QR Codes to Grace Pages of Every Elementary School Textbook

The Yomiuri Shimbun
New math textbooks with spaces for QR codes to be added

All textbooks for elementary schools will include QR codes to access video, audio and other resources starting in the 2024 school year, further integrating print and digital materials.

According to the results of textbook screenings released by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry on Tuesday, all 149 textbooks in 11 subjects that were submitted for screening carry QR codes on their pages.

COVID-19 has accelerated the shift toward digital compatibility in textbooks, having triggered a surge in digital device usage in elementary and junior high school classrooms.

The recent screenings, based on the ministry’s current curriculum guidelines, examined revised textbooks that passed screenings in fiscal 2018.

All 149 textbooks for 11 subjects submitted by textbook publishers passed the screening, with the ministry issuing 2,149 opinions on various parts of the textbooks, such as on sections with faulty descriptions.

The ministry plans to introduce digital textbooks for English classes for the fifth grade of elementary school to the third year of junior high school starting in the 2024 school year, based on a belief that such textbooks will have a positive effect on listening and speaking skills.

The English textbooks for the fifth and sixth grades of elementary school that passed the recent screening can also be used as digital textbooks on a digital device.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
New math textbooks with spaces for QR codes to be added (Close up)

Textbook publishers have added QR codes for easy access to digital learning materials such as videos, audio recordings and practice exercises on every textbook screened recently. Because these digital materials themselves are not “textbooks,” they are not subject to screening.

In the case of Tokyo Shoseki Co., a major textbook publisher, most of the pages in its arithmetic textbooks have QR codes, enabling the use of 1,455 digital resources for all six grades of elementary school. This is 17 times more than the 85 resources in the previous round of screening. Other textbook publishers have also greatly increased the number of digital resources they provide.

This explosion in resources can be attributed to the rapid deployment of digital devices amid the pandemic.

Responding to a spike in demand for online learning due to long-term school closures and other factors, the government’s GIGA School Program was able to ensure nearly one device per elementary and junior high school student by the end of the 2020 school year.

The textbooks screened recently were primarily edited during fiscal 2021, when there were a number of classroom closures, and even temporary school closures. Digital materials were improved for use in online learning and home study during school closures.

“Using digital materials will make learning more effective and motivate children,” said Teruyo Horikawa, visiting professor of library and information science at the Open University of Japan.

“However, the time and effort required to conduct research in the library or consult a printed encyclopedia will also strengthen their thinking. It is important to develop the ability to use both digital and physical materials.”