In an up-to-date review of motivational studies in education, Murphy and Alexander (2000) concluded that self-schema is an under-researched concept that deserves more attention from educational researchers. This paper reports the findings of a cross-cultural study that can be considered timely in light of their call. The effects of self-schemas on learning engagement among Australian and Chinese high school students were investigated. A total of 329 Hong Kong Chinese and 704 Australian year 10 students completed a questionnaire that assessed their self-schemas, goal orientations, learning approaches and perceived performance in studying mathematics. In a series of path analyses, it was found that an identical linear model that took self-schema as the most crucial independent variable explained the data in both samples well. Self-schemas predicted why and how Australian and Chinese students engaged in learning mathematics. The two path models, albeit with an identical structure, had subtle differences in the strength of individual paths, which could be attributed to the differential stress on performance and mastery in the respective education system of these two samples. This study advances our understanding of self-schema as a motivational construct in students' learning processes across different cultures.