The voting age in Japan was lowered to 18 years in June of 2016, and the importance of education for developing autonomous thinking in elementary schools has been focused.
At present, students in the 6th grade social studies classes learn about elections and the importance of properly exercising their voting rights. It is suggested that more practical learning of concrete political issues should be introduced in the future. This article reports on the methods used in social studies classes for cultivating autonomous consciousness, by thinking about, discussing, and judging political issues that surround the students.
In the class, students conducted mock voting on “the type of facilities they want to build in the vacant lot near their school”, which included various events leading to actual political functions. Students were requested in advance to list the facilities they want to build and the reasons for believing that they want to build them. As a result, it was indicated a majority of students wanted to build three types of facilities. Then, the representatives were chosen for supporters of the three types of facilities respectively.
First, each representative made a speech on why they wanted to build the facility. After listening to the speech, other students discussed “the most needed” facility through group work, and voted based on their opinion. There were certain students that had doubts about an electoral system in which the final decision is made by a majority vote, even though minority opinions are respected. However, in group work, students widened and deepened their perspectives through exposure to different values and thoughts, which resulted in cooperative learning. There are various problems and opinions to be considered when the facilities reached the stage of being built. Therefore, more time was necessary for students to consider when dealing with these issues and vote based on their opinions. It is suggested that a learning unit for developing autonomy should be developed in the future.