Education in an Information Age
- as seen in Japan
Mr. Gao from the People's Republic of China made his appearance today. He could not reach earlier because of delay in the issue of visa to him. He is in a class by himself. He is accompanied by his lady interpreter, who is good looking too. Together they make an impressive pair, he looks dignified with his bold pate and she with her demure smile and typical Chinese hair cut. I thought she had accompanied Mr. Gao from China itself. But this was soon sorted out. She has come from Kyoto. Greetings were exchanged formally by each one of us with Mr. Gao. I chaired the forenoon session. I had before me the beautiful Indian flag. There were in all four presentations in that session. The only woman participant of the Seminar has come from Indonesia. She made an impressive presentation using on-line projection of slides from the Power Point.
In the afternoon we went to visit the Hiroshima Prefecture Inservice Training Centre. It has an imposing modern building. The Director of the Information Centre of the Institute made a presentation of his activities for the inservice training of teachers in information technology. He made it clear that teachers are introduced to the use of computers as a part of the pedagogy of school subjects. Introduction to computers per se is not required in Japan, as every participant teacher invariably has a personal laptop or a desktop computer. I entered a training hall where about thirty teachers were preparing Homepage using instruction sheets. I stopped by a teacher who spoke English fluently. I could make out that he was using a HTML editor for preparing the Homepage. I scanned his programme which I could follow. He had used the standard procedure for insertion of images but was using a Japanese word processor for writing text in Chinese characters. I asked how image files were created. His instructor pointed out that now they use digital camera for taking photographs which can be readily inserted as objects in wordprocessor files. When I asked him to show me their digital camera, he pointed towards a locked closet. Digital cameras have been in market for over two years and are popular in Japan. I have been told that close to the Hotel in Hiroshima where I will be staying there are many big computer shops selling digital cameras and computer peripherals. The visit to the inservice training centre has made it loud and clear that school system in the industrialised countries is undergoing radical change and the emphasis on education in countries like Japan is on making it increasingly relevant to an information society.
The TV in my room has a CNN Channel. The two stunning news today were the orders passed by the New Delhi Metropolitan Magistrate for filing a charge sheet against Shri P.V. Narasimha Rao and the environmental catastrophe in Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore on account of forest fires in Indonesia. These countries are covered with haze due to smoke that has drifted there from Borneo, where the forests are still ablaze. In some of these countries conditions of national disaster have been announced in view of the threat to the health of the people, particularly of children as they are unable to breathe properly. It is not clear whether the forest fires are accidental or are due to clearing of rain forests by burning for recovering land for cash crop cultivation. Some are attributing it to El Nino effect that according to meteorologists is responsible for the recent hurricanes in the western coast of the USA and Mexico and the drought conditions in Indonesia. Fire fighters from Malaysia are being sent to Indonesia for putting out the fires.