The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology uses the term “教育の情報化” (Kyōiku no jōhō-ka), which directly translates to “informatization of education,” to describe the incorporation of information and communication technology (ICT) into the education system. Though “情報” (Jōhō) does mean information, the word can also be used to mean “data” in more formal text. The Informatization of Education Vision includes utilizing ICT in teaching subjects, developing the ICT environment in schools, and using ICT for management.
According to the 2011 Informatization of Education Vision, ICT is an abbreviation for Information and Communication Technology and refers to information communication technology such as computers and the Internet.
Constitution and laws:
Article 26 of the 1946 Constitution of Japan gives all people the right to education. All compulsory education is free and provided by law. The 2006 Basic Act on Education instructs national and local governments to “provide the necessary educational support to ensure that persons with disabilities receive an adequate education in accordance with their level of disability”.
The 1954 Law for the Promotion of Education in Remote and Isolated Areas (Hekichi kyouiku sinkouhou) clarifies the responsibilities of the national and local governments in providing education in remote areas. The government helps to provide subsidies to cover the costs of constructing schools, teachers’ lodging, teaching materials, and provisional teacher-training institutions.
Policies, plans and strategies: Article 17 of the 2006 Basic Act on Education calls for the creation of a basic plan which covers basic principles, measures to be taken, and any other particulars of its policies to promote education. The 2008 Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education focused on improving the school environment with a focus on lifelong learning. The 2013 Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education focuses on developing competencies to better prepare students for the diversifying and rapidly changing society. The 2018 Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education focuses on maximizing possibilities and opportunities for each person through education, and this year, the New Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education was formulated in June 2023. In the 2023-2027 Plan, Education Digital Transformation is positioned as one of five basic principles for education policy. It includes four items; 1) steadily promote the transition from phase 1(digitization) to phase 2 (optimization) with an eye to phase 3 (new value (DX)), 2) promote the GIGA school program, development of information utilization skills, work-style reform through school DX, improvement of teachers’ ICT utilization and instructional skills, and development of DX human resources, 3) promote standardization of educational data, development and utilization of fundamental tools, and analysis and utilization of educational data, 4) implementation of face-to-face activities that are indispensable as well as the use of digital technology, while the best combination of the two is required depending on the learning situation. In addition to these, the plan also includes the development of an ICT environment to support these educational policies.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)’s main education technology plan is the Informatization of Education and the 2019 Global and Innovative Gateway for All (GIGA) School Program.
The Informatization of Education was first envisioned in 2010 with the development of the Advisory Council on the Informatization of School Education. Previous plans include the "e-Japan Strategy", "IT New Reform Strategy", and the 2015 "i-Japan Strategy." In 2016, the next phase of the Informatization Acceleration Plan for Education was released, the Creation of Next Generation Schools and Communities Using ICT. MEXT released several guidance documents on the informatization of education in 2002, 2010, and 2019. The current guidance document is comprised of several chapters with information on topics such as utilizing ICT in teaching subjects, improving teachers’ ICT utilization skills, developing the ICT environment in schools, and utilizing ICT for school management. Alongside the addition of “information utilization ability” into the national curriculum, MEXT launched the 2018-2022 Development of ICT Environment in Schools Plan, which promised to prepare an environment necessary for using information and strived to enhance learning activities that make proper use of them.
