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Society needs to confront the overcrowded nest syndrome

Buddha, whose name was Siddhartha, was born into a privileged position. His father was the king of a powerful nation and he was the prince who would inherit it all. His mother, Maya, died shortly after his birth.A hermit called Asita, who lived in the mountains not far away, noticed a radiance about the castle. Interpreting it as a good omen, he came down to the palace and was shown the child.He predicted: 'This prince, if he remains in the palace, will grow up to become a great king and subjugate the whole world. But if he forsakes the court life to embrace a religious life, he will become a Buddha, the saviour of the world.'

On a smaller scale, young men and women are faced with a similar choice everyday.The moment comes in their lives when they have to leave home and find their own way, or they can stay in the relative comfort of their childhood home, where there is also a contribution that can be made of value, but without the wisdom that comes from making your own exploration into the world.

Sadly today, it is not always a choice that is made, as necessity becomes the dominating deciding factor. Our children are increasingly compelled to participate in tertiary education and are often made to feel inadequate if they do not. If they succumb to this government initiative, they very often have no choice but to stay at home due to the monetary cost of education. Grants are not available, having been replaced by loans and, now that fees are to be paid, the student and their family have no option but to resign themselves to a life at home.

Education is more than attending an institution, and the great contribution of universities in the past has been as the catalyst that separates the parents from their offspring. Separation breeds self-reliance, ingenuity and ultimately a more entrepreneurial group of people with more imagination. It would be tempting to suggest that the universities themselves solved the problem by providing free accommodation to their students, funded from the fees they are about to charge, but obviously these institutions themselves are underfunded.

Perhaps a scheme of 'child swapping' could help, but I doubt whether a student or a parent would want to go through an adoption process, and anyway it would only replace one set of dangerous parental values with another.The whole point is to be separated from the comfort of home. The one possibility that could help would perhaps be the establishment of apprenticeships for students whereby they can save money, which allows them to be independent as well as perhaps learning to do something really useful. A return to the artisan.

The socialists have never recognised that manual skills have a dignity that is on a par with any other qualification. A nation of people with self-reliance is more interesting than a dependent one. I have no doubt that the vast increase of students entering further education has placed a strain on resources which is always unfundable - it was simply a dogmatic ideal.

If we do not confront the problem of the overcrowded nest syndrome, I can see that housing designers will have to begin to consider the apartment with two front doors to at least give the illusion of having left Mummy and Daddy. Buddha had a simple begging bowl - unfortunately today, no one fills it.

WA, from seat 12A, flight No TC414, Singapore to Bangkok

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