Connecting the Dots

Investing in the American Dream

May 12, 2015

Education Is a Way of Life

My mother and I journeyed to the United States from Japan in 1957.

Our long, two-month trip on a slow naval transport ship must have been frightening to my mother. But she was eager to start a new life in America—a place where anyone who studied hard and worked hard could be successful.

I was less than two years old when my parents divorced, the same year we got to the US. My 20-year-old Japanese mother suddenly found herself living in a strange country with no family, friends, money, food, or place to live.

Yet instead of returning to Japan where her family and friends were, she scratched, rummaged, and scavenged enough to make a new life for us in the US. Why?

My mother knew that a half-Japanese, half-American child had limited opportunities in Japan. It wasn’t like it is today; the wounds from World War II were too fresh. I would have never gone to a top university or landed a top job.

Even though my mother barely spoke English and seldom had more than two nickels to rub together, she fiercely held on to the idea of the American dream. “In America, anybody can get rich if they work hard,” she told me.

And she was determined to have me prove her right.

Putting the “Earn" in “Learn"

My mother ordered me to sit in the front row close to the teacher’s desk. She gave me almost daily lectures on the importance of education and punished me severely if I brought home anything less than an A. She was a big believer in corporal punishment, and I got the spankings of my life if I slacked off even slightly.

Those lectures and demands for academic excellence from my mother paid off for my siblings, my children, and me.

Today, my brother is a high-level executive at Nordstrom, my sister is one of the top physical therapists in the country, and my children have always done well in school. My oldest son, Ryan, is about to graduate with a Ph.D. in biology from Texas A&M; my daughter, Keiko, was valedictorian of her high school class and earned a near-perfect 4.0 GPA at the University of Montana.

I am sad to say that my mother died years ago from cancer, but her dreams have become a reality for Asian-American families all over the United States.

Those same lectures about education are given every day all over Asia, especially in China, because academic success is a top cultural priority despite the effects of the global economic slowdown.

Most Chinese students don’t finish school until 6 p.m., watch little television, and play few video games. They're prohibited from working before the age of 16 so they can concentrate on school. Plus, most students attend tutoring classes after school and on Saturdays.

“Very rarely do children in other countries receive academic training as intensive as our children do. So if the test is on math and science, there’s no doubt Chinese students will win the competition,” said Sun Baohong of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Plain and simple, the education sector is an all-weather, recession-resistant, steady-growth winner, and there is a way to profit—HANDSOMELY—from the Asian obsession with education and academic success.

Six Chinese Education Stocks for US Investors

Did you know that there are 10 Chinese education stocks listed on the NYSE and Nasdaq? Yup… and here are six of them:

  • ATA Inc. (ATAI) provides computer-based training courses to pass professional certification exams such as banking, insurance, and accounting.
  • China Distance Education Holdings Limited (DL) offers online education and test preparation courses in accounting, law, healthcare, construction, engineering, and information technology.
  • China Education Alliance (CEAI.PK) sells online “education resources” (a fancy name for a huge database of informative practice exams).
  • New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. (EDU) is the largest English and college entrance exam preparation school in China.

Chinese students lined up to register for English classes at New Oriental Education office in Beijing.

  • TAL Education Group (XRS) is the largest private educational tutoring company in China.
  • Xueda Education Group (XUE) is also a private tutoring company but differs from TAL Education in that it tutors university students as well as high school students.

As you can see, there are several ways to profit from the Chinese obsession with academic excellence, but that doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy any of the above-mentioned stocks tomorrow morning. As always, timing is everything, so I suggest that you wait for my buy signal.

Nonetheless, education is big business in Asia, and there are some big profits to be made by investing in it.

Tony Sagami
Tony Sagami

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