Learning through Involvement in the Real World of Entrepreneurship and Policy-Making

Local Government PBL

On September 26, at Chuo University, where I am a specially appointed associate professor, I conducted a Local Government Project-Based Learning program. Around forty tenth-grade students took on the challenges of discovering issues and forming policies in local government in this program, a learning-through-experience program that links high schools and universities.
The mission for the students, assigned to them by Chiba City, was to come up with policy proposals for more involvement by children and youth in local government. The proposals that came out of the program ranged from the daring proposal to set up a “students’ city office,” which would be for students only, to come up with ideas for incorporating civic participation into school activities, such as forming committees in each school to make proposals to the city. This latter proposal was prompted by the perception that young people face challenges when it comes to becoming involved in city programs. The students in the program also felt that the local government was not sharing information enough with the youth of the city, and suggested the use of SNS, or having high school students send information out to other high school students. This is the kind of feedback that could only come from the actual youths who are hoping for improvement in the system.
Although the participants of the program were not accustomed to policy formation, everyone enjoyed the program.
This time the program was limited to three hours, but the local government employees from the Youth Participation Division who also took part in the program gave very positive feedback. They commented that the ideas presented by the high school students provided them with inspiring tips which they could incorporate into their actual programs, and that the students showed great potential.
If this Local Government PBL could be developed into a full-length program of 15 sessions, or even a shorter version of three to five sessions, and targeted not only for university students but also for younger students in senior and junior high school, we could offer a program of even higher quality.
I would love to see other local governments besides Chiba, which provided the occasion this time, take part in this kind of program in a variety of schools, and to see them introduce the proposals that come out of these sessions and apply them to their actual policies. If any local governments and schools are interested in this program, I would encourage them to contact me.

Main arena for youth participation in politics

This Local Government PBL program was prompted by the recent granting of the right to vote to eighteen-year-olds. I hope that it will help to educate young people in their roles as sovereign right-holders, and also, from the perspective of public involvement (PI), that it will function as an intrinsic scheme to encourage students and youth to become involved in policy-making and to have their ideas reflected in policy.
With the lowering of the minimum voting age to eighteen, interest is expected to focus on the question of how to inspire young people to become more involved. On the other hand, there are still very few mechanisms in this country that allow these young people to become involved in a substantial way. It is particularly important that local governments, which will become the main arena for civic participation, to tackle the establishment of models that will link policy-making with education.
Chiba has also launched a Children and Youth Participation and Student Council Revitalization Internship Program, a long-term internship that incorporates this project-based learning model.
Chiba’s ambition is to become a leading local government in the area of civic involvement by children and youth. One of the aims of the internship program is to have its policies assessed, problems detected and solutions to those problems considered and proposed from the viewpoint of the people concerned or as close to that viewpoint as possible. At the same time, the City hopes that the young participants, by gaining direct experience of policy making at the frontline of local government, will become more interested in local government and administration, and become partners with the administration as new players on the public stage. I would encourage anyone who would still like to take part in this internship program to contact Chiba City.
I have proposed a more ambitious framework for youth participation to several other local government besides Chiba, and in the process of urging them to put them into practice.

Learning from the frontline and real engagement

PBL (Project-Based Learning) is a program based on learning through problem-solving. It incorporates active learning into the kind of on-the-job training (OJT) that companies use to train their employees. Chuo University offers a course called Business Project Course 1 to first-year students that adopts this PBL approach. To date, we have had specific missions set for the students from companies such as Suntory, Oriental Land, Kikkoman, JAXA and APA Hotels. Acting as mock employees of these companies, the students form groups to consider possible solutions, after which they present their proposals to actual employees and owners of these companies, who play the role of the students’ managers.
Traditionally, many university classes have been conducted in lecture style, with the professor standing in front of a large classroom, delivering a lecture while writing on the blackboard and the students taking notes. The focus of this conventional teaching and learning style has been the acquisition of knowledge, but today, as times have changed, educational institutions are being called on to change with them. There is now more talk about the need for more “active learning” in which the students play a more proactive role in education.
In Project-Based Learning (PBL) programs, the students do everything themselves, from establishing the framework for the project’s implementation and developing plans of action, to actually carrying out the project. In the process, students become proactively engaged as protagonists in solving the problems put before them. Not only does this boost their motivation to learn, it is also very effective in helping them to achieve remarkable growth, by equipping them with practical skills that they cannot acquire from conventional lectures, including logical thinking, problem-solving, presentation, and designing skills.

