The educational success of Vietnamese pupils – the so-called “Asian Miracle” – is well documented and sits deep in the public imagination. But what is the reality for these pupils and their families, so often praised as figureheads of successful integration? This anthology, edited by Kocaturk-Schuster and colleagues, aims to shed light on the diverse realities of the 176,000 persons of Vietnamese descent in Germany. As an anthology, it offers a range of perspectives with entries on education and upbringing just a fraction of its breadth.
The chapter by Aladin El-Mafaalani and Thomas Kemper (“Educational success despite unfavourable conditions”) illuminates the current perception of Vietnamese pupils as a “model minority”. Using official statistics and various research findings, they document the outstanding educational success of Vietnamese pupils in the German education system, despite social and economic factors that usually adversely affect educational attainment. The authors cannot answer the question of the “Asian miracle”. But they do provide possible explanatory indicators that are yet to be researched. They also appeal for research in tertiary and further education that would enquire whether this educational success continues.
While the educational success of Vietnamese pupils is consistently revered, little is known of the intergenerational conflicts that result from migration-related experiences. In another contribution („Germans with parents from Vietnam“), Birgitt Röttger-Rössler describes the challenges that education gaps and language barriers pose to parent-child relationships. A generation of children, driven by a parental zeal for education, has entered the German education system and lives the local society. Their parents still struggle with the German language and customs, and often depend on the communication skills of their children. The traditional Confucian-influenced parent-child roles thus switch in the integration process. There is a collision with the strict hierarchical principle of seniority, according to which, younger people are obliged to obey their elders completely. Traditional patterns of behavior no longer align with life in Germany such that family conflicts seem inevitable.
The insights provided here are indicative of a body of work that seeks to show the diversity of Vietnamese experience in Germany. It is thus recommended for readers who wish to look behind the façade of common stereotypes which situate the Vietnamese as a homogenous community that merely produces ‘model pupils’.
Kocaturk-Schuster, B., Kolb, A., Thanh Long, Schultze, G. & Wölck, S. (eds.) (2017). UnSichtbar: Vietnamesisch-Deutsche Wirklichkeiten. Edition DOMiD – Migration im Fokus, Vol. 3.
*This is an adapted version of a longer review which appears in Pacific geographies #49: http://pacific-geographies.org/2018/02/22/pacific-geographies-49/