The research examined the study habits of three groups of Year 3 students and found that Chinese children spent more time on their homework, completed more work and did it on a more regular basis than Anglo or Pacific Island students.
The study by University of Western Sydney researchers and the New South Wales (NSW) Education Department challenges the myth that Chinese students perform better at school because of a cultural disposition to study.
One of the authors, senior lecturer in literacy and pedagogy Megan Watkins, said the study habits learnt by these Chinese students in the home fostered a more disciplined approach to academic studies, which was evident in the way they approached their work at school.
Dr Watkins said these habits should be promoted in schools with all students.
"It's possible to learn the habits of learning; these things don't just happen in high school, they need to be slowly learned," The Australian quoted her, as saying.
"The primary years are an academic apprenticeship not only in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy but also bodily skills of application to work and independence in learning. It's not about turning kids into homework robots but teaching them to apply themselves to their work," she added.
The study by Dr Watkins and associate professor in cultural studies Greg Noble says the focus in schools on the cognitive aspects of learning tends to ignore the physical habits required, such as sitting at a desk and even holding a pencil correctly.
"There has been inadequate attention given to the ways educational attainment is founded on embodied capacities, such as productive stillness and quiet, which are crucial to sustained attention and application in intellectual endeavour," the report says.