Learning from proactive involvement in entrepreneurship and policy-making

Concurrently with these kinds of education programs, I have also built a platform called the Chuo University Entrepreneurs Circle with a group of Chuo University students. In its first six months, four student companies have been launched.
Although the main theme of this essay is participation in civic society, from the perspectives of nurturing people who can create economic growth and new industries, it is equally important that we develop mechanisms in the economy that will allow young people to learn by engaging proactively as protagonists in actual corporate activity as well.
As with the mechanisms for civic participation proposed in this article, I believe that involving students as proactive protagonists in economic spheres, and even in the question of how to reform our universities and education systems, would create tremendous potential not just for the students but for the future of the universities themselves.
When I was a university student in 2000, I established a non-profit organization (NPO) called Rights to call for greater participation in politics for young people, centering on the platforms of the lowering of the minimum voting age and the enhancement of political education. Since then, I have campaigned strongly for this cause in all manner of ways, including appearing as an unsworn witness before the House of Representatives’ Constitution Research Council and the Special Committee on Political Ethics and Election Law to give the Diet my opinions on these issues. Finally, after fifteen years’ continued effort, the participation in elections by 18-year-olds will become a reality from the House of Councilors election in the summer of 2016.
Times have changed. We have gone from seemingly never-ending economic expansion to depressed growth. The matrix of complex and diverse problems facing society means that there are no longer any “simple fixes” and we are now in an age in which those problems cannot be solved without taking advantage of a vast range of knowledge and wisdom.
The solutions to these social issues, including the widening disparity between the generations, as seen in the issues of tax and social security, must be considered not only from current perspectives, but also from more long-term perspectives.
In times such as these, lowering the voting age is not just about the fact that there will be 2.4 million more voters or about the fact that more young people will be coming out to vote. Bringing the voting age down to eighteen must prompt us to view young people as central players in politics and society and to come up with ways to encourage their participation in those arenas.

Ryohei Takahashi
高橋亮平写真
Specially Appointed Associate Professor, Faculty of Commerce, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Local government, administrative and fiscal reform, youth involvement, career education
Professor Takahashi is Specially Appointed Associate Professor at Chuo University, the director of a NPO called Rights, President of the Student Council Support Association, Advisor on Children’s and Youth Participation and Student Council Revitalization for Chiba City, and Visiting Researcher at the Meiji Institute for Intergenerational Policy. Born in 1976, Associate Professor Takahashi is a graduate of the School of Science and Technology, Meiji University. He took up his current position after serving on the Ichikawa City Council, as the Chair of the National Young City Councilors Association, Researcher at the Tokyo Foundation, Policy Officer and Advisor for Matsudo City, and Secretary-General of the non-profit organization, Mannen Yato (Perennial Opposition). Professor Takahashi has been chosen as one of AERA magazine’s “100 People Who Will Rebuild Japan” and as a participant in the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). He has appeared in the media on programs such as TV Asahi’s Asa Made Nama Telebi [Live TV until Morning]. His major publications include Sedaikan Kakusatte Nanda [What is Generational Disparity?] and 18-Sai ga Seiji wo Kaeru! [18-Year-Olds Will Change Politics!].
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<日本語版>

若者は「ゴッコ」ではなく、起業や政策形成など「ホンモノ」の社会実践に関わりながら学ぶべき

若者が政策形成に関わるアクティブ・ラーニング「自治体版PBL」の実践

9月26日、特任准教授を務める中央大学で、高大連携の体験学習プログラムとして、高校1年生約40名を対象に自治体における課題発見と政策形成に挑む『自治体版PBL(Project-Based Learning)』を実施した。
千葉市からの「こども若者参画政策の提案」をミッションに課題解決に挑み、「学生だけの学生市役所を作ってみてはどうか」といった斬新な提案から、参画のためにわざわざ市の事業に参加するのはハードルが高いので、各学校に「市に提案するための委員会を作ってみてはどうか」といった、学校活動に参画を埋め込んでいくアイデアなどが提案され、そもそも情報が共有できていないことが問題だとして、高校生に情報を伝えるためにSNSを使ったり、高校生同士で情報を発信させたりするべきなど、当事者ならではの声も聞かれた。
終了後は、慣れない政策形成にも関わらず、参加者全員が「楽しかった」とコメントした。
今回の場合は、3時間の限定的なプログラムだったが、参加したこども若者参画部署の自治体職員たちからも、「実際に反映できそうなヒントもあった」、「大きな可能性感じた」との評価をもらった。
今回の『自治体版PBL』プログラムは、大学での実施はもちろん、さらに低年齢の高校や中学レベルでも、通常通りの15回、あるいは短縮版の3~5回程度のプログラムとして行えるのであれば、より質の高いものが実施できる。
ミッションを提供してくれた千葉市はじめ各自治体において、さらに色々な学校で実施してもらい、こうした授業での提案から声を吸い上げ、実際の政策に活かしてもらえたらと思っており、関心のある自治体や学校があれば、是非、ご連絡いただきたい。

