A belief that Asian-Americans are taking over US universities, outperforming other groups and grabbing the bulk of math, science and engineering degrees has been debunked in a landmark study.
American popular culture is full of claims that Asian Americans are "overrunning college campuses with high enrollment" but "such impressions exaggerate" their presence in US higher education, the study said.
Entitled "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders -- Facts, Not Fiction: Setting the Record Straight," the study was conducted by New York University, a group of mostly Asian-American educators, and the College Board, a group that holds standardized tests for mostly high school students.
The study showed that the number of Asian-Americans at institutions of higher learning was inflated by foreign students from Asian nations and that not all were top students gaining easy entry to the best colleges and universities to become doctors and engineers.
"Contrary to the fiction that Asian American and Pacific Islander students are taking over colleges and universities across the country, the increase in (their) higher education participation has mirrored the increases found among other populations during the same time period," according to the report.
"Because of the assumption that they are doing well and are high achievers, many people assume that they don't have needs, and they are ignored in education and social policy," Robert Teranishi, a New York University education professor and key author of the report, told AFP.
Asian-Americans, he said, had long been missing from discussions in educational research and policy, and "remain in the shadows of America's commitment to equality and social justice.
"A lot of Asian-Americans are doing well, we don't dispute that but that's not the only story that needs to be told," he said.
The "landmark" study was debated recently in the first education "summit" of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), comprising US lawmakers from the communities.
"The myth of student achievement throughout our communities has masked particular linguistic and cultural needs of our young people for far too long," said Mike Honda, a Japanese American lawmaker who heads CAPAC.
The report shows "how the 'model minority' stereotype is harmful, often leading teachers to overlook (these) students, many of whom may require additional academic support," said Vivien Stewart of the US-based Asia Society and who was on the panel that compiled report.
It said that Asian-American student population was "concentrated in a small percentage of institutions, giving the false impression of high enrollment in higher education overall."
They have a wide range of academic interests, including the social sciences, humanities and education as opposed to just science, technology, engineering, and math, it said.
Furthermore, Asian Americans cannot be generalized as they are an ethnically diverse population having many different languages and dialects with varying economic, social, and cultural factors, the report said.
The US Census Bureau estimates that there are now almost 17 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, an umbrella term for 48 different ethnic groups from such historically different places as East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands.
Some entered the country because US employers needed their expertise, while others came as refugees with few resources and opportunities or just to study and then return home, the report said.
Yet they are perceived to be so ubiquitous in higher education and seen as the same studious, self-sufficient high achievers, the report said.