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Part 2 Approaches to Enhancing Educational Functions of Communities
1.Community Educational Functions Revival Plan
In an environment in which the sense of community among close neighbors is attenuating and undesirable behavior among juveniles is becoming increasingly serious, various aspects have been pointed out, including a lack of areas in which children can play safely and securely, a lack of volunteer and experiential activities aimed at juveniles, decreasing opportunities to enjoy sports, and decreasing opportunities to experience diverse cultural activities. The provision of diverse opportunities through the revival of the educational functions of communities is, therefore, an urgent and pressing task.
For this reason, from the perspective of comprehensively promoting such a revival in educational functions of communities, from FY2005, MEXT has been implementing the Community Educational Functions Revival Plan as a program to provide opportunities for diverse activities at the local grassroots level (Figure 2-10).
Specifically, by implementing the following four programs as one unified plan, the aim is to comprehensively achieve the revival of the educational functions of communities:
|()||On school grounds and in school classrooms, and with the cooperation of adults in the community, provide support for the creation of activity bases (spaces) for children, where they can engage in variety of activities safely and securely – Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities|
|()||Provide opportunities to promote volunteer activities at all levels from children to the elderly – Program to Promote Community Volunteer Activities|
|()||Promote the nationwide development of comprehensive community sports clubs that provide a location which people of all ages in the community can access easily to enjoy sports – Program to Promote Comprehensive Community Sports Clubs|
|()||Formulate and implement programs that enable children to feel and experience various cultures over the years – Support for Hands-On Cultural Projects|
2.Support for Creating Safe and Secure Spaces for Children–Collaboration with Adult Members of the Community
Facing such issues as the decline of the educational functions of communities, as was mentioned in Part 1 as well as in this part, MEXT seeks to foster robust children who are rich in spirit through the development of the “Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities” based on a three-year plan that started in FY2004 as an urgent yet systemic measure. This program supports children activity centers where children can engage in activities in a safe and secure environment. Specifically, MEXT has been supporting “Creating Spaces for Children,” in which various hands-on activities and exchange activities with community residents are carried out at schools, citizens’ public halls, and children's centers in cooperation with adult members of the community during after-school hours and weekends.
In FY2004, the first year of this program, the program was implemented at approximately 5,400 locations nationwide (carried out by approximately 1,460 municipalities), and in FY2005, the program was implemented at approximately 8,000 locations nationwide (carried out by approximately 1,540 municipalities). While the number of spaces for children has been showing steady growth, “cooperation by adult members of the community” is essential to improve further the content of the program, ensure its safety, and achieve the continuous future implementation of the program in each community.
(1) Spaces for Children Supported by Adult Members of the Community
In “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities,” various adult members of the community, such as persons in PTA activities, retired teachers, university students, and persons involved in youth and social education groups, are assigned as instructors and to other positions, creating a diversity of activities engaged in at classrooms throughout the country. There is reading aloud, quiet reading, traditional games such as menko and taketonbo, and education in sports such as baseball and soccer. Through participation in the “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities,” children who may have previously played alone at home with video games have become able to play heartily with many friends and people in the neighborhood, and without a conscious effort they are growing up to be robust individuals. In fact, following the implementation of “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities,” MEXT has received comments that the expressions of participating children have been enriched and that more and more children have begun to energetically engage in activities. Similar changes have also been seen in the results of a survey of community residents who work as staff members, carried out by the Aomori Prefectural Council for the Promotion of Community Activities for Children. When asked if “Friendships between children are spreading through the activities of the “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities,” more than 80% of the instructors surveyed responded “I think so” or “If I had to say one way or the other, I think so.”
There is an expectation that this interaction, not only among children but also with the adults involved, will have the effect of children naturally acquiring social rules such as manners. Although adults participate as instructors, they are not limited to simply teaching the children things. Through the activities, the adults naturally share excitement with children and think about problems together. Sharing this type of time and space is extremely meaningful for not only the children, but also the adults.