若者の政治参加は、自治体現場がメインになる

今回実施した『自治体版PBL(Project-Based Learning)』は、18歳選挙権実現を意識したもので、主権者教育のプログラムとしてはもちろん、PI(Public Involvement =住民参画)の視点から学生や若者が政策形成に関わり、さらにその提案が政策に反映される本質的な参画のスキームとして機能する仕組みにしていく事を期待している。
選挙権が18歳へと引き下げられた事から、今後こども若者をどう参画させていくかという事には関心が集まる事が予想されるが、一方でこの国の中には未だ実質的な参画の仕組みはほとんど整備されていない。中でも今後、若者参画の主現場になる自治体において、政策形成や教育現場と連動させたモデルの構築に踏み込めるかが重要である。
千葉市ではさらにこのPBL(Project-Based Learning)を長期インターンシップに組み込んだ『こども若者参画・生徒会活性化インターンシッププログラム』も開始した。
こども若者参画の先進自治体をめざす千葉市の政策を当事者ないし当事者に近い目線から評価、課題発見、問題解決策など検討、提案することで、より価値のある政策形成を行うと共に、自治体現場での政策形成などを直接体験し、地方自治や行政への関心を高め、行政にとって新しい公の担い手としてのパートナーシップを期待したものだ。興味のある人は、今からでも連絡して欲しい。
千葉市に限らず、いくつかの自治体に対して、さらに踏み込んだこども若者参画の仕組みを提案し、それが実現出来るよう現在働きかけているところだ。

現場や実際の取り組みから学ぶ新たな教育プログラムが必要

PBL(Project-Based Learning)は課題解決型学習のプログラムであり、企業において社員へのトレーニングなどで用いられるOJT(On-the-Job Training)をアクティブ・ラーニングに用いたもので、中央大学商学部では1年生を対象に「ビジネス・プロジェクト講座Ⅰ」と題し、これまでにサントリー、オリエンタルランド、キッコーマン、JAXA、APAホテルなどに具体的なミッションをもらい、学生は擬似「社員」としてグループワークにより解決策を検討、上司役の実際の社員や経営者たちを前に提案をプレゼンする形で行っている。
かつての大学の授業は、大教室で教授が黒板に書いたものをノートに取り、話をメモするなど座学形式のものが多く、知識を得ることを主眼としてきたが、教育現場においても時代と共に変化が求められ、生徒が主体的に学ぶアクティブ・ラーニングの必要性が言われる様になってきているのだ。
PBL(Project-Based Learning)プログラムでは、プロジェクト実行のためのフレームワークの設定から、実施計画の立案、プロジェクト実行まで、すべてを学生自ら行う。その過程で、学生たちが課題解決に向かって積極的、主体的に取り組むことにより、学習意欲を強く持つとともに、通常の講義では得られないロジカルシンキング、課題解決能力、プレゼンテーション能力、デザイン力などといった実践的な力を身に付け、目覚ましい成長を遂げるなど、その効果は高い。

若者は起業や政策形成など社会実践に主体者として関わりながら学べ

こうした教育プログラムと同時に、中央大学の学生たちと「中央大学起業家サークル」といったプラット・フォームも構築したところ、設立半年で4つの学生企業が誕生した。
今回の主テーマは社会的な参画だが、経済成長や新規産業の創出ができる人材の育成という視点から考えれば、経済においても同様に若者を主体者として企業実践に取り組ませながら学ばせていく仕組みを創る事が重要である。
今回提案した社会参画の仕組みもそうだが、こうした経済分野においてもそう、さらに言えば、大学改革や教育改革をどう行っていくかという事についてもまた、学生を主体者として巻き込んでいく事が、大学自体にとってもその未来に対して大きな可能性を創るのではないだろうか。
大学時代の2000年、選挙権年齢引き下げと政治教育の充実を柱に若者の政治参加を求めるNPO法人Rightsを立ち上げた。以来、国会審議においても衆議院の憲法審査会や倫選特などで参考人として意見陳述するなど、この間、あらゆる働きかけを行う事で、15年続けようやく2016年夏の参院選挙からの「18歳選挙権」が実現した。
時代は変わり、右肩上がりの経済状況から低成長へ、社会問題はより多様化、マトリクス化する中で単純解決する事ができず、より広い知恵を活かさなければ解決できない時代になってきている。
税と社会保障の問題はじめ世代間格差の拡大など、社会問題解決も現在の視点だけでなく、より長期的視点に立った問題解決が求められる。
こうした時代の中では、単に約240万人の有権者が増える事や、若者が選挙に行く様になる事だけでなく、「18歳選挙権」をキッカケにどう若者を政治や社会の当事者だと位置付け、どう参画させる仕組みが構築できるかが問われている。