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The Significance of Kodomo Daigaku Kawagoe Now

In this message at the beginning of the year, I would like to introduce the Kodomo Daigaku Kawagoe (Children's University Kawagoe). Tokyo International University, Shobi University, and Toyo University, three universities in Kawagoe, have opened up their classrooms to children, offering lectures and lessons similar to what university students receive. While there are many ways of thinking about this particular project, I see it as an important example of child-caring design in education.

What I mean here by child-caring design is, of course, not only design that considers safety and security, but design with a gentle, caring standpoint that incorporates the perspective and thinking of children. In this sense, child-caring design is one pillar of Child Science. When we think of children's issues today, there are clearly many things, both concrete and abstract, that we must consider in terms of child-caring design. Besides toys, playthings, parks, etc., we also need urgently think about the child-caring design of educational materials, schools, educational methods and systems. Such an effort will require interdisciplinary research by scholars and experts from various fields.

Kodomo Daigaku Kawagoe is headed by Dr. Katsuya Endo, Professor of Education, Vice-President of Tokyo International University, and organized with the support of the residents of Kawagoe as members. It offers classes on topics that are not taught in elementary and junior high schools and invites children to apply. Many topics are centered on the question "why?" as in "Why do planes fly?" or "Why do human beings die?" University professors lecture on these topics in a way that is easy for children to understand. This enables the children to understand the workings of nature and society and the mysteries of the human heart and body, which also helps them to design their own life plan.

An era of co-existence and collaboration in society, the 21st century is also a time when scholarship and research emphasize interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches. Out of a need to consider the growing diversity of children's issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, I proposed Kodomogaku or Child Science as a discipline and established the Japan Child Science Society, and from the viewpoint of Child Science, I would like to commend the Kodomo Daigaku for the fact that university educators have started to think about children. Apart from those in the health care, psychology, child care, and education fields, most do not seem to give much thought to children. The accident in which a child was crushed in the revolving doors of the Roppongi Hills office complex is surely evidence of this, and since then, engineers have started to think about children, too. The Kodomo Daigaku will surely play a role as a place where university faculty from many different fields can come together to think about children.

Among these university students, there will be many who become interested in children and decide to make this concern a future career. I hope that they will participate in Kodomo Daigaku and gain experience working with children there. I am happy to hear that, in fact, a number of young people have applied to take part in this project, and this will be a great advantage to them. It will be an especially meaningful experience for university students from fields with a different understanding of children to exchange views and learn from one another based on their interactions with the children.

I hope the project will also bring together local specialists dedicated to the health care and education of children and create opportunities for them to exchange their views as well. This will ensure that the Kodomo Daigaku project will involve the entire region and child-caring design will become an integral part of the community.

Looking at children's issues today, it appears that the local community is falling apart. By harnessing the energies and knowledge of specialists who are concerned about children, Kodomo Daigaku will surely expand into a larger movement that may be able to restore and reinvigorate the community.

I envision children with bright, shining eyes, listening intently to stories of robots, space ships, plants and animals. Perhaps from among these children will come Nobel laureate some day. It would be wonderful if the Kodomo Daigaku project expanded, forming an association of such projects throughout all of Japan. This would surely be a powerful step toward solving some of the children's issues that we face today.

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