Follow Us:

Digital textbook initiatives in Korea

© Wikimedia / Persiatj

By Hye-Kyung Yang, KERIS, Korea 

In 1995, the Presidential Education Commission drafted an agenda which, for Korean policymakers still serves as the cornerstone for ICT in education development. Globalization and its effects on the future development of education have brought lifelong learning and open education to the forefront of the ongoing discourse taking place in national education planning. 

The Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology established in 2007 the “Digital Textbooks Generalization Plan” which launched a pilot project aimed at developing digital textbook prototypes for six subjects in thirteen elementary pilot schools. 

In the context of the Korean education system, digital textbooks can be defined as, “Textbooks that integrate the contents of the existing textbooks, supplementary books, work books and glossaries with multimedia and materialize them with various interactive functions for students to study according to their characteristics and academic levels” (MEST 2010 Adapting Education to the Information Age: 24). 

The Digital Textbook initiatives in Korea pursue the ongoing policy goal of individualized learning based on the interests and aptitudes of learners. It aims to break away from limited knowledge in paper textbooks and to provide students with extended environments where they can have access to diversified and creative knowledge. 

In 2011 the Korean government set the goal of building a powerful country with talented people and decided to pursue SMART education policies for the 21st century. SMART (Self-directed, Motivated, Adaptive, Resource free and Technology embedded) education is an, “Intelligent and customized teaching and learning system” (MEST 2011 Presidential Report). As the initials of SMART indicate, students are expected to learn with fun, motivated, and self-directed ways based on their level and aptitude in a resource-enriched environment.

The major five pillars of SMART education policy consists of incorporating digital textbooks into the school system by 2015; promoting online classes and assessment; improving the legal framework and copyright laws; developing the capacity of teachers; and constructing a cloud computing-based infrastructure. Thanks to a cloud-based computing environment, digital textbook content can be readily downloaded so that students can access up-to-date information anytime and anywhere.

The overall strategy of developing digital textbooks has been formulated through stakeholder participation, advisory meetings, and pilot school field studies. Research on standard authoring tools and viewer development will be conducted for private sector reference. 

Korea’s first SMART school opened on March 2 (2012) in Sejong Special Autonomous City, a special administrative district in Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong Province).  

Each student in the SMART school will be equipped with his or her own “smart pad” and can participate in classroom activities through the e-blackboard and smart pad. A total of 150 schools including 66 kindergartens, 41 primary schools, 21 lower secondary schools, 20 upper secondary schools, and two special schools will be open by 2030 in Sejong Special Autonomous City.

Hye-Kyung Yang,