Govt, Educators must Devise Ways to Cultivate Children’s Ability to Think

It is important to effectively utilize digital teaching materials as a supplement to paper textbooks. The government and boards of education need to explore specific ways to use them together to enhance the academic performance of students.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has released the results of the screening of textbooks to be used in elementary schools nationwide from the 2024 school year. A total of 149 textbooks in all 11 subjects submitted by textbook companies passed the screening.

The government intends to begin the digitization of education in a full-fledged manner from the 2024 school year onward, including such measures as introducing digital textbooks for English from the fifth grade of elementary school to the third year of junior high school.

One of the reasons is the distribution of learning devices to all elementary and junior high school students nationwide as a result of the growing need for online classes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The screening targets paper textbooks. However, it will be possible to use English textbooks for fifth and sixth graders at elementary schools as digital textbooks on learning devices, in addition to the paper versions that passed the screening.

Paper textbooks for other subjects also contain a number of QR codes that link to video and audio digital learning materials.

Each format has its own advantages: Paper textbooks make it easier to memorize content, while digital textbooks can be useful for visual and aural learning. However, there are not a few challenges with digital teaching materials.

With video and audio materials, children might mistakenly think they have understood the content, prompting fears that students might not acquire the ability to think for themselves. It must not be forgotten that it is important for them to do their own research using dictionaries and reference books, and to seek answers by drawing diagrams and graphs.

What is also worrisome is that many teachers are not familiar with the use of digital teaching materials. Alternating back and forth between paper textbooks and digital materials to deepen children’s understanding requires a certain level of abilities.

There is also concern that children might become engrossed in watching videos and other activities during classes and lose focus on the content of the textbooks.

What kinds of teaching methods would be effective to nurture children’s ability to think by using paper textbooks as the basis of learning while supplementing the materials with digital textbooks?

It is vital for the education ministry and boards of education to devise ways to conduct classes and share effective approaches with schools nationwide. It is hoped that they will promote training sessions for teachers on the use of digital teaching materials.

On this occasion, textbook companies have promoted the digitization of textbooks as if to compete. They might have been aiming to promote their textbooks in the education sector to earn selection. However, they could be seen as using their services to compete for more customers.

It is vital to keep in mind that the original purpose of creating textbooks is to promote the sound growth of children.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 30, 2023)