Under the 2019 GIGA School program, the 2022 Policy on Utilization of School ICT Environment describes the various steps required to create an “ICT environment” necessary for digital learning. It includes provisions such as one device per student, the improvement of broadband in schools, and support for ICT environments in student homes. The policy also details the support that teachers will receive in terms of devices, training, and operational support. Safety must also be considered through the 2022 Guidelines for Educational Information Security Policy. It is also important for schools to consider the health implications of ICT use. Schools should keep an eye on students’ physical and mental conditions from extended ICT use, such as changes in sleeping hours, dry eye, visual acuity deterioration. Schools should also ensure they are necessarily prepared for students to take home devices in an emergency. Also under the GIGA School Program is the “Project to utilize digital textbooks for learners to promote the GIGA school concept”, wherein the MEXT strived to provide digital textbooks for learners to ensure and enhance learning.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the plans which MEXT had already begun to develop. The GIGA School program was accelerated to be able to provide the necessary environment for distance learning. Schools were quickly equipped with high-speed internet and MEXT made efforts to distribute devices to all students, with priority to families who did not previously have access to devices at home and for students with disabilities. In 2022, MEXT also published Don't Stop Learning! Future distance and online education, which described different methods schools used during distance learning. Main strategies include concrete initiatives for remote and online education for continuous learning, utilization of ICT during and Post-Corona, environment preparation and preparation for ICT equipment and systems, and introduction of measures during a temporary closure due to the new coronavirus infection, such as remote teacher training.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Computers and devices: Under the Global and Innovative Gateway for All (GIGA) School Program, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) sought to achieve “one computer per student” to ensure that all children can learn via ICT even in emergencies. Priority was given to final-grade students (those about to transition to the next level of schooling) and to families with financial difficulties. Assistive devices were also given funding to be provided for students with disabilities. While the program started in 2019, the Coronavirus-19 Pandemic accelerated the program.
Internet connectivity: The GIGA School program also aims to provide high-speed internet for all schools. The program also seeks to prepare an ICT environment even in students’ homes. Specifically, the program provides funding to maintain “the school LAN environment and power supply cabinets (including high schools).” Measurement indicators in the 2018 Third Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2018) include preparing Wi-Fi completely in regular classrooms and preparing ultra high-speed internet completely.
Schools that lack broadband service and mobile phone signals receive additional aid following the 1954 Law for the Promotion of Education in Remote and Isolated Areas.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The GIGA School Program helps to improve the home learning environment for emergencies through the provision of devices and LTE communications equipment (mobile routers) by local governments to households that do not have Wi-Fi. In schools, communication devices such as cameras and microphones were installed to improve the distance learning capabilities of schools. The MEXT also funded research into online platforms for learning and assessment at school and home using ICT. Goals for MEXT in the 2020 Education in Japan beyond the crisis of COVID-19 Plan include “building an ICT system for education to enable the complete use of ICT by developing and verifying prototypes for online learning systems that will ensure learning as well as standardizing educational data including the codification of the National Curriculum Standards.” MEXT also offers learning-support videos on the one-stop Children Learning Support Website as well as new learning materials to better support the retention of learning content. The MEXT hub for education technology is hosted on the website StuDX Style. From here, teachers can find learning resources, school staff can find guidance on setting up the ICT environment at school, parents can connect with their schools, and students can access online lessons during emergencies such as in cases of infectious disease epidemics and disasters.
According to the Learning guidance using ICT for children and students who cannot attend school due to unavoidable reasons the MEXT provided many resources and environmental improvements to help facilitate distance learning during emergencies. Students can bring ICT devices home and teachers are encouraged to have conversations and health observations with their students during online morning meetings. The guide recommends that teachers create learning tasks on ICT devices and use web conferencing systems to provide learning guidance by connecting teachers and homes. Schools should provide guidance based on textbooks, which are the main teaching materials, and other teaching materials that can be used in combination with textbooks (e.g., digital or analogue teaching materials, on-demand videos, television broadcasts) and using the ICT environment.
Under the most recent 2015 curriculum revision, "information utilization ability" (情報活用能力, Jōhō katsuyō nōryoku) has been added as a quality skill which forms the basis of learning. Information utilization ability is defined as "the qualities and abilities necessary for students to select and use information and information tools independently and to formulate their own ideas. These qualities and abilities include the ability to independently select and use information and information tools, the basic operation of information technology, programming thinking, and information morality.” This includes digital literacy such as basic ICT skills. As such, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has decided to develop it across subjects alongside the appropriate utilization of ICT to enhance learning activities. According to Chapter 2 Cultivation of Information Utilization Ability of the Guide on Informatization of Education, there are three goals and eight elements under information education. The three goals are for students to gain practical ability to use information, a scientific understanding of information, and a good attitude toward participation in an information society. Examples of skills tested include finding, relating, organizing, and interpreting information from webpages; creating slides with images and text in presentation software; and using spreadsheet software.
