Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
- I am sure we will all agree that the importance of education cannot be understated, though we too often recognize its value in hindsight. How many times have each of us thought, "If only I had studied harder in my childhood."
- And, as we are all keenly aware, IT has opened a door to a new world of education, one which has three main categories of benefits.
First, IT simplifies and lowers the cost of collecting and distributing information that can then be transformed into educational materials. Second, IT allows students to study subjects of their choosing interactively and intensively according to their abilities and needs. Finally, IT gives students the means to communicate with teachers and classmates outside the classroom, indeed whenever and wherever they choose.
- Japan is currently working to improve Internet access from all of our schools. One example is the pilot research program called the Full Net Project, currently underway in Nagano Prefecture, the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics and, I must offer full disclosure, my own home electoral district. The project was launched three years ago to improve interactive education through the delivery of Video on Demand over fiber optic networks and a Super High-speed Internet system connecting elementary and junior high schools.
The initial results of the Full Net Project are quite promising. Students have been able to enrich their learning experience through various means, including such high-level tasks as running simulations of chemical reactions and consequent virtual explosions.
- How does the Internet and IT improve education in general? For students, the Internet is one gigantic library that never closes and that requires no travel. Students can study subjects of interest anywhere, anytime. It is also one big, unending classroom, with opportunities for learning and collaborating with classmates or indeed others around the world. For teachers, the Internet provides them the chance to obtain and distribute educational materials of the very highest quality. Putting education on the Internet also gives pressure, forcing teachers to enhance their teaching to be the very best, for students can compare their classroom experience to the one the teacher gave last year.
IT provides the power for education to improve itself-and empowered education will result in better qualified, more creative and we hope better-informed individuals.
- While an awareness exists that education over the Internet is important, the members of my government and my fellow citizens know that we have to enhance the interconnectivity between our schools and our classrooms. We know also we have to develop innovative systems essential for promoting learning in addition to improving the quality of on-line educational content.
We are committed to working tirelessly to these goals on a national scale in the same way we have done it in Nagano-and we hope to expand the project so that it become international in scale.
- Without question, an improved education is a heritage we must pass on to our children. I bring my remarks to a close with the hope that we can harness technology in many, many positive ways and ensure that, rather than being overwhelmed by IT, that IT benefits the education of all humankind in this exciting new century.