|Lesson from Iwate: the Role of Educational Institution in the Local Community Development|
|Written by Dina Afrianty|
|Monday, 06 December 2010 15:19|
By Dina Afrianty
There is always something people can learn from meeting new friends and visiting new places. That is also what I experienced during my recent visit to Japan. I was invited by the Japan Foundation to participate at the Young Muslim Intellectuals Program in Southeast Asia from November 9-10, 2010. Four countries in Southeast Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand sent their representatives. Of the four participants from Indonesia, three are from the State Islamic University (UIN) Jakarta and one from the State Institute for Islamic Studies (IAIN) in Padang, West Sumatra. This program has been only introduced in 2009.
During the reception dinner at Shinjuku Washington Hotel, Tokyo, the Managing Director of Japanese Studies and Intellectual exchange Department, Mr Tadashi Ogawa mentioned that Japan Foundation designed this program to introduce Southeast Asian Young Muslim intellectuals to Japanese culture to strengthen the future relations between Japan and countries in Southeast Asia. This program also aims to provide a forum for Young Muslim intellectuals in Southeast Asia to develop network and learn from each other experiences.
This year, the program took the theme on the latent challenges that Japan is facing as the results of its modernisation and industrialisation: urbanisation and Japanese aging society. Many countries experiencing massive economic development and industrialisation cannot escape from the impact of industrialisation. Economic activities and industrialisation that centre in big cities have tempted many people, in particular, the young generation in the villages to move to the cities. Villages become empty while big cities become over populated. In addition, economic development has also changed people life-styles. Japanese men and women are competing to fulfil their economic needs. Japanese tend to postpone their marriage some even choose not to get married at all. Younger generation think that if their economic needs are fulfilled they no longer consider it important to have a family. There are also many cases when couples decide not to have children in their marriages fearing they could not afford expensive educational costs. Busy life-styles have also changed the communal culture of the Japanese people. Nuclear family has become new culture and people devote little time to interact with their community.
This situation has posed some serious challenges to the Japanese government. If these problems are not tackled, in the future Japan will not have enough manpower to run the country’s economy. Given the above situation, the Japanese government has introduced strategies to deal with these problems. One example can be seen from how the Iwate’s Prefectural government and its civil society dealing with the challenge of urbanisation and aging society.
Iwate Prefecture is the second largest prefecture in Japan after Hokkaido. Iwate is located in the North Eastern part of Japan. It takes us two hours by bullet train or Sinkansen from Tokyo to reach Morioka, the capital of Iwate. The city of Morioka is surrounded by the Iwate Mountains. When we were there, winter season has just begun and the temperature sometimes dropped to less than zero in the morning. From afar we can see the snow covering the top of the mountain, making it great scenery for us to see. In winter, Iwate becomes one of the famous skiing destinations for the Japanese and foreign tourists. On its western part, Iwate has beautiful beaches, which is located about 100kilo meter to the West of Morioka. This geographical landscape makes Iwate not just a rich producer of agricultural product but also fishery products.
Similar to other prefectures in Japan, Iwate also experiences problem associated with industrialisation and globalisation. At a lecture given at the School of Social Policy at Iwate Prefectural University, which is located in Takizawa village on November 16, 2010 Professor Kuwada Tajima explained that the local economy of Iwate has been deteriorated by the structural reform and the extreme belief of industries in globalisation. These developments have seriously brought negative impacts to the local economies. Decentralisation has also caused excessive transfer of works to the private sector by neglecting the public sector. The result is, according to Professor Tajima, a weak reinvestment power to the public sector and weak inter-industry-relations. Against these problems, Professor Tajima offers three key points to revitalise the local economies in Iwate.
First, he highlighted the need for the local government to restructure ideas and the object of economic and social policies. Including in this strategy is the idea to ensure that development policies in Iwate pay enough attention to sustainable economic activities by relying on Iwate’s natural products such as food industry and woods. In addition, Professor Tajima argued for the need of industry to ensure that its activities pay attention to several key issues, including: securing the land and environment, maintaining the cultural values of the people, providing basic health care and assuring that people can still get their leisure time amidst their busy life.
Second, local development needs to focus on providing support systems to the non-profit and cooperative organisations and voluntary groups of residents. Including in this is the idea to include industries and companies to help develop local economy through their Corporate Social Responsibility program. He also maintained that the importance of maintaining partnership between public and private sectors. Third and the last point raised by Professor Tajima is the need to increase the values of agriculture and forestry products through further examination and research. Professor Tajima wants to ensure that educational institution such as Iwate Prefectural University involve in revitalising local economy. In line with his ideas, Professor Tajima initiated a program for students of Iwate Prefectural University to help energize the local economy. Since most of the population who live in villages across Iwate are old people, students are sent to villages to stay with the communities. With the absent of young people, economic activities have been slow. The arrival of students in villages is expected to boost the local economy as they introduce new economic activities. For example, students organise a cultural event at one village, which attracted people from neighbouring villages to come. During the event, villagers sell food and local handicrafts.
What Professor Tajima and his students from Iwate Prefectural University have done shows that academic institution can work with the local community. This is, in fact, what Universities in Indonesia can also do for the society. Indonesian universities need to revitalise their roles in Indonesia’s socio-economic development. Universities should not only produce graduates (sarjana), but also need to ensure that graduates do not loose touch with the community. Universities have to be at the forefront in developing local economy and safeguarding the local values of the people. Decentralisation, which has been introduced for almost a decade should have given universities the opportunity to play greater role in the development at the local level. Universities need to include various socio-economic and cultural problems into their research agenda. Thus, the local government can rely on these researches in designing socio-economic policies. This way we can measure the result of development and minimise the risk of negative development impacts to the people.
Being the biggest and the most prominent academic institution in the Province of Banten, UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta should probably start taking its role in the socio-economic and political development of the Province. With eleven faculties, from Education, Sharia and Law, Philosophy and Theology, Islamic History, Dakwa and Communication (Islamic Preaching), Economy, Social and Political Science to the Graduate Schools, UIN should have no problem in taking the leading role in improving the condition of the population in Banten Province. It would be a great contribution if researchers at UIN start addressing local issues, ranging from the impact of rampant poverty, urbanisation, industrialisation, environment, and other social defects of development and industrialisation.
Dina Afrianty, Lecturer at the International Relations Department of Faculty of Social and Political Sciences UIN Jakarta
|Last Updated on Monday, 06 December 2010 15:23|