First of all, what is ICT?
ICT is information and communications technology that is used in devices like PCs and networks like the Internet to process information, package and send it, and store it.
From about the start of the decade of the 2000s, Japan put forward it e-Japan strategy, focused on making Japan the most advanced IT national “within five years.” A key part of this was introducing ICT to the classrooms.
There were two parts to this: one was teaching computer skills and the other was encouraging the greater use of ICT in education per se.
The first part fell under what can be called “IT literacy,” i.e. teaching students about the world of ICT in the same way that they would learn about math or science. The second part was to use ICT in the classroom in ways that would produce greater learning.
I will pay attention to the latter in my discussion below. But before doing so – why use ICT in education?
The Education Ministry’s study group came up with the following rationale:
“It is key in order to promote the creation of a knowledge-based society that schools provide an education attuned to the demands and needs of the 21st century and that public school education deploy ICT to provide opportunities for both individual learning and group learning.”
This was the vision – but how has it worked out in reality?
According to the results of the 2012 OECD International Student Evaluation Program, there are a number of issue with respect to Japanese education.
First, Japan is an outlier with respect to the use of ICT devices for educational purposes in both the home and school.
And second, Japan is lagging other OECD countries in integrating ICT into it curriculum.
So it seems that Japan is behind both in terms of infrastructure and utilization. But is this the only problem that needs to be addresses?
From my perspective, the issue is deeper. The availability of infrastructure and greater utilization will clearly help, but PCs and tablets are mere tools unless they are actually made a part of the education process. There needs to be a greater debate and focus on the purpose and rationale of Japan’s education system. And that is something that the Internet and ICT cannot change by themselves. People have to take charge.