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Education

Japan to accelerate e-textbook use by removing screen time limit

Government wants digital books to be introduced to all schools by fiscal 2025

The government is set to remove the screen time limit in schools.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- Japan will remove the limit on the amount of time that children can spend looking at screens in class from April as it aims to introduce digital textbooks to all schools by fiscal 2025, Nikkei has learned.

Current rules state that digital textbooks can only be used in under half of classroom times in each subject, due to worries that children's eyes and health would be adversely affected by spending too much time looking at screens.

The government will consider paying for digital materials, just like it does for normal textbooks. The plan is to set aside 2.2 billion yen ($21.3 million) to help pay for digital textbooks for children between the 5th and 9th grade. The plan will be finalized on Tuesday by an expert panel set up by the education ministry.

The ministry also plans to draw up guidelines on the use of e-books. It is considering gradually relaxing rules, starting with 5th graders and above. Normal textbooks will not be abolished.

The government, led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is planning to deliver tablets to all students in the first to ninth grades by the end of March 2021. Textbooks that will be revised from fiscal 2024 will also have related digital content.

The removal of the time limit on digital textbooks will encourage teachers to get used to digital materials, and eventually lead to a more diverse classroom education, authorities believe.

Textbooks that have electronic versions were introduced in fiscal 2019. However, only 8.2% of schools used the e-books by March this year because of the regulation around the length of time children were allowed on screens and the cost of implementation.

The government sees e-textbooks as an important part of digitalization. Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda told media on Monday: "It would be good to relax the restriction through testing and considerations."

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