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Another International Exchange through Child Science

Keywords: symposium, world peace, China, promoting international exchange, study, East Asia Child Science Exchange Program, Henan Province, play, Zhengzhou Infant Normal School, Noboru Kobayashi

Establishing global peace in 21st century all starts with exchange between the peoples of different countries. We know that film and music play a large role in accomplishing this.

South Korean TV dramas are a particularly good example. They have created in interest in Korean things, which in turn, has spurred further exchange and dialogue between Japan and South Korea. The South Korean TV drama entitled "Winter Sonata," which was broadcast by NHK in 2003, was one of the first programs in this trend. Direct communication between people also serves to eliminate biased preconceptions of others, too. I read in the newspaper that an anti-Japanese Chinese journalist became a huge Japanophile after being posted in Tokyo where after meeting many different Japanese people, he realized how mistaken his initial view of Japanese people had been.

In whatever country, most people are friendly to those from other countries, and I am sure that this has been your experience, too. While there are some who, for some reason, have unfriendly feelings, they tend to be extremely few in number.

I lived in the United States for five years and in the U.K. for three, and during this time, I made many friends and acquaintances, and every day was enjoyable. My trips abroad and travels related to the International Pediatrics Association (IPA) easily number over thirty. I also have an official passport that has been reissued nearly 30 times.

Unfortunately, I was not able to visit Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the Middle East, Peru and Chile in South America, the Near East except Turkey and some countries in southern and northern Africa. Trying to recall the countries that I have visited, I could not remember anything unpleasant ever happening even although we did not share a common language. Considering my experiences in all these countries, I have come to see that human beings are the same all over and respond sensitively to one another if they enter into exchange or communication with others. Even expressions and actions alone can communicate well-meaning intentions and gentleness.

I visited Zhengzhou, Henan Province in China for four nights and five days from October 20. I have made about 20 trips to China since the early 1970s. This regional city with a long history and a population of 8 million is a 1.5 hour flight from Shanghai. My purpose was to participate in a symposium held by CRN's East Asia Child Science Exchange Program held at the Zhengzhou Infant Normal School for two days.

Zhengzhou Infant Normal School is an institution that trains child care specialists and teachers for kindergarten, day care centers, and preschools. It is also equivalent to a vocational school or community college offering reeducation and professional development. The symposium was held together with professors, teachers, administrators and students.

The three participants from Japan, including myself, were Professor Yoichi Sakakihara, Ochanomizu University and Mr. Chihiro Tada, Director of the Tokyo Toy Museum. From China, along with Professor Jiaxiong Zhu, East China Normal University, Shanghai, were two researchers of early childhood education, Professor Xiangying Liu, currently on the faculty of Fukuyama City University and Professor Fang-hua Xiao, Asia University, Taiwan. A summary of this symposium will be forthcoming from CRN.

Upon viewing the kindergartens in China, it strikes me that the kindergartens and day care centers in China are larger than ones in Japan and impressive with rooms for a specific purpose such as painting, singing, playing with blocks, and eating. In this respect, it is necessary for us to consider children's playing and learning in terms of good or bad child-caring design. However, in thinking about how to integrate day care and preschool, an issue in Japan, it seemed to me that we could take a hint from the Chinese specialists who see the care and education of small children in comprehensive terms, under one rubric of "early childhood education."

Zhengzhou is an ancient city dating from the Shang dynasty, 3500 years ago. Today, as a major city in an agricultural region, its main industries are commerce, textiles and tourism. I had the opportunity to visit the Shaolin Temple, built by the Bodhidharma from India (known as "Daruma" in Japanese) and famous for Shaolin martial arts and the Songyang Academy of Classical Learning, which was one of four ancient academies of classical learning during the Song dynasty. This trip to China was a significant one not only for CRN, but also on a personal level.

At that time, it occurred to me that this sort of international exchange is meaningful in a very different way from what takes place through film and music. First, it is concerned with children. All cultures, people, and countries consider children to be special, and they are nearly universally the same when we think of them biological beings. Second, when we look at child raising, child care and education through which children develop from biological beings to social beings, we see that the period of infancy tends to be similar, sharing much in common, across cultures and countries. In addition, the period of infancy tends to be little influenced by ideologies of national policy. Today is an also important time for raising children to be free of prejudice and discrimination in the name of peace in the twenty-first century. For this reason, I believe that Child Science, through international exchange and dialogue, can play a central role in teaching children to value peace and create a foundation for world peace in the twenty-first century. For this reason, we intend to devote increasing efforts to the East Asia Child Science Exchange Program.

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