The central government will strengthen its financial support for programs in which elementary, junior high and high school students stay in the countryside in communities centered on farming, forestry and fishing.
It hopes that such experiences will help urban children get interested in country life and may encourage them to consider settling in rural areas in the future, an official at the Cabinet Secretariat said.
The experience program initiative was jointly launched in fiscal 2008 by the education ministry, the agriculture ministry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
Currently, the central government provides tax revenue grants to local governments to help them cover accommodation and other expenses connected to experience programs for elementary school students. From fiscal 2019, it will expand the financial support to also cover programs for junior high school students, officials said.
For pilot programs for elementary and junior high school students conducted jointly by the urban municipalities that send children and the rural areas that receive them, the state gives financial support to both sides. Programs for high school students will additionally become eligible for such assistance.
In fiscal 2016, 320,000 elementary, 370,000 junior high school and 150,000 high school students participated in farming, forestry and fishing community experience programs.
As a measure to promote local revitalization, the central government is aiming to boost the annual number of participating elementary school students to 650,000, that of junior high school students to 750,000, and that of high school students to 300,000 by fiscal 2024.
It hopes to achieve the targets through the planned financial support.
The state has been promoting migration to regional areas to rectify the over-concentration of the population in Tokyo. More and more people, however, are born in urban areas, such as the capital and surrounding areas, and grow up without any contact with the countryside.
The government expects that children may consider migrating to regional areas when they grow up if they discover local attractions by staying in the countryside, albeit temporarily, and experience farming, forestry and fishery activities.