Digital textbooks for English to be standard for 5th grade and up

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Digital English textbook are seen at an elementary school in Tokyo.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The education ministry plans to start the full-fledged use of digital textbooks from fiscal 2024, first for English classes for elementary school fifth- and sixth-graders and junior high school students, it was learned Thursday.

Digital textbooks will also be fully used for mathematics classes, from fiscal 2025 at the earliest. They will be used together with paper textbooks to avoid confusion in classes for the time being.

On Thursday, the ministry presented an interim report on the use of digital textbooks to a working group of the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel to the education minister, and obtained broad approval.

For English, digital textbooks with text-to-speech functions are expected to be effective in learning how to pronounce words and improving listening skills. For mathematics, such textbooks are expected to make it easier for students to view graphs and diagrams.

The ministry is yet to decide when the use of digital textbooks will start for other subjects.

As is the case with paper textbooks, digital textbooks will be procured with state funds and made available to students free of charge.

In Japan, each elementary or junior high school student is provided with one computer device for learning. And currently, digital textbooks are used on a trial basis for English at almost all public elementary and junior high schools, and for another subject, mainly mathematics, at about 70% of the schools.

As the way that digital textbooks are used differs from school to school, the ministry plans to offer greater support for teachers. The ministry will also discuss ways to evaluate the effectiveness of digital textbooks.

In a survey by the ministry in fiscal 2021, many students said they prefer digital textbooks for viewing graphs and photos and gathering information, while citing ease in writing down and keeping what they learned as merits of paper textbooks.