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Children play vital role in shaping future policy

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    Participants in the first Children’s Newspaper Summit discussed issues facing Japan in the future. Schoolchildren tour Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto.

As globalization has advanced, developments in artificial intelligence have been remarkable. The world is going through major changes. In Japan the population is falling, and the super-aging of society is advancing ever more quickly.

It is children, with their unlimited potential, who shine a ray of light into these uncertain times. It is hoped that they will have the courage to chase their dreams and carve out a bright future.

When children become adults, what sort of world do they want to live in? And what should they do to achieve this? At the first Children’s Newspaper Summit held in Tokyo last month, readers of newspapers designed for elementary school children across the nation — including The Yomiuri Kodomo Shimbun — got together to discuss these topics and share their thoughts.

The event’s objective was to get members of the generation who will lead the nation in the future to turn their eyes to today’s social problems and think about Japan’s way of life in the years ahead. Topics addressed by six subcommittees, including the environment and scientific technology, were decided based on ideas put forward by the children themselves.

Before the summit, the children researched these topics at libraries and online and listened to talks by experts. As more questions arose, their interest quickly grew. A shared opinion was formed by taking in various viewpoints. When given a chance, children can show unexpected abilities.

Members of the environment subcommittee each reported on the impact of global warming on the region where they lived. One member said, “Torrential rain has become more common in an urban area,” while another said, “Farmers growing rice are changing to varieties better able to withstand hot temperatures.”

The children really felt these problems closely affected them, and they urged the entire world to take steps to deal with them.

Nurture the power to act

Children can change the future through their own actions. They are encouraged to look at society and choose to make a better tomorrow.

Their budding desire to achieve this should be greatly encouraged.

In this era of tumultuous change, thinking along the same lines as in the past will not be valid. Society will need people who can identify problems on their own, cooperate with those around them and seek ways to resolve the issues.

When faced with adversity, believing in oneself is the foundation of not becoming disheartened and finding the strength to tackle the challenge.

It has been observed that young Japanese tend to have a lower sense of self-affirmation and desire to become involved in society than young people in other nations do. Also, according to a report by the National Institution for Youth Education, the learning approach of high school students is lacking in terms of developing awareness of an issue by studying it, and also in applying what they have learned.

Revised teaching guidelines that come into effect from the 2020 academic year place a greater emphasis on active learning through debates in class and presentations. It will be important to nurture the ability to take action independently and actively in various places, not just in school.

The circumstances in which many children currently find themselves are still tough, as they confront problems including poverty, abuse and bullying. Every child should shine with a smile in life. With May 5 recently being observed as Children’s Day, each adult should once again think deeply about this responsibility.

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