By: Simon Collins
Sex is too sensitive for Asian parents to talk about and they want schools to handle it, a new survey has found.
The survey by the Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) says only 45 per cent of Asian parents, but 74 per cent of other NZ parents, say they can talk openly about sex at home.
And 58 per cent of the Asian parents, but only 26 per cent of other parents, say sex education is best learnt at school.
“As a parent, it’s very hard to talk to them about it, as an Asian,” said Nacha Lakshman, who did a business degree in Malaysia and is now retraining in law as well as helping to raise two children aged 8 and 5 with her husband, software developer Van Vairavan.
“They ask questions which will make me embarrassed, so school is the best place to do it,” she said.
But Northcote accountant Valerie Broomfield, who has three teenagers with husband Oliver, said she tried to talk about sex with her children, though “usually in the car when we are driving and looking straight ahead”.
“I said to the kids: ‘Anything you want to know, don’t google it, ask me.’ They don’t want to ask me, though,” she said.
“I feel that the primary sex education comes from home, but there is a lot of factual detail and I think the school does a pretty good job.”
Both families are among about 15,000 ASG clients in New Zealand who have been saving money through the company’s “tax-effective” schemes for their children’s higher education since soon after the children were born.
The survey included 264 local ASG clients, who were disproportionately Asian (20 per cent) and European (72 per cent), with only 5 per cent Māori and 1.5 per cent Pasifika.
A further 200 parents from the general population were also surveyed but the total sample was still overwhelmingly European and Asian.
Not surprisingly for a group who are mostly saving for their children’s education, 82 per cent of the Asians and 66 per cent of non-Asian parents said they “set high academic standards” for their children.
Similarly, 92 per cent of Asian parents and 66 per cent of non-Asians agreed that “a degree will help my child achieve their ambitions”.
And 88 per cent of Asians, and 75 per cent of non-Asians agreed that all the people in their social group believed that “education is the key to success”.
“We could not migrate here without education, so I think education is very important,” said Lakshman.
“Eighty or 90 per cent of the top people are highly educated. We want them to have a professional-level education, languages, that sort of stuff. We want our children to have a degree.”
But Broomfield said she no longer thought her children should necessarily get degrees.
“My philosophy has changed in the last two or three years,” she said.
“When we signed with ASG, I thought the only way my children would succeed was to get a tertiary education.”
Now she serves on the board of trustees of her daughters’ Catholic school Carmel College and believes that academic learning is not everything.
“We are talking about raising women who are resilient and well rounded and able to cope,” she said. “We are trying to address every aspect of people, not just academic.”
ASG chief executive John Velegrinis said the company recently responded to those changing attitudes by offering flexible saving plans that could be used for any type of education including preschool fees and vocational training, as well as traditional tertiary scholarships.