So in the last entry I wrote how the Asian students fleeing overseas will do a favor to almost everybody involved in the process. Cram schools can proudly show their achievements off to attract more income generators (parents). The students themselves start enjoying what is called "independent life". The parents have one less daily burden to shoulder and theoretically become engaged in social activities more.
In reality, it's not quite a 100% win-win situation. Cram schools are struggling to find prospective students because the number of kids is dwindling. Taiwan has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world: according to the latest research, a Taiwanese woman bears only 1.07 child in her lifetime. That is even lower than Japan, the golden sample of aging society. The cram schools are likely happier keeping the students in their cage rather than letting them free.
The students learn that the promised land has serious drawbacks: life in a foreign land poses a threat they are not familiar with yet – mystery. According to Malcolm Gladwell, we have two types of problems in general – puzzles and mysteries. Puzzles have a fixed set of solutions and can be solved by having more information. Most of what we learn at schools are treated as puzzles: math, physics, grammer grammar. Mysteries, on the other hand, cannot be solved by having more knowledge. To reach a satisfying conclusion, one must learn how to get rid of unnecessary details and focus on issues that matter. It is true even in fictions. Did Sherlock Holmes have more information than the cops?
The youngsters must solve mysteries. They must unlearn what they have acquired over the years, including academic knowledge, habits, and thinking process, and relearn them altogether. Although it's a necessary lesson to be learned – post-school life is more or less a series of mysteries – it is never easy for anybody.
The trouble here is the expectations. No one has taught them to become partially disillusioned about how they had grown up before truly adapting themselves to a new form of life. Even though they understand the importance of change, at 20 years old or so they know they aren't as flexible as they had imagined any more.
The parents also find themselves that the post-parenthood life is not as exciting as they have imagined since day one of their son or daughter. Having idle hands, they face their spouses much longer than expected which sometimes lead to sad realizations. It is not a coincidence that divorce rate in Japan is increasing among retired or semi-retired couples.
But painful as it might be, living as a foreigner is now becoming the norm. It will not stop being difficult, as The Economist says, but it is the future. "FOR the first time in history, across much of the world, to be foreign is a perfectly normal condition. It is no more distinctive than being tall, fat or left-handed. Nobody raises an eyebrow at a Frenchman in Berlin, a Zimbabwean in London, a Russian in Paris, a Chinese in New York."