Japan's National Policy on Computer Use in Its Schools

By Nishinosono, Haruo | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), January 1991 | Go to article overview

Japan's National Policy on Computer Use in Its Schools


Nishinosono, Haruo, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Reform of Japan's educational system has been widely discussed since the early 1980s when former Prime Minister Nakasone expressed his restructuring intentions. At the same time, lively discussions about introducing microcomputers into schools were taking place. The necessity of carrying out reforms in national education and recognizing the delay in introducing information technology into schools coincided in terms of urgency and importance with the influence of information technology on the future society of Japan.

A national policy on the use of computers in Japanese schools emerged through heated discussions in various councils and committees. In summary, there was a gradual shift of emphasis from the potential of the computer itself to information technology as a whole and improving competency in dealing with it. The focus on a comprehensive understanding of, and responsibility to, information technology is an outstanding feature of Japan's national policy to introduce computers into its schools. Comprehensive Approach

Early reports from the various councils and committees formed to study the issue used the term "computer" to describe the solution to the emerging problems in education. As study continued, this changed to .computer and new media" and finally to "information education." And the term "information processing education" came to mean the teaching of information technology at vocational high schools, technical colleges and universities.

Information education is what Japan calls its national policy on computer use in its schools. A comprehensive approach, basically it is a plan for creating a new curriculum to cope with the coming Information Society. The chart entitled Structure of Information Education' illustrates the all-encompassing nature of information education.

Early Stirrings

Throughout the 1980s, a number of councils and committees established within the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture issued a series of reports and recommendations concerning the introduction of information technology in schools. Since these reports stimulated many discussions from which national policy was gradually formed, it is worthwhile to describe them.

"Utilization of Microcomputers in Education," published in March 1985, was the first governmental report on the use of computers in Japanese schools and for social education purposes. it was issued by the Council on Social Education's Subcommittee on Educational Media, which started its investigations into the educational use of computers in September 1983 and continued until 1987.

This report forecast that diffusion of computers into the classroom would continue to grow and have a great influence on instruction. it also commented at length upon in service training for teachers. At this stage, computer literacy or any subject matter concerning information technology itself was not included. instead, three major computer applications in education were addressed:

Use of computers for efficient instruction;

Aids for teachers in preparing lesson plans and evaluating their own teaching; and

Use of computers for school management.

Two other reports came from this group in 1987: "Guidelines for Developing Educational Software" and "Lifelong Learning in Society and New Media." Bold ideas, Specific Suggestions

The National Council on Educational Reform may have contributed the most fuel to discussions. Established in August 1984 as an advisory body to the Prime Minister, its purpose was to formulate a long-term perspective to cope with both the present condition of education and emerging national demands. This council produced three interim reports (1985, 1986, 1987) plus a final report (1987).

The council first believed it was necessary to review both the overall advantages and disadvantages of the existing educational system with a balanced perspective. …

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