Relationships between children and adults, nourished through these experiences, also create changes in settings other than “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities.” An example of this is day-to-day “greetings” in the community. Since the “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities” started, an increasing number of adults have been pleased to receive greetings from children that they run into around town.
|▲Making bamboo pea shooters with community adults (Tamura City [formerly Okoshi Town], Fukushima Prefecture)|
(2) The Safety and Security of Children Protected by Communities
Only when “safety” and “security” are ensured can a space for children take root in a community. To promote more concrete steps to ensure security at each school, MEXT in January 2004 published “An Urgent Appeal on School Safety” and in March 2005 published “Concerning a Reexamination of Policies for School Safety – MEXT Project Team Initial Report for Creating Safe and Secure Schools” (see Part 4-4 of this chapter). In the “Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities” as well, MEXT in May 2004 created the “Safety Management Manual for the Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities,” which summarizes four points to take heed of: health management, measures to prevent entry by suspicious persons, disaster countermeasures, and crisis management policies for the vicinities of facilities (website: http://www.ibasyo.com). As “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities” differ in each region nationwide in terms of their locations and formats for implementation, the manual primarily focuses on the basics for implementing the program, and communities are encouraged to refer to these basics while developing their own manuals according to their own circumstances.
In implementing the “Classrooms for Children in Local Communitiesin” this way, it is important to take every possible measure to ensure safety, and create an atmosphere in which adult members of the community watch over children. Through participation in “Classrooms for Children in Local Communities,persons can get to know the names and faces of children living in their communities, and adults can form new bonds with one another. These moves are expected to expand the circle of people in a community. Furthermore, having the adult members of the community turn a watchful eye minutely toward children will lead to the prevention of the crimes involving children.
|▲A safety management manual|
(3) What We Can Do to Support Children Who Will Create the Future
A succession of cases in recent years in which children have been the victims, and at times even the perpetrators, of tragic events has drawn the attention of society. What can we do amidst these circumstances for the sake of the children who will create Japan’s future? Whenever we search for an answer to this question, it is necessary to first turn our eyes to the society close to us – the community. As persons living in a community, we do not require special knowledge or skills to create an environment in which children can grow and shine. What is now required is that we take the first step in doing all we can to help our children. This applies to each of us.
The Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities and the related safety management manual are available on the Creating Spaces for Children website: http://www.ibasyo.com.
3. Promoting a New Children’s Plan
The June 1999 report “Daily-life and Nature-based Experiences Nurture the Hearts of Japan's Children,compiled by the Lifelong Learning Council, noted the importance of providing children with opportunities for a variety of experiences involving interactions with friends of differing ages and others in the community to foster in children a “zest for living.
Taking these recommendations and working toward the introduction of a comprehensive five-day school week from FY2002, MEXT drafted a National Children's Plan (Emergency Three-Year Strategy) in FY1999 to help establish community environments that would nurture children and to develop systems to promote the activities of parents and children. In cooperation with other ministries and agencies, MEXT has been working to increase the opportunities and sites for hands-on activities for children, among other efforts.
With the comprehensive five-day school week in place, a New Children's Plan was drafted in FY2002 in view of the results achieved to that point. The following measures continued to be pursued in FY2005:
|Providing infrastructure and information for hands-on activities in the community, including the distribution of “sports and health handbooks” that children can use on a daily basis, and the provision of participation-based programs using the Educational Information Satellite Communications Network (ELNET).|
|Expanding the opportunities and sites for children-centered community activities with the cooperation of adults in the community to ensure activity bases (spaces) where children can play safely and securely after school and at other times, and to promote volunteer activities in the community, in addition to providing joint projects in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment, etc.|
|Improving the qualifications of parenting supporters in communities and otherwise supporting home education|
4. Opening up Classrooms and Other School Facilities
As well as being a place of education for children, schools are a place for community residents to engage in learning, sports, and cultural activities. Therefore, to the extent that it would not affect school education, schools are to open up their educational functions and facilities to children's activities on weekends and at other times and to the wider community as a base for community residents’ activities (Figure 2-11).
In order to promote the opening of school facilities, MEXT is working to provide various learning opportunities while taking all possible measures in safety management aspects. The effort includes developing school facility infrastructure as well as the Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities.
5. Promoting Volunteer Activities in the Community
(1) Education to Nurture Emotionally Enriched Japanese Citizens Importance of Volunteer and Experiential Activities
Many of the local communities in Japan that in the past were bound by close ties have undergone change in recent years in the wake of family nuclearization, a declining birthrate, and urbanization, and the weakening links between individuals and communities have raised a variety of issues with which local communities are now faced (See Part 1-1).
