Gao to Study Education Barriers Within Chinese Immigrant Families

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Currently in the United States, one in four children under the age of 18 lives in an immigrant family with at least one foreign-born parent. It’s understandable that immigrant parents may face cultural challenges when adjusting to a new country, but what often gets forgotten are the educational challenges that tend to face their first-generation children. For Chinese immigrants, specifically, these challenges are made more apparent given their culture that emphasizes high academic expectations. Dr. Huan Gao with the College of Education (COE) at the University of Memphis is now researching what specific resources may be needed in order to help Chinese families overcome these obstacles.Dr. Huan Gao

“Asian immigrant parents value education as a means of success and social mobility,” Gao explained. “This research provides key insights into the information literacy practices of immigrant parents and their impact on children’s education.”

Language/literacy is one of the main challenges faced by immigrant parents, along with cultural and structural differences, that prevents them from understanding and engaging with a different educational system. Gao’s study is titled “Educational Support Strategies: Information-Seeking Practices of Chinese Immigrant Parents in Low-Density Areas.” This summer, she will begin recruiting parents to participate in her research, and she will interview, observe and collect data from those who sign on. It’s her hope that her findings may result in more inclusive resources and policies within school districts and departments of education.

“This research is a heartfelt exploration of the challenges and triumphs that immigrant parents face in navigating the educational landscape for their children,” said Gao. “Through this study, I aim to shed light on the critical role of information literacy in empowering immigrant parents.”

To assist in her research, the College of Education recently awarded Gao with a faculty research grant, which she said motivated her to provide findings that lead to these resources. Gao is currently an assistant professor of Elementary Education within COE’s Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership.