The GIGA School Program is finally making a digital shift to match other advanced countries.
On one hand, Japan is known to be one of the more technologically advanced countries, with ideas of bullet trains and VR games. However, it’s digitalization is still incomparable to that of other countries. Although Japan has been progressing towards a digitalized society in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japan is highly dependent on cash, written documents, and faxed documents. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s evident slowness towards digitalization has been clear for a while.
Due to the closure of elementary, middle, and high schools from late February to late May requested by former Prime Minister Abe, many students were not able to receive an online education because of the lack of technological infrastructure. According to Toyo Keizai Online, even under this restriction, private schools still continued to provide classes and homerooms through an online environment. Yet only 5% of public schools were holding online classes as of April 16th 2020. Many students and parents were confused and frightened about this gap in education. Yet even with ongoing online classes, many schools did not provide technological support for students.
The Suga administration finally decided to speed up its digital transformation, making it a top priority. One such policy is the GIGA School Program, the ¥460 billion plan originally announced by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) at the end of 2019. Originally, the program was targeted to be completed by the end of March 2023, but was pushed forward three years to ensure that schools can be prepared for any online learning that had to be faced due to the pandemic.
About the GIGA School Program
The main goal of the Global and Innovation Gateway for All (GIGA) is “1 device for 1 student”. GIGA aims to provide not only devices for every student, but also assistive devices for children with disabilities. This would require a strong high speed network environment and aid from ICT teachers and engineers at each school, which are all included in the GIGA school plan.
With this enhanced technology, MEXT believes that students will still be able to continue learning even under unexpected emergency situations such as the current pandemic. They even propose to lend mobile routes for households that do not have a wireless environment.