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What matters to parents

By Joyce Martin - posted Thursday, 27 March 2008

People from the Indian subcontinent have emerged as the fastest growing group of migrants to Australia and are now the third largest immigrant group. As the skills these migrants bring are vital to the continued economic wellbeing of Australia, the Australian government has launched a series of overseas expo’s to attract more of these professional and skilled migrants. However, we are increasingly in competition with countries such as Britain, the United States, Canada, continental Europe, East Asia and traditional destinations such as South-East Asia.

To remain economically competitive Australia must continue to not only attract these professional and skilled people but we must currently find ways to retain these migrants who have so many attractive options, including returning to India, during a period of unprecedented booming economic growth.

As most of these migrants are parents or potential parents, one of the major factors affecting their attraction and retention is their belief that their culture will be understood, accepted and, even more importantly, to the greatest extent possible, maintained by their children.


Yet, despite their best efforts to maintain their traditional values when immigrating to countries like Australia, many migrants find their traditional values misunderstood, ignored, devalued or even misrepresented.

As this lack of recognition, understanding and respectful acknowledgement may cause many parents to become fearful of discrepancies between their culture and that of their new country, it is imperative there be research into the similarities and differences of Indian and EuroAustralian parental values.

Method. Forty-one migrant parents from India or Sri Lanka (M=24, F=18); and 42 parents of at least second generation European heritage (M=5, F=38) ranked from one to nine the value they assign to awards, encouragement, or teaching of curriculum outcomes related to Howard Gardner’s nine intelligences (1983). While neither group can be considered homogeneous, IndoAustralian parents were derived primarily from Hindu dominated communities; and both groups were limited to well-educated professional or highly skilled parents.

The survey returned some interesting, and even unexpected information. First, contrary to stereotypes of Indian parental gender biases, both groups of parents, rebelled equally when asked to rank separately responses for male and female children, firmly suggesting that it was insulting to suggest differences based on gender. While these groups may have been responding in a manner they believed to be politically correct, the vehemence of the replies of IndoAustralians was even more extreme than that of EuroAustralians.

The most significant pattern from the responses was the similarity between the parental values of the two groups with Intrapersonal and Interpersonal skills often rated highest, Auditory, Visual and Kinaesthetic skills consistently rated lowest, and Mathematical, Linguistic and Philosophical skills falling in the middle range. This information, if shared with parents of different backgrounds, may allay some fears that the values encouraged and taught are markedly different.


Where parents differed most was in the degree of importance attributed to different skills. For example, IndoAustralian parents placed significantly greater emphasis on schools teaching language skills which may be a reflection of parental awareness that while English is the official language of India, their children may still need more direct teaching to bring them up to the standards of native Australian speakers.

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About the Author

Joyce Martin is a Lecturer in Education and Applied Social Psychology at the Australian Catholic University, facilitator of personal and professional communication skills and author of papers on Gardner's theory of Multiple Intelligences as well as Profiting from Multiple Intelligences in the Workplace (Crown Publishing, 2001) and 35 MI Activities, a Trainer's Resource (Crown Publishing 2003).

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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