Stereotypes at ISB

Do we rely on our prejudgment of social groups too much?

April 22, 2020

As social creatures, humans are constantly influencing each other and are in turn influenced by others. This bidirectional relationship perpetuates conformity of behavior to social pressure, even when specific demands are considered unreasonable or immoral. At the International School Bangkok (ISB), the international and diverse nature of the student body allows students to gain insightful perspectives on the different values and beliefs individuals engage with in their everyday life, influenced by either cultural or personal factors.

At a school like ISB, all students come from a diverse range of backgrounds and are motivated/incentivised by varying values which will personally benefit them in their own future. Although all individuals possess their own differing values and ambitions, during ages of adolescence and the scrutiny of High School society, many feel the pressure to conform in some sort of way. 

Stereotypes are a generalized and rather fixed way of thinking about a group of people; the reality of the situation is that many people’s views of the world are resistant to change even as they are constantly assimilating new information into their existing schemas. Many times stereotypes are internalized within specific friend groups, and can begin affecting personal actions and put individuals under a phenomenon known as stereotype threat. Stereotypes are mental representations of a particular shared beliefs about the characetrics (personality traits and behavioral characteristics) of a group of people and an individual’s membership to this group. 

Furthermore, the personal identity of students attending ISB begins getting shaped and influenced by the specific social groups they begin to engage in, whether this be sports teams, artistic activities, or even the group you eat lunch with everyday. When viewing a group’s behavior, we pay attention to the most distinctive form of information, because that information is the most accessible, and will be likely to influence the illusory correlation resulting in unfairly created negative stereotypes of a minority group 

Although most students at ISB recognize that stereotypes are not representative of the majority, many still form illusory correlations, which are connections (made inaccurately) between two unrelated phenomena. The belief that Asian students are more mathematically able than American students is an illusory correlation due to the fact that ethnicity has absolutely no correlation to mathematical ability. Rather, external factors such as the amount of time spent studying, and dedication to academics, are more logical criteria to use when determining characteristics related to academic excellence. 

Personally, while I believe that the majority of the students at ISB are cautious about the judgements they make about other students, I still do believe that a variety of stereotypes do exist within the student body. I believe that many times, students get pressured to partake in specific activities as a response to what their peers are engaging in. Many students would rather participate in activities which they do not genuinely enjoy, but would partake in solely based on social recognition or for the incentive of adding to their college application. I believe that more students must find the confidence within themselves to break away from the status quo and pursue activities which they genuinely enjoy, rather than are a part of based on social pressure or academic incentives. Although stereotypes at ISB do exist, I believe that it is also valuable for students to be exposed to them, and develop coping mechanisms on how to deal with them. Unfortunately, the formation of stereotypes extends beyond the realms of High School and are entities which students are likely to encounter throughout their life, even post graduation. 


When the question of stereotypes at ISB was brought up to my peers, here is what some of them had to say: 

Zwe Latte (12):

“Many at ISB believe that everyone living in Nichada is a three season varsity athlete and complains about their workload and how hard IB is, but in reality they just procrastinate or party too much. Many also believe that the people who live downtown are either Japanese, Korean, or Thai and if they are Thai, that they are extremely wealthy/rich and go to Siam or Central Embassy every weekend.”


Sajid Farook (12):

“Many at ISB believe that IASAS Cultural Conventions are pointless and don’t require dedication and a large amount of time commitment in comparison to sports, which many students characterize as much cooler and 100% deserving of every hour of every athlete’s time afterschool.”

Kate McArthur (12):

“Some people are judgmental about courses offered at ISB, even when they themselves know nothing about the course and have never taken it. For example, many people who don’t take IB art tend to think it’s easy, when in reality this is not always the case. Many also seem to be under the impression that you can only be an artist or an athlete, and not both.”


Earth Mokkamakkul (11):

“I guess one stereotype is that Asians are smart and try hard in academics. I think this is less of a stereotype but more of a difference in values between different cultures but sometimes it can be frustrating when you are expected to do well simply because of your culture/ethnicity.”


Neila Choomchuay (11): 

“The first stereotype that came to my mind involves socio-economic status… many believe that the Thai students that go to ISB are extremely rich or privileged or even sheltered from the difficulties of the real world. Another stereotype which I believe exists is a cultural stereotype, in that many view foreigners (Europeans/Americans) as more outgoing and rebellious (typical teenagers seen in Hollywood movies) whereas Asian kids are perceived as more timid, staying at home and always studying.” 


Natalie Zu (11):

 “I think one common stereotype is that sports matter more than the arts at ISB. Not a lot of people will take free time off to attend a band concert or look at an art exhibition, and I think this is disappointing for people who want to receive recognition for their passion. I think that another expectation at ISB is that everyone has to fill their time with an abundance of activities such as both sports and the arts, must also be involved in service, and must also have good academics. This puts a lot of pressure on students who are already stressed about academic workload and feel peer pressured to do more than required.


Lieve Olufsen (11):

“One stereotype I have noticed in the past two years I’ve been here is the stereotype involving student-athletes not being as academically focused as other students less involved in the athletics program at ISB. Though many students at ISB excel more at sports than academics, there is still a great majority of students that do well in both. For example, the seniors this year are prime examples of this and we will see many of these student-athletes move on to do great things in the future, either involving sports or not.”


Milla Harter (11):

“I think ISB is a very inclusive place, especially compared to other schools around the world. But like any place, it definitely has stereotypes that affect the dynamic amongst students. Although everyone is friendly to each other, I have noticed that in the halls, people are often not very inclined to smile or to generally say hi. Naturally we are all stressed and are busy between classes, but these actions also stem into life outside of school as well (around Nichada). It definitely is not rare to be in a situation where students are avoiding eye contact with each other when seen outside of school. I think that in terms of stereotypes, we don’t really have any cheesy stereotypes like jocks or nerds, but more a culture of being social or antisocial which sometimes results  in a lack of politeness/friendlessness. Actions of kindness go a long way, I think we should all be conscious of this! 



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