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South Korea schools go paperless

July 11, 2011


Electronic textbooks have been around for some time. But they have been confined to higher education contexts, and even so, implemented for selected subjects rather than entire school curricula.

Now, South Korea is pulling ahead in the ed-tech race with its plan to replace paper textbooks with tablets in all elementary and high schools by 2015. Significantly, the e-textbooks will teach custom-made e-learning programmes, instead of being mere pdf versions of the printed version.

There are key questions that South Korea (and any other country pondering a paperless education system) will need to ask itself:

  • Will the move to e-textbooks lead to a digital divide between students who can afford expensive devices and resources, and those who cannot?
  • How can schools transform themselves for the digital future? Areas for change include culture, competencies, training, resource management, assessment, student guidance, and policies and support (financial, technical, academic).
  • How can all sectors of society—from education to government to civil groups to businesses—align themselves to support and advance this transformative initiative?
Technology alone is not enough to reignite education. Without guided efforts to develop pedagogy, administration and mindset, all the tablets and applications in the world will simply be new tools in an old system.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2011 11:28 pm

    This is an interesting story. In addition to the comments you mention, I wonder how this will affect the consciousness of Korean students/people in the long term; to learn with the electronic word is much different than the printed word. As well, what cultural factors will make this move in Korea easier or more difficult. Being a traditionally more communal based society, and with the characteristics of Korean language/writing, it might actually be an easier step than were this to take place in NAmerica or Europe.

    • Cindy Wee permalink
      September 14, 2011 7:30 pm

      Thanks Glenyan, a good point on culture. The Korean society is typically collectivistic, emphasising Confucian values such as community, harmony and deference. It is likely that ebooks, and by an extension elearning, will be developed and experienced differently within the Korean culture than in more individualistic cultures.

      Whatever opportunities a paperless education may bring for Korea, these may be somewhat constrained as English is a second and often challenging language for its natives, and most Internet content and conversations are in the English medium, at least for the present.


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