To foster sociality and rich sense of humanity among juveniles in the face of such circumstances, one approach of increasing importance is to enhance opportunities to participate in volunteer and experiential activities suited to each stage of development. From this perspective, MEXT is working toward the enhancement of volunteer and experiential activities.
(2) Establishing Systems for Promoting Volunteer and Experiential Activities, etc.
As means of substantially expanding opportunities for children to engage in various volunteer and experiential activities, MEXT has been implementing the Program to Promote Volunteer and Experiential Activities in Cooperation with Communities and Schools.
In this program, central government, prefectures, cities, towns, and villages are organizing “councils” to seek cooperation with a broad range of organizations and groups, and are also working to promote youth volunteer and experiential activities through school education and social education by such means as setting up “support centers” that provide information on various activities as well as advice and introduction services. In FY2004, councils were organized in 1,061 locations, and support centers in 1,262 locations.
Furthermore, in order to promote participation by a greater number of people in volunteer activities, in addition to collecting outstanding case studies of volunteer activities that are closely linked to the community, in February 2005 the National Forum on Promoting Volunteer Activities was held.
(3) Promotion of Volunteer Activities in the Community
With the aim of encouraging each and every person in the country to engage in volunteer activities on a daily basis and achieve the aim of a mutually supportive society, from FY2005 MEXT has newly introduced the Program to Promote Volunteer Activities in the Community as a means of promoting the national development of volunteer activities in the community. Specifically, a program targeting high school students has been introduced, whereby high school students, who are at the stage of gaining independence and acquiring the basics of life that they will need for adulthood, are encouraged to take part in diverse volunteer activities. Another program involves municipalities as a whole through activities that target all community residents from the young to the old and encourages participation in volunteer activities based on local characteristics.
Such programs not only provide a stimulus for local residents who have participated in volunteer activities to date, but they also arouse new interest in people concerning volunteering and encourage participation from those who have never engaged in volunteer activities. In this way, it is expected that the number of people engaging in independent, self-starting volunteer activities will increase.
In addition, as a program to nurture momentum toward the promotion of volunteer activities by entire local communities, poster campaigns incorporating cartoon characters popular with children have been devised, and the Program to Raise Awareness and Further Spread Volunteer Activities has been newly implemented to arouse the interest of children and link this interest to actual actions.
By implementing programs such as those described above, MEXT is actively promoting participation in volunteer activities among a broad section of the public, from children to the elderly.
6. Enhancing Educational Functions of Communities through Promotion of Social Education
(1)Promotion of New Learning Activities in Social Education
It has been pointed out that social education activities at social education facilities such as citizenspublic halls and other locations currently tend to focus on specific learning content with specific people in mind. For example, of the classes and lectures provided, the majority pertains to hobbies, exercises, and general cultivation (Figure 2-12), and users of social education facilities are mainly those aged 60 or over, who find the social education facilities easy to use during the day (Figure 2-13).
In the progress report issued by the Central Council for Education in March 2004, entitled “Future Measures to Promote Lifelong Learning,” it was pointed out that “government and related institutions responsible for lifelong learning, including social education facilities such as citizens’ public halls, libraries, and museums are not necessarily meeting the needs of society today with what they offer.” The report notes the necessity for these classes and lectures to address common social issues as well.
To this end, MEXT is resolved to promote support for activities that seek to address such issues and enhance learning contents in contemporary issues that require input from the people and local community residents, such as the citizen judge system. In cooperation with other relevant ministries and agencies, MEXT is providing support for the enhancement of various learning activities in social education facilities.
|(a) Education and awareness raising on the judicial system and the citizen judge system
In cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court of Japan, in order to promote educational and awareness-raising activities about the citizen judge system through social education facilities and other locations, in July 2005 MEXT issued a notification to superintendents of all prefectural and designated city boards of education in Japan concerning educational and awareness-raising activities on the judicial system and citizen judge system. Efforts continue to be made to enhance learning opportunities on this topic.
|(b) Promotion of crime prevention education and activities, and volunteer activities in the area of crime prevention
The Nationwide Plan for Building Safe and Reassuring Communities (decided at the Ministerial Meeting Concerning Measures Against Crime in June 2005) made clear that crime prevention activities should be promoted, and in cooperation with the National Policy Agency, MEXT is supporting the promotion of crime prevention education and activities, as well as volunteer activities in the area of crime prevention in the community.
