Chinese immigrants in New Zealand: A case of educational optimism?

by Yuriko Otsuka

New Zealand is not only known for sheep and agriculture, but it is also known as a country which has a lot of immigrants. The population of New Zealand was about 4,252,277 people in 2010, and in that, the Chinese immigrants were about 85,477 people, which placed them as second among the immigrant nationalities in New Zealand (Peoplemovin, 2010). I stayed in New Zealand for a year since I had an opportunity to study abroad, and when I interacted with my Chinese friends, they told me about their life in China. Their parents had high expectation of their child’s grades, and told me that one of the reasons they came to New Zealand as an exchange student is to avoid the pressures from their parents; especially their mother. Chinese mothers, parents are way strict compared to ordinary Japanese moms and dads.

Tiffany (2007) indicated the reason why Chinese parents encourage their children’s education even though they are out of their home country by saying, high achievement and university degree will eventually lead their child to have a good job, and having a good job “represent the access to financial, professional and life success”. From that we could see that Chinese parents are really strict to their children’s education because they think it is good for their child in the long run. In “Chinese immigrants children’s first year of schooling: an investigation of Chinese immigrant parents’ perspective”, Li (as cited in Tiffany, 2007) said that “Although these [Chinese] families have resided in the new country for several years, they still connect themselves to their motherland and indigenous Chinese cultural values”. These ideas and actions make people call the Chinese mothers “tiger moms”, being strict in order for their children to have high academic achievement.

Considering about tiger moms, people may think becoming like them will enhance their child’s academic achievement, due to the results of Chinese immigrants ranking at the top in the classes in New Zealand. However, we should know that being strict and encouraging children do not mean that the child will achieve high academic scores. Colleen (as cited in Heather and Lois, n.d.) find that 87% of the Chinese students had high expectation towards getting good grades from their parents in New Zealand. However, only 37% said they are achieving their parents’ expectation. From this it is not 100 percent sure whether having a tiger mom is a guarantee of their children to achieve high academic expectation.

Not only having a guarantee of a child having a high academic achievement, but there are some problems of tiger moms in New Zealand. For instance, there is a possibility of a clash between the child and the parent. Similar to the Japanese society, I think the Chinese always makes their child to do work instead of letting them have a break time. I think being in to the slow life in New Zealand may make the Chinese immigrants think whether it is necessary to work this hard? Since I experienced the slow life in New Zealand, I felt like that. Acculturating to the host country will let people know another type of the society where the environment might be the opposite of the motherland. I think it is a good thing to have good grades, and parents to interfere their child’s education. However, interfering too much does not mean that the child will achieve high academic expectations. Furthermore, does not mean that children will become happy by having a tiger mom and achieved high academic expectations.


Kao, Grace, & Marta Tienda. (1995). Optimism and achievement: The educational performance of the immigrant youth. Social Science Quarterly, 76, 4.

Kavan, Heather & Lois Wilkinson. (n.d.). Dialogues with dragons: Assisting Chinese students’ academic achievement. Retrieved from

Peoplemovin. (2010). Migration flows across the world. Retrieved from


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