National

Ministry looks to support high schools involved in fostering regional social businesses

JIJI

The education ministry has started discussions on providing support for high schools that operate social businesses, aiming to solve problems in regional communities through business methods, Jiji Press learned Tuesday.

The ministry plans to offer backups, such as collating successful cases of social businesses undertaken by high schools nationwide and dispatching experts to regions that are moving ahead to introduce social businesses, sources said.

Hoping that it will contribute to regional revitalization, the ministry may include related expenses in its budget request for fiscal 2018, which starts next April, according to the sources.

There are many cases of social businesses run by high school students as part of class or extracurricular club activities throughout Japan.

One example is a high school in Minamiise, Mie Prefecture.

Since 2013, the students, together with the municipality, have been making “taiyaki” fish-shaped sweet-bean cakes in the shape of the town’s mascot, as well as selling gift boxes of local specialties, including half-dried bonito and mandarin juice, which the students purchase from local merchants. The students have sold 1,200 boxes so far.

In June, the government’s Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding suggested promoting efforts by high school students to learn business techniques, with cooperation from private businesses and nonprofit organizations, so they can address regional challenges together with local grown-ups. The panel’s proposal prompted the education ministry to consider support measures.

The ministry cohosted a two-day networking event in Ise, Mie, from Friday for high school students in Japan who are involved with social business.

Students from over 30 schools in 14 prefectures, including Aomori and Okinawa, attended the event, jointly hosted with a committee headed by Masayuki Kishikawa, adviser to Hyakugo Bank, a regional bank based in the Mie capital of Tsu.