|(c) Promotion of energy education
In the area of energy education and awareness raising, in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC), the Japan Gas Association (JGA), the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), and corporations affiliated with Zensekiren and Japan Coal Energy Center, MEXT is supporting energy education activities in communities, utilizing social education facilities such as citizenspublic halls.
|(d) Promotion of disaster prevention education
In the area of disaster prevention education and awareness raising, in cooperation with the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT), MEXT is supporting awareness raising on disaster prevention education, utilizing social education facilities such as citizenspublic halls.
In addition, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), MEXT is supporting the effective utilization of social education facilities in the process of creating bases for providing support for the elderly to prevent them becoming dependent on nursing care.
(2) Renewing Methods to Exhibit and Disseminate Social Education
Museums are some of the central supporting institutions for social education activities at which the following four basic activities take place: collection and storage of items, research, exhibition, and education and dissemination. In order to enhance the educational functions of communities and families, it is expected that museums will utilize these above-mentioned functions to act as source of learning in the community and to be a location for community exchanges.
In particular, in recent years there has been an increasing number of museums which are taking distinctive approaches in concert with the activities of local residents:
|▲21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture) “Appreciation Class Using the Exhibition Hall”|
1) Approaches in Asahikawa City, Hokkaido Prefecture
Visitors from not only the locality but across the country come to Asahiyama Zoo in Asahikawa City, Hokkaido Prefecture. The zoo is always taking the initiative to come up with various innovative exhibits, some in the form of “action exhibits” which aim to show what animals would be like in their natural habitat, as well as animal handlers providing explanations to visitors directly concerning the different animals’ lifestyles (See Column 7). In addition, local residents established an NPO to support the zoo, and in this way activities at the zoo have been developed jointly with the community in a manner that transcends the conventional framework of a zoo.
|▲Osaka Museum of Natural History (Osaka Prefecture) In-house workshop (Run jointly by NPO staff and curators)|
2) Approaches in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa was opened in 2004, and over the course of six years prior to the opening of the museum, programs were implemented promoting the new museum at various local venues, including elementary schools. Through these active preparatory activities, local residents became aware of the existence of the museum, which led to the expansion of support circles in the form of a friends of the museum society and a volunteer organization. After the opening, the museum has been promoting ease of access so that anyone can drop by at anytime, first inviting all elementary and lower secondary school students from the city to visit the museum, and then encouraging the children to bring their own parents and show them around, among other programs.
3) Approaches in Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
At the Osaka Museum of Natural History, comprehensive research is being implemented with the participation of many local residents into the black cicada, which is one of the creatures children have most opportunity to come into contact with. Each year the numbers of emerging black cicadas are counted and the distances they travel are measured. In addition, research on the entire watershed region of the Yamato River, which flows through Nara and Osaka Prefectures, is implemented with resident participation, which is one of a broad range of field study programs. Indoors too, the museum implements workshops on fossils and other topics, where both adults and children alike can learn and enjoy the experience.(notes1) In addition, in partnership with the Osaka Natural History Center, which was launched as a base for the friends of the museum association, active efforts are being made to promote tie-ups with school education, for example guidance and theme-based training for teachers concerning the museum as a source of excursions and field trips.
In the future, museums will be further expected to maintain the basic functions of a museum – collecting items that have been bequeathed to society and communicating these to future generations – and also to actively involve themselves in community and households as detailed in the examples above, thus demonstrating clearly their significance and social mission in a manner that is transparent and open to all people.
(3) Modality for New Facilities in Social Education – Approaches to Compound Social Education Facilities
In recent years, efforts have been made to improve convenience for learners, bring school education and social education closer together, and develop projects efficiently through mutual cooperation among social education facilities. This has led to the promotion of compound facilities, where multiple social education facilities, for example a library and lifelong learning center, or a citizens’public hall, library, and school, are combined. Efforts have also been made to capitalize on the various characteristics of these social education facility complexes.
