Myself, along with many educators and education policymakers, were pleased to receive news that Korea had topped the OECD’s Digital Reading Assessment (DRA). We were even more encouraged by the results showing a significant percentage of students proficient at the highest scale of digital reading, and the small proportion of low-performing students.
I am confident that the results reflect our policy efforts which are aimed to enhance the digital infrastructure of schools and apply it in real life and teaching. At the same time, it led me to think about how we should teach and nurture the talents and dreams of our children who apparently are more familiar with and ready to learn through the digital environment than we have been aware of.
It is fortunate that this year, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has been preparing the “Promotion Strategy for Smart Education” to respond to the changing environment, by focusing on customized learning and teaching. Coincidentally, this plan has been made known to the world simultaneously with the announcement of the DRA results. Smart Education is a customized learning system that enhances the capacity of learners in the 21st century, by moving away from uniform to individualized education, from standardized to diversified knowledge, and from admission-oriented to creativity-based learning. Smart Education will become a momentum for the innovation of the overall education system, including its environment, contents, teaching method, and evaluation.
The Korean government is implementing Smart Education by establishing wireless networks in all schools to allow students to learn whenever and wherever as well as an education information system that can run in PCs, laptops, smart tabs, tablet PCs, and smart TVs. The government will also support a nationwide open content market containing a variety of learning materials so that users may have access to high-quality educational information at a low cost.
Smart Education will change how we perceive textbooks. The transfer from the traditional paper textbooks to digital textbooks will allow students to leave behind their heavy backpacks and explore the world beyond the classroom. Having proven the potential through trial runs since 2007, the Korean government will continue its development to distribute digital textbooks to elementary schools from 2014 and ultimately to middle, and high schools by 2015. The development standard and utility platform will be available to the private sector, thereby promoting the participation of companies and the blooming of smart education industries.
Digital textbooks – rich in content – are directly linked to the promotion of online classes. Online classes not only help students to make up for absences, but also facilitate studies of those who may be taking leave due to disabilities or health related issues. Moreover, online classes will secure students’ rights to select their learning subjects, even for students in rural areas who were previously deprived of this right due to lack of subject teachers.
The potential of our children is limitless. Smart Education is the best choice for Korea’s education to fulfill the hopes and dreams of all students in the 21st century.
Mr. Ju-Ho Lee, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Korea
Download: PISA 2009 Results: Students Online