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All elementary school textbooks in Japan to bear QR codes to enhance active learning

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TOKYO -- Starting in the 2024 academic year, all textbooks for elementary schools in Japan will carry QR codes for audio and video content to enhance active learning promoted by national government curriculum guidelines, it has been learned.

    The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on March 28 released the screening results on textbooks for use at elementary schools from April 2024, the first inspection since the distribution of a digital device to each elementary and middle school student was introduced. A total of 149 textbooks to be used at elementary schools from academic 2024 will come with QR codes regardless of subjects and grades.

    The move is aimed at enhancing proactive and interactive learning, as highlighted in the education ministry's guidelines for the course of study.

    For elementary school textbooks, the latest screening was the second of its kind since the educational guidelines were updated in 2017. Under the government's "GIGA School Program," almost all elementary and middle school students across the country had been equipped with digital devices by the end of academic 2021. On the premise that all students have digital gadgets at hand, publishers applied for the textbook screenings, such as by upgrading their current editions.

    According to the education ministry, applications for the latest screening were filed for 149 textbooks for all 11 elementary school subjects, and all of them were approved. While 155 out of 164 textbooks in the previous screening conducted in fiscal 2018 contained QR codes, many of the textbooks that passed the latest screening significantly boosted the number of QR codes carried in each title.

    The screening criteria require that when textbooks carry QR codes, they be closely associated with the textbook content, and the websites linked from the QR codes be manageable at the responsibility of publishers. However, the digital contents referred to by the textbooks are not subject to screenings, as they are regarded as educational materials that supplement textbooks.

    Publishers have significantly expanded learning materials such as videos and worksheets linked from QR codes, with one textbook boosting its content by more than tenfold from its previous edition. In active learning, online discussions and research studies using the internet have become common, prompting publishers to respond to digital transformation in creating their textbooks.

    As digital textbooks are slated to be introduced in English classes for fifth and sixth graders from academic 2024, many textbooks entailed pronunciation, animation and video-based conversation examples.

    Meanwhile, the average number of textbook pages for each subject totaled 14,813 pages when converted into A5 size paper, up 2% from the previous screening. In the health and physical education textbooks, the corresponding figure rose by 21% due to descriptions about the coronavirus being added. Some textbooks, however, managed to reduce the number of pages by simplifying the content and using QR codes to refer to endnote appendices.

    These efforts indicate that publishers have taken into account concerns among school educators for "weighty textbooks" and "cramming education." As for review comments on textbooks that failed to meet the educational guidelines, there were 2,149 cases in which such comments were provided in the latest screening, down 509 cases from the previous inspection.

    The latest screening also examined some textbooks for high schools, and there were 47 applications for textbooks for common subjects. An English communication textbook released by Kairyudo Publishing Co. failed to pass the screening as there were at least 100 parts where review comments were provided per 100 pages, while one math book was withdrawn, leaving the remaining 45 textbooks approved.

    (Japanese original by Makoto Fukazu, Tokyo City News Department)

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