1) Case Study: Shiki City, Saitama Prefecture
The Iroha Learn and Play Center, run by Shiki City, aims to provide education based on the principle of “protecting and raising children in the community,” a concept termed as “school-community integration.”(notes2) The Center was opened in April 2003 as a compound facility that integrates the citizens’ public hall, library, and Shiki Elementary School. Capitalizing on the advantages of being a compound facility, in addition to education being promoted in which children are encouraged to learn and think on their own, efforts are being made to widen the scope of learning and hands-on activities.
In the library at the Center, study space is set aside for elementary school classes for their research activities, and this space is used in turn by all classes based on a usage plan. The center has enabled the school education to utilize a variety of resources depending on class content through the loan of necessary books from public libraries in the vicinity. Furthermore, exchange among staff and exchange of library resources and information are encouraged in order to promote cooperation and integration between library and school. There is also a staff room next to the library space without a partition between the corridor and the staff room, welcoming parents and guardians and local residents who are using the library to drop by the staff room. While promoting cooperation with the community, consideration is also given to school safety. Besides proper monitoring of the local residents who use the facility on a daily basis, which serves a crime prevention function, additional measures include all partitions and surfaces being made of glass and surveillance cameras being installed in blind corners and other isolated areas, and all teachers and facility staff carrying mobile phones with them.
Through such efforts, exchange has been promoted among local residents, children, and teachers. As a facility that can be used even after graduating from school, the center promotes continuous and sustainable lifelong learning.
|▲Library Facility at the Iroha Learn and Play Center used by both students and the general public|
2) Case Study: Takaoka City, Toyama Prefecture
WING WING Takaoka was opened in April 2004 as a compound facility in Takaoka City, in the western part of Toyama Prefecture. It comprises a public sector wing (Takaoka Lifelong Learning Center, Central Library, Gender Equality Promotion Center and Prefectural Citizens’ College Takaoka Center and Shikino High School), and a private sector wing (hotel and restaurants, offices, etc.).
Of these facilities, the Lifelong Learning Center independently provides learning programs whose contents have been scrutinized, which include the provision of courses on “Takaoka studies” aiming to provide lessons about the locality, including famous residents of Takaoka, regional religions, and folk customs, thus emphasizing a distinctly local flavor to learning. Furthermore, auditors of the Lifelong Learning Center’s courses can gain credits for lifelong learning programs provided by the Prefectural Citizens’ College, which is enabled by cooperation with the Prefectural Citizens’ College Takaoka Center.
One of the advantages of a compound facility such as this is the ability for different institutions to gain mutual awareness about prefectural and city-run lifelong learning programs, thus enabling a coordination of program contents and schedules. Visitors to the library have also increase three- to four-fold since the combined facility opened, thus becoming the case of capitalizing on the convenience of a location directly in front of Takaoka Station.
In this way, with cooperation and integration among various facilities, convenience is being increased for residents, and the features and know-how of each individual facility can be further utilized to develop a broader ranger of programs that would not have been feasible in a non-compound facility.
|▲WING WING Takaoka||▲Performance by a choir group at the WING WING Festival|
7. Improving Educational Functions of Communities through Sports Activities
Sports stimulate the sound development of mind and body, foster self-control and self-responsibility, and teach the spirit of fair play. As cultivating communication skills and consideration for others through interaction with friends and instructors plays an important role in the sound development of youth, environments in which children can enjoy sports casually as part of their day-to-day lives are needed. The principal approaches now being pursued by communities to promote children's sports activities include the following.
(1) Comprehensive Community Sports Clubs
MEXT is promoting the development of “comprehensive community sports clubs” that enable both children and adults who love sports to participate in sports in accordance with their respective tastes and skill levels; these clubs are run voluntarily and independently by local residents.
In Europe, where it is said that sports have become a part of the culture of daily living, many local residents are members of sports clubs. In these sports clubs, not only do residents engage in sports, but the clubs also provide a social forum, forming a foundation for the local community in both social and collective terms. Furthermore, joining a club can lead to residents gaining a greater sense of pride as a member of their local community, thus leading to community revitalization.
In Japan, where all schools are now run on a five-day school week system, comprehensive community sports clubs not only play a key role as locations for children's sports activities after classes and on weekends, but also prove beneficial by fostering the sound development of youth and revitalizing educational functions of communities through interaction with family members and intergenerational exchange via sports, as family members and community residents of all ages participate. Numerous instances have shown that organizing comprehensive community sports clubs motivates communities as a whole to watch over the development of their children and produces more vibrant and active children (Figure 2-14).