To obtain a teacher certificate, a person must acquire a minimum number of credits in teacher training courses at universities, graduate schools, or junior colleges, including ”theories and methods of education using ICT”.
According to the 2022 Policy on Utilization of School ICT Environment, each board of education and school will provide training on teaching methods that utilize ICT, assuming learning activities based on the new Courses of Study and learning activities that utilize ICT daily. The Third 2018 Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education similarly calls for the provision of teaching materials to improve the teaching abilities of teachers using ICT; training for teachers, as well as those in leadership positions; and “create and disseminate practical cases of using ICT to correct classes from the perspective of independent, interactive, and deep learning.” Chapter 4 Utilization of ICT in Teaching Subjects in the Guidance on Informatization of Education provides detailed examples of how to integrate ICT use into different subjects in the classroom. Chapter 6 Improving ICT utilization teaching skills required of teachers states in the revised “Checklist for Teachers' ICT Utilization Guidance Ability,” teachers should have the following skills: A) Ability to use ICT for teaching material research, instruction preparation, evaluation, school affairs; B) be able to instruct using ICT in class; C) teach the utilization of ICT to students; and D) teach knowledge, attitudes, and morals in the information society. The In-school training manual for training leaders for ICT in education has modules such as ICT utilization lesson design and informatization in education trends.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2003 Act on the Protection of Personal Information (amended in 2023), protects the rights and interests of individuals while taking consideration of the usefulness of personal information. The recent 2020 and 2021 amendments give data subjects mandatory notification of data breaches. Guidelines by the Personal Information Protection Commission (PPC), which is responsible for enforcing the Act, state that a guardian’s consent must be given for children who are not able to understand the consequences of their consent.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2013 Basic Policy for the Prevention of Bullying aims to ensure that no children or students engage in bullying or ignore bullying while being aware of it. Governments and schools are obligated to develop and implement measures to prevent bullying. Bullying on the Internet can also be subject to criminal defamation and contempt charges and civil claims for damages. Cyberbullying is referred to as “ネットいじめ” (netto-ijime), or “internet bullying.”
Schools are required to have in place basic policy and measures to prevent bullying in schools. According to a notice published in 2022 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) regarding the results of surveys on student problem behaviours, cyberbullying is increasing. As such, the MEXT states that there should be a common understanding of digital device use between students, teachers, and parents. To enable the safe and effective use of digital devices, efforts can be made to detect problems on the Internet at an early stage by conducting school Internet patrols in cooperation with the school establishers. A reporting mechanism is also necessary. If bullying takes place over the Internet, on the basis of the “Act for the Promotion of Measures to Prevent Bullying”, the bullied child or their guardian may request the cooperation of the Legal Affairs Bureau or District Legal Affairs Bureau for the deletion of information related to the bullying or for the disclosure of sender information as necessary, in accordance with the 2001 Act on the Limitation of Liability for Damages of Specified Telecommunications Service Providers and the Right to Demand Disclosure of Identification Information of the Senders (Act No. 137 of 2001). In addition, teaching materials and other materials on information and moral education are provided by MEXT to be taught in schools.
Following the 2006 Basic Act on Education, national and local governments are responsible for implementing compulsory education through appropriate role-sharing and cooperation. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is the government ministry responsible for the education system in Japan. The prefectural boards of education organize more local municipalities. Each school also works to determine their policies. Within MEXT, the Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau School Digitization Project Team is responsible for education technology.
Schools that implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy must refer to the Guidelines for Educational Information Security Policy. The devices’ security must be equivalent to that of the devices provided by local governments.
This profile was reviewed thanks to the support of the Permanent Delegation of Japan.