March 31, 2007


Try-Yaru Week Activities -- To Nurture Children, Revive Communities

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.55 (March 2007)

A unique educational program called "Try-Yaru Week" is being offered to students in their second year of public junior high schools in Hyogo Prefecture. They have the opportunity to experience a week of real work in areas that interest them, at local offices and facilities.

"Try-Yaru" is combined with "try" and a Japanese word "Yaru".
In Japanese, "Yaru" means "to do," and the "try" suggests two meanings: one is literally "to attempt something," and the other refers to the "triangle" formed among schools, families and the community. Under the motto "It is the community that raises the community's children," schools, families, and communities cooperate with each other to raise children, while aiming to revitalize the educational functions of both communities and families.

Work Experience in Community

The range of work varies from sales, manufacturing and construction businesses, child-care, welfare and food services, to city hall, fire stations, hospitals and hotels. Some students go to the countryside to work in agriculture. Others participate in traditional activities unique to the local area, such as pottery and performing arts.

As much as possible, schools try to observe the students' requests when assigning them to workplaces. Students usually choose from a list prepared by the school, but some students find their own hosts. Usually, about three to five students go to one workplace.

During Try-Yaru Week, workers of volunteer organizations participate in the program and instruct students on social rules and manners, attitude toward work, appreciation for labor, as well as courteous and honorific use of Japanese.

Try-Yaru Week activities are supported by a promotion committee in each school district, and a promotion council of each municipality. Promotion committees consist of people from schools, parent-teacher associations and local community representatives. Promotion councils support organizing promotion committees in their municipalities and coordinate Try-Yaru Week activities. Hyogo Prefecture has designated the Try-Yaru Week activities as an important prefectural program, and established a structure to extend full support.

Under this structure, about 16,000 organizations and over 20,000 volunteer instructors participate in the program every year. The Try-Yaru Week activities are organized and supported by many local people.


In 1995, Hyogo was hit by the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, which caused tremendous damage, about 6,600 deaths, and 40,000 injuries. To help those afflicted by the quake, many people came to the stricken areas, where they conducted volunteer activities such as preparing meals for the victims. These activities provided many valuable lessons, such as the importance of respecting life and human rights, and the spirit of living in harmony. Hyogo has been making various efforts to apply these lessons in educational fields in order to help young people develop their physical and intellectual abilities. In recent years, juvenile crime has become a public concern in Japan. Hyogo was also shocked by a tragic murder committed by a school boy, which brought renewed attention to the importance of reinforcing "education for the soul" that teaches how to live and behave, the rules of society, and the awareness of personal responsibility.

To consider how to promote "education for the soul," the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education set up an emergency committee, which recommended that junior high school students be provided with long-term practical job experiences. Thus, the Try-Yaru Week program was launched in 1998, with an aim of ensuring that the valuable lessons learned through the earthquake would take root in the community.

Initially, local businesses tended to hesitate to accept students, making it difficult to secure enough hosts for the students. Through publicity through posters and leaflets, however, an increasing number of locals have come to recognize this program year by year. Many adults now see the participating students in a very positive light.

Japan once had a community-based child-raising culture in which, for example, local residents would scold children who did mischief even if the children were not their own. In this way, children learned the rules of society and manners in their local communities. In recent years, however, neighborhood relationships have become more tenuous, meaning that children have fewer opportunities to learn these things. One could say that the Try-Yaru Week also restores an educational function once existed in society.


In fiscal 2002, the fifth year of the program, the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education set up the Try-Yaru Week Evaluation Committee, which conducted a broad survey of the people involved in the program, and analyzed the effects of Try-Yaru Week activities.

Between 80 to 90 percent of respondents (junior high and high school students who experienced Try-Yaru Week activities and teachers and others involved in the program) said that the program was valuable and meaningful. Host organizations sent in comments such as "Having junior high school students energized the workplace," "We contributed to the community by taking part in the program as a host organization," and "We felt a sense of fulfillment as a member of our community in nurturing children in the area." In addition, over 90 percent of host organizations said they were willing to participate in the program next year. The conclusion of the survey was that Try-Yaru Week had been received very positively by many who were involved in the program.

The multi-stakeholder school district promotion committees for Try-Yaru Week also facilitate local community building.

Positive impacts have also been reported on the problem of truancy. According to the evaluation report, the number of school days attended by students who had been truant in their first year at junior high school increased after they have participated in Try-Yaru Week activities. Reviewers of the program concluded that the confidence students gained through the program had a positive impact on their ways of interacting with other people, leading to better attitudes toward school.

The Try-Yaru Week program is now drawing much attention nationwide, as the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education receives many inquiries and visits from the media and school boards in other municipalities. Recently, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology launched a similar nationwide initiative called "Career Start Week."

Try-Yaru Action Program

It turned out, however, that the relationships between students and locals that had developed became tenuous after students finished this program. According to a survey of high school students in fiscal 2002, about 70 percent of the students did not return to visit the people they had met during the program.

The evaluation committee thus proposed reinvigorating local educational capacity developed through the program by restoring school-districts' promotion committees and promotion councils. As a result, an action program for the Try-Yaru Week, called Try-Yaru Action, was launched in fiscal 2003.

In the Try-Yaru Action program, junior high school students participate in various regional activities on weekends or during school vacations. Examples of activities include planning and running local festivals, interacting with senior citizens as volunteer caregivers, cleaning public places, and continuing to do activities in which they participated under the Try-Yaru Week program. The promotion committee in each school district plays a leading role in advancing the program, depending on the situation in each school and community. In fiscal 2005, over 40 percent of junior high schools in the prefecture participated in the program, deepening the links with local communities.

It was concerned people who turned up to help victims after the earthquake in 1995. The Try-Yaru Week program thus aims to restore community ties and at the same time encourage local people to help children grow. In recent years we hear that environmental deterioration, including global warming, could intensify the severity of natural disasters around the world.

More than money or technology, it is likely to be human relationships and strong community ties that will be the keys to overcome such difficulties. In that context, this pioneering effort in Hyogo Prefecture could be a good model for other communities to strengthen human ties and relationships.

(Written by Yuriko Yoneda)