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01/24/2020

Learning innovation

Japanese ‘ed tech’ firms look to change education at home, abroad

With the Japan External Trade Organization, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry organized a meeting in Tokyo earlier this month to prepare for BETT with representatives from exhibiting companies.

In Japanese society, people have seen the acceleration of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” globalization and work-style reforms. On the back of this rapid progress, what has changed are skills and abilities expected from children who will eventually enter the workforce.

Additionally, essential elements of education are increasingly required to change in line with the emergence of “ed tech,” which enables implementation of new methods of education utilizing information technology.

Based on this, society needs to undergo an educational reform in the Reiwa Era, pursuing the establishment of new types of education, irrespective of successful experiences in the past.

Innovation in education

Responding to such social transformation, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) launched the Educational Industry Office in 2017. As the ministry oversees the private education industry, including cram schools and lessons outside of school, it has since promoted efforts to spur innovation, including ed tech, created by private sector parties for schools to seek new platforms of education.

This ministerial effort was collectively named the Learning Innovation Project, with three pillars being promoted across the country. These pillars are self-driven and individually optimized learning; STEAM-based learning approach; and new educational environment development. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Specifically, experimental programs have been conducted at schools utilizing ed tech to effectively introduce knowledge of school subjects and expertise — which would create spare time — and then holding STEAM-based lessons using this extra time. Placing curiosity and excitement of children at their core, these projects seek to circulate the act of “learning” obtained from input and that of “creation” based on STEAM-focused sessions.

For instance, an elementary school in Shizuoka Prefecture is working to incorporate ed tech into a math class — a part of the learning process — and holds STEAM-based lessons on tag rugby and programming — a part of the creation process — for its sixth-grade students.

By making use of ed tech, the former has achieved learning styles better suited for each student while simultaneously having appropriate instructions from teachers and students teaching each other. In the end, this effort aims to both streamline learning and deepen understanding among individual students.

Developing STEAM-based study materials themed on tag rugby and programming, the latter effort sets out to enable students to learn the physical coordination needed for tag rugby and at the same time express how to move their body in an electronic sense, utilizing knowledge of programming.

These programs eventually pursue the acquisition of the ability to set assignments, which in this case is connected with covering fractions and proportions in math, and the students’ ability to solve problems by themselves.

Furthermore, METI has co-organized campaigns with municipalities and other relevant parties across the country for the Learning Innovation Project in a bid to disseminate, facilitate understanding and promote the introduction of ed tech and STEAM-based education.

These efforts surely offer officials of municipal governments and local education boards, teachers, parents and students opportunities to get to know ed tech and STEAM-focused programs in person. They are also expected to help them realize the learning effect potential of ed tech, which would obviously boost the introduction and spread of this concept.

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