Traditionally, ethnic minority groups often face serious problems and Vietnamese Americans are not an exception. Probably the most serious problems they faced and are still facing in education that actually reflects all other problems this ethnic group suffers from in the US.
Problems and difficulties Vietnamese Americans faced in the past
First of all, it should be said that ethnic minorities traditionally were in a disadvantageous position compared to the dominant ethnic groups. The US is not an exception, though a lot of efforts were made to change the situation for better and make American society more tolerant and provide all ethnic groups with really equal opportunities. Nonetheless, the position of Vietnamese Americans was quite difficult, especially in the past.
It should be pointed out that the mass immigration from Vietnam to the US was marked by quite a negative attitude to Vietnamese arriving to the US because of the Vietnamese war which took lives of many Americans. At the same time, Vietnamese arriving in the US were really strangers for the local community because they had different culture, language, traditions, mentality. Moreover, the negative past experience of extremely complicated relations between the US and Vietnam did not contribute to the easier integration of American Vietnamese.
Speaking about their problems, including those related to the sphere of education, it should be said that one of the major problems was the language. For instance, in 1990 Vietnamese children lived in families where the heads of the households basically had poor English proficiency . This was particularly widely spread within the families of the first generation of Vietnamese Americans, i.e. families that just arrived in the US and their children were born in the new country or arrived at an early age.
Obviously, it was quite difficult for these children to get integrated into American life and achieve positive results in the education, i.e. have academic because they lack the knowledge of English which was the basic language used in schools. In fact, the proficiency in English was and actually remains one of the basic conditions of successful learning because even though children may have equal academic abilities they can be less successful in learning because of language problems.
Not surprisingly, that Vietnamese Americans were less likely to have a college education or a professional education than whites . In this respect, it is worthy of mention that poor English proficiency was not the only reason. In fact, one of the most important factors that prevented Vietnamese Americans from receiving higher education was their socio-economic position. It is not a secret that the vast majority of Vietnamese immigrants were poor and belonged to lower classes. Naturally, they could not afford educating their children similarly to the upper classes of American society. This is why many Vietnamese Americans were simply deprived of real opportunities to receive good education because of their poverty. Moreover, their poor social status also contributed to the negative attitude to Vietnamese Americans from the part of other students and lower self esteem of children representing this ethnic group compared to white and black Americans.
Finally, they Vietnamese Americans faced a very serious problem of racism that was really disturbing. For instance, in 1992, University of Miami pre-med Vietnamese American student Luyen Phan Nguyen, 19, was chased and beaten to death outside a Coral Springs, Florida, college party by the mob of about 15 young white men who used their fists, feet and beer bottles. Actually, he was slaughtered only because he had protested an insulting reference to his Vietnamese origin earlier at the party. What is even more shocking is the fact that the party crowd ignored the murder .
The strategies used to ameliorate the situation
Naturally, the situation could not remain unchanged. This is why certain steps were undertaken in order to ameliorate it. It should be said that the development of re-education camps was supposed to contribute to the faster integration of Vietnamese arriving from Vietnam to the new life in the US. however, this measure seems to be not very efficient because it merely helped Vietnamese people feel the real life within American community. Obviously, the closer integration of Vietnamese and local communities was needed.
At the same time, the development of strategy of ethnic tolerance was obviously extremely important and the general anti-segregation policy aiming at the integration of representatives of different ethnic groups in the education process. However, this strategy is not really fulfilled because, as a rule, the representatives of ethnic minorities constituted the overwhelming majority in schools, especially in the inner city .
At the same time, it is obvious that the major strategies, which really aim at the improvement of the position of Vietnamese Americans, should be focused on the improvement of their socio-economic position. However, there is a kind of vicious circle that is extremely difficult to break. To put it more precisely, the better social position can be gained due to the better education while the better education often turns to be inaccessible for the families of Vietnamese Americans because of their poverty. This is why, it is necessary to keep developing educational and social programs that would help Vietnamese Americans to receive higher education that could open new opportunities for them and substantially improve their life.
Current issues related to Vietnamese Americans in education
Nowadays, the situation is obviously better than it used to be even a decade ago. For instance, there are practically no serious language problems and Vietnamese American children are practically in the equal position compared to other ethnic groups. Nonetheless, there are still serious problems that are really important.
It should be said that socio-economic position of Vietnamese Americans did not improved significantly and often higher education is still hardly accessible to this category of students. Though it is worthy of mention that gradually this ethnic group progresses and their socio-economic position starts to improve but quite slowly.
Furthermore, nowadays, Vietnamese American students have to deal with the problem of bicultural conflicts between home and schools. It should be said that to a significant extent this conflicts are provoked by the generation gaps between children that grew up in American reality and their parents and even grandparents who still keep their traditions, perfectly remember their native country, and have not managed to change their mentality and get accustomed to the new lifestyle.
Basically, it is possible to single out four main bicultural problems Vietnamese Americans currently face . Firstly, parent and children tend to disagree on the nature and extent of parental authority. Secondly, many of the means of enforcing parental authority that were common in Vietnam are unacceptable in the US. Thirdly, parents and children have different perspectives on what aspects of American culture are desirable. And, finally, the role reversal of parents and children that frequently occurs in immigrant families is contrary to the cultural expectations of Vietnamese parents about their own roles.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Vietnamese Americans faced a number of problems in education. Nowadays, some of them are solved but there are still a lot of difficulties they have to overcome and basically they are related to the low economic position of their families and to their cultural background and contradictions between traditional Vietnamese and American cultures that provoke bicultural conflicts within Vietnamese Americans families.