The End of the Textbooks Era?

Korea (South Korea)’s Ministry of Education recently announced (on 29 Jun 11) that all of its paper textbooks at all its state-run schools will be replaced with electronic tablets by 2015 – All textbooks to go digital by 2015.

South Korea is known for being the world’s most wired nation. For three consecutive years, the results of the annual broadband quality study done by Oxford University showed Korea as the number 1 broadband quality leader among 72 countries and 239 cities. Along with a high broadband penetration rate (97% of household) and high internet usage, it is one of the world’s fastest growing ICT markets with advanced infrastructure and active consumers who are early adopters of new technologies and products.

It is therefore not surprising to find Korea among the first to implement such a large scale e-book initiative (according to 2007 MOE data, there are about 96 national schools and 13,787 public schools in South Korea).

While the trial of digital textbooks is not new (see links below), the setting aside of a 2.2 trillion won (£1.29bn) budget to convert all existing school textbooks and develop cloud computing systems to provide digitised content for learning and to do it across all schools is a strong indication of the Ministry’s commitment.

Academically, Korea is already among the top-performing countries. In the latest PISA* 2009 study, which involved some 470,000 students representing 26 million 15-year olds in schools from 65 participating countries and economies, Korea ranked 4th in Maths, 6th in Science and 2nd in Reading literacy. [Pretty pleased to share that Singapore ranked 2nd in Maths, 4th in Science and 5th in Reading :-)]

How will this new initiative affect the entire education process? What would be the impact on students’ learning? What would be the impact on teachers? The academic publishing industry? The libraries? Copyright and fair use? Reading culture? Will the 21st-century be the end of the textbooks era? The list of questions seems to be endless …. and only time can tell what the final answers would be.

*[PISA is an international study which is conducted every 3 years to evaluate the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems in some 70 countries (nine-tenths of the world economy). I will put up a post in the coming weeks to share about PISA findings].

Other digital textbook projects:
1) The e-book revolution hits North Korea
2) DA and Microsoft Add Spark to Education in Singapore Through Innovative IT Adoption in the Classroom
3) Japan to test drive digital textbooks in classrooms
4) Florida looks at taking school textbooks completely digital by 2015
5) Arnold Schwarzenegger to scrap school textbooks in favour of ebooks
6) University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Sciences to enhance first-year learning with iPads
7) Free College Textbooks for Ohio Students
this list can go on and on

About Rica

Director, Civica Library & Learning ... got teleported from the academic library space to the commercial library space in 2005 ...
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