The communications ministry and the education ministry will test a new system in which students will be able to access teaching materials on the Internet using tablet computers and other electronic devices both at home and at school, beginning in late fiscal 2014, ministry sources said.

In its early stages, the cloud computing-based learning system will target certain primary, middle and high schools as well as a dozen schools for children requiring special care and support. In fiscal 2016, the two ministries plan to start implementing the system nationwide while also hoping to extend the system overseas.

The new system is being studied by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

Cloud computing enables people to control and access data via the Internet. The ministries will store electronic teaching materials for five subjects—English, mathematics, Japanese, science and social studies—on servers. This will not only make it possible for students to use online teaching materials during class but they will also be able to access these materials at home, using them to prepare for and review school lessons. The electronic learning materials are expected to provide schoolchildren with a more effective way to study by providing materials with images and sound as well as text.

The education system will make it possible for teachers to identify problem areas in which students tend to make mistakes, by analyzing students’ study records. In doing so, it will also allow teachers to improve teaching materials and methods. In the event students move to a new school, their study records can be transferred.

The government and local municipalities have already conducted education utilizing tablet devices and electronic blackboards. However, such methods have been implemented on a school-by-school basis. Therefore, the issue of cost has been raised as a potential problem, as nearly ¥10 million is needed every year for such expenses as placement and maintenance of servers and production of learning materials.

Utilization of cloud computing systems will reduce the cost of operation because servers and learning materials are shared with other schools.

A total of about ¥670 million was allocated for the education system in the budget for fiscal 2014 by the ministries. However, the question over who will pay for tablet devices and other equipment remains undecided and such issues will need to be addressed in the future.


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