As of July 2005, 2,155 comprehensive community sports clubs had been established in 783 cities, towns, and villages nationwide, a trend that should continue into the future.
(2)Youth Sports Associations
Youth sports associations were first established in 1962 by the Japan Amateur Sports Association (JASA) for the purpose of promoting the sound development of youth through sports. These associations have since been organized nationwide, with approximately 35,000 such associations consisting of about 930,000 members (primarily elementary school students) active in communities as of FY2004.
Youth sports associations may be of the single sport variety (e.g., rubber baseball, soccer, volleyball or kendo) or a multiple-sport organization, and their activities utilize schools and public facilities (Figures 2-15, 2-16).
Besides sports activities, these associations allow members to participate in outdoor and cultural activities, local projects and events, and volunteer and other social activities. Particular emphasis has been placed on social activities in local communities that form the foundations on which the associations are built, and these activities have come to have great significance as key hands-on activities that help young girls and boys become respectable members of society.
Furthermore, youth sports associations have formulated and are promoting the Eighth Development Plan that covers a five-year period from FY2005, taking into consideration the rapid changes in society surrounding youth and the changes in the sporting environment.
The plan consists of the four goals detailed below. In addition to ensuring the further development and enhancement of youth sports association organization, efforts are being made under the plan to provide a wealth of various activities to more children.
|Eighth Five-Year Plan for Youth Sports Associations
8. Improving Educational Functions of Communities through Promotion of Culture
(1)Promotion of Local Culture and Education
Culture enriches life, providing a source of enjoyment and excitement, bringing about a sense of well-being and joy to living, as well as fostering a rich sense of humanity and encouraging creativity. The promotion of culture characteristics of the various localities that have these attributes is therefore of extreme importance from the perspective of revitalization of communities as well. For this reason, in February 2005 the Cultural Policy Committee, Council for Culture Affairs, compiled a report entitled, “Revitalizing Japan through Local Culture!”
The report points to the power of culture and the effect it could have in the field of education. Specifically, the report states that through children coming into direct contact with the real culture and arts, and gaining stimulating experiences that are normally not available, it would lead to the nurturing of a rich sense of humanity and creativity. The report further states that through participation in cultural and arts activities, children would be able to develop a better sense of self and empathy for those around them, thus enhancing their own personal development and powers of communication.
In addition, in order to further enhance the hands-on activities of children in coming into contact with diverse culture and arts in the community, it is importance to actively utilize local cultural power. To this end, it is necessary to develop an environment that links children with culture and the arts, through such activities as the promotion of cooperation and tie-ups between schools and local museums and companies.
On utilizing the cultural power of the community, the above-mentioned report raises some specific challenges for promotion of local culture, one of which asks, “In what way should support for cultural and arts activities for children be promoted?” The report provides a number of specific measures and specific case studies to resolve this issue (see Column 9).
Based on such circumstances, the Agency for Cultural Affairs is implementing the following measures, designed to promote hands-on cultural and arts activities for children in the community. In so doing it expects that children would have many inspirational and stimulating hands-on experiences through direct contact with arts and culture and participation in creative activities, thereby nurturing a rich sensitivity and sense of humanity.
(2)Promotion of Hands-on Cultural and Arts Activities for Children in the Community
1)Support for Hands-On Cultural Projects (Community Educational Functions Revival Plan)
In order to provide opportunities that will nurture children with a rich sense of humanity and diversity of character, MEXT is implementing the Support for Hands-On Cultural Projects to enable children to experience various characteristic local cultures around them that could not normally be experienced directly, including art, traditional culture and cultural assets. The projects have been implemented within the scope of normal daily life all year long, and have incorporated a variety of activities, including hands-on experiences of wearing costumes used in performing arts or trying to play instruments used in performances, as well as seeing the actual processes or trying out the tools used in traditional arts and crafts. In order that these projects can be implemented in a regular manner the cooperation of adults in the community is indispensable, and this further contributes to the revitalization of the educational functions of the emotionally enriched community. For these reasons, from FY2005 the Program to Support Cultural Experience Projects is being implemented as one of the items in the Community Educational Functions Revival Plan, aiming to provide children with opportunities for a variety of activities at a grass-roots level.
