Learning Terminals: Strain of Prioritizing Distribution at Schools Has Been Exposed

Prioritizing the distribution of digital devices to students can be said to have exposed the strain that has resulted from rushed measures. When using digital technology in education, the first priority should be to think about how it can be used for learning.

A survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry revealed that 80% of public elementary, junior high and high schools in the nation do not have the internet connection speeds recommended by the ministry. It also revealed that the larger the school, the worse the telecommunications environment.

According to another survey by the ministry, 30% of local governments responded that “when all the students in a class are using online materials and other items, some of the students are unable to connect.”

The central government since fiscal 2019 has been carrying out the “GIGA (Global and Innovation Gateway for All) school program,” in which all elementary and junior high school students will be provided with one learning terminal such as a tablet.

A stable telecommunications environment is a prerequisite for the effective use of the terminals, but the development of such an environment has not kept pace with the distribution. Slow telecommunications speeds or a lack of access can hinder learning. The central and local governments need to take urgent action.

This situation is probably due to the fact that local governments and schools have signed internet access contracts without fully considering the number of students and how and to what extent they will be using the internet in their classes. In some cases, budgets are said to be insufficient.

An accelerated provision plan because of the prolonged closure of schools due to the outbreak of COVID-19 may also be a factor behind the current situation.

Device failures have also become a problem in many areas. In Tokushima Prefecture, several thousand terminals used by students at prefectural high schools and other schools have broken. The cost of repairing the terminals has become a new financial burden for many local governments.

Terminals that have been distributed will reach a point at which they will need to be replaced. In addition to budgeting tens of thousands of yen per device, it is also necessary to secure sufficient backup devices and funds for repair costs. The central government must devise a support system for schools.

This is an opportunity to rethink the use of digital technology in education. It is important to foster human resources who are proficient in the use of digital devices, but it has been argued that learning through the use of terminals is less likely to be retained in memory than reading textbooks and writing in notebooks by hand.

While school textbooks should be based on paper editions, it is desirable to utilize the advantages of digital devices to allow students to learn through video and audio as supplementary learning materials.

The central government said it will continue the GIGA school program in the future. The advantages and disadvantages of the program should be sorted out, and measures to utilize the digital devices will be reorganized.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 12, 2024)