Immigrants From Fujian Province Challenge New York Public Schools
From World Journal
Reported by Huang Shu-bing
June 20, 2002
As immigrants from Fujian Province increasingly dominant the incoming
flux of recent Chinese immigrants to New York City, school-aged
children and teenagers from these newly arrived families consequently
make up more of the student body in public schools serving the citys
most densely populated Chinese areas.
This fastest-growing group of students, with different backgrounds
from other students and even their fellow Chinese students, poses
a major challenge to the public school system as existing resources
are not enough to help them with language and learning related problems.
In response to this growing problem, the Board of Education is
making an effort to tackle this issue and hopes to meet the groups
Those who are familiar with the problem say that the core issue
is not with students age, but lies with the differences between
students from the countryside and those from the cities, which exists
in all school levels from elementary to high school.
Lily Woo, principal of P. S. 130 in Chinatown, said some students
from small villages have more problems with English. She said many
of them did not receive any schooling in China and only speak Fuchownese,
a dialect in northern Fujian, but do not speak Mandarin or Cantonese.
With a lack of educators who speak Fuchownese, most teachers can
not even communicate with those students. As for junior high schoolers,
who had some schooling in China, most speak Mandarin but many have
problems fully expressing themselves even in Chinese because they
were poorly educated.
Pan Shao-yu, a school counselor at Colears Junior High School (JHS
#56) in Chinatown, said the number of Fuchownese students in her
school has significantly increased in recent years, and 90 percent
of the Chinese students at the school are Fuchownese. She said some
teenage students were placed in 7th or 8th
grades although they only had two or three years of schooling. She
added that, even with the assistance of teachers aids, those
students are unable to catch up with other students and have problems
expressing themselves in their native tongue.
Wan Shan-shan, director of recruitment at Manhattan Comprehensive
Night and Day High School, said she has seen many immigrant students
drop out of school because they were unable to adjust to the English-speaking
classroom setting. She added that some parents do not pay attention
to their childrens education while some students are busy
working part-time after school to help their parents pay back the
debt from their journey to America. To them, attending high school
is only to learn some English in order to get a job.
Meanwhile, school-aged Fuchownese immigrants discipline problems
compound the academic ones.
Pan said many Fuchownese parents would give birth to their children
in the U. S. and send them back to China to live with their grandparents
until they reach school age or when the parents financial
situation allows their return. She added that many children were
spoiled by their grandparents and have no respect for their teachers
Rei Yin, a math teacher who has taught at Newcomer High School
in Long Island City for seven years, said she has noticed that many
newly arrived Fuchownesee students have behavior problems and fight
with non-Chinese students as well as with other Chinese students.
She added that they are not like the immigrants in the past, who
came to America to pursue their dreams and tried their best to adapt
to their new lives here.
Rei also noted that the students who were separated from their
parents for a long time seem more spoiled and it is not difficult
to find students with expensive electronic dictionaries or walkmans
at school. She added that she is not sure what adversities those
students experienced in their upbringing but they need counseling
in studying as well as psychological development.
Meanwhile, a forum called "The Changing Face of Chinese Students
in New York Schools", hosted by the Asian Languages Bilingual
Education Technical Assistance Center (ALBETAC), took place two
weeks ago. Many school officials and teachers attended the meeting
and exchanged ideas on how to tackle the issues and meet the needs
of the Fuchownese students in the school system.
Ying Chien-sheng, a Chinese resources specialist at ALBETAC, said
New York public schools are aware of the issue raised by the Fuchownese
students. The center will gather more information through such meetings
to help the public schools provide more assistance in academics
as well as psychological development, such as hiring more Fuchownese-speaking
teachers, providing additional counseling, and more programs after
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