You can see more of the data by clicking here.

Teachers’ Cultural Proficiency

Many teachers may feel that they are already sufficiently culturally proficient in supporting their South Asian American students. However, an exploratory survey of teachers finds over 70% of teachers say they’re already comfortable supporting South Asian American students, and yet:

  • Nearly 60% admit they believe the model minority myth, and
  • Nearly 90% admit improving their proficiency would improve their teaching

You can see more of the data by clicking here.

Important questions teachers should ask themselves include: Do I believe the model minority myth? Could my teaching and support of these students improve?

It is important, even for the most culturally competent and aware teachers to remember not to overestimate their cultural proficiency, and to make the effort to see each student as an individual.

The above fast facts can be downloaded as a PDF below.

Fast Facts for Teachers (PDF)