|▲Support for Hands-On Cultural Projects Experiencing pottery culture (Takeo City, Saga Prefecture)|
2) Ensuring Opportunities to View Authentic Stage Arts
Seeing outstanding performing arts and directly encountering the stimulation and inspiration they provide is something that cannot be experienced every day and is therefore of greatest importance in nurturing a rich sense of humanity and creativity in children. The Agency for Cultural Affairs implements a program to provide children with opportunities to become closely acquainted with the performing arts, for example, using the Period of Integrated Study and weekend time to see outstanding performing arts such as orchestra, ballet, or a kabuki performance, participate in workshops or performance lessons provided by theater or music groups, and perform together with members of these performing arts groups. School gymnasiums or public cultural facilities that are a base for cultural activities in the community could be used for that end.
|▲Program to Experience Real Performing Arts – music theater performance Fujiwara Opera Chorus Group (Kurate Kita Junior High School, Kurate Town, Fukuoka Prefecture)|
This program is implemented in all prefectures, seeking applications from schools and public cultural facilities that would like to hold such an event. Many such applications are received each year. From these applications, the Agency for Cultural Affairs decides on where the event will be held, considering the schedule and accessibility. This program has been highly evaluated by many of the schools at which it has been implemented and also by those taking part. For this reason, the Agency for Cultural Affairs is making efforts to expand the number of performances, by coordinating joint performances at multiple schools and utilizing small-scale theater or music groups.
3) Promotion of Cultural Activities at Schools
Another program being implemented is the “Program to Dispatch Artists to Schools.” This program is one that sends outstanding artists and those who possess skills in traditional crafts to schools in the area in which they were born, where they recount their experience with arts and culture and provide lectures on outstanding features of the locality, sometimes incorporating actual demonstrations, etc. This program is implemented in school gymnasiums and similar venues, targeting students, teachers and parents and guardians alike. The aim of the program is to expand learning opportunities for children about the wonder of cultural activities, as well as to revitalize cultural activities in schools, thereby cultivating richness in mind among children.
Those who are dispatched are outstanding artists in a variety of fields, including music, Japanese music, drama, and dance, with a local connection, and those who possess skills in traditional crafts. They are selected by the Agency for Cultural Affairs after receiving recommendations from prefectural and municipal boards of education and schools wishing to host the program.
4) Program to Promote Traditional Culture Classes for Children
Given recent depopulation trends, the rapidly declining birthrate and aging society, as well as changes in lifestyle, various forms of traditional culture, among others, that have been handed down through communities are now in danger of extinction. It is for this reason that from FY2003 the Program to Promote Traditional Culture Classes for Children has been implemented with the aim of providing children who will be responsible for the next generation to experience and acquire skills in traditional culture. To date, approximately 6,000 projects have been implemented in a wide range of fields.
In addition, the program has also received high praise as a joint community endeavor, with it being pointed out that it presents is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that traditional culture, which has been passed down through the community, is passed on to future generations through interaction in this program between children and adults in the community. As such, efforts will continue to be made to enhance the program.
5) Program to Form Hubs of Artistic Activities (support for exhibition projects, etc.)
The Program to Form Hubs of Artistic Activities (support for exhibition projects, etc.) has been implemented from FY2002, with the aim of providing support to art and history museums, among others, which act as bases for community cultural and arts activities.
For example, at the City Museum Ono (Hyogo Prefecture) a program entitled “Special Exhibition: My Town, Kibita” was held in FY2004. This was held on the theme of the history of one town (neighborhood) within the city limits, and the program received the backing of the community association. Combining the results of research by City Museum Ono, and following the advice of curators, the exhibition was arranged by local residents and elementary and lower secondary school students, based on their own research. Although the population of Kibita is 501 persons, more than double that number – 1,173 persons – came to see the exhibition, which brought the museum closer to the community. Through elementary and lower secondary school students interviewing the elderly in the town, intergenerational exchange was realized and the local community was restored. In addition, the achievements of people who have endeavored to develop the town were reassessed and the exhibition provided an impetus for residents as a whole to consider their town’s future development.
|▲Class for children on Awa-Ningyo Joruri puppets (Tokushima Prefecture)|
Study methods in which students take an active part in learning, and have various opportunities to discover and understanding various things through the process of group learning.
(notes2) School-community integration
Integrating school education with social education.
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