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Schools in Japan redouble efforts |to teach online rules and ethics

EXPERTS AGREE ON IMPORTANCE OF INSTILLING A SENSE |OF ETHICS EARLY ON

SCHOOLS in Japan are redoubling their efforts to teach students rules and ethics for their use of the Internet.

Until recently, this kind of education mainly focused on preventing minors from accessing harmful websites. Nowadays, however, education experts agree on the importance of instilling a sense of online ethics early on, to prevent young people from engaging in behaviour such as inappropriate use of documents, academic papers and other sources, as well as the questionable posting of photos to the Internet.

Ushizu elementary school in Ogi, Saga Prefecture, offered its sixth-grade students lessons on how to properly use the Internet in April, in the form of a lecture during their moral education class.

Teacher Makoto Jinnai, 54, first led students in a discussion about the positive and negative aspects of cars and gasoline. When he asked the same kind of question about the Internet, one student volunteered, "I can search for knowledge I want," while another said, "I can copy sentences other people write."

Jinnai said: "If students think about the Internet in the same way they think about other things around them, they can understand that it has both good and bad sides, depending on how it's used."

Jinnai is a director of IT Support Saga, a non-profit organisation that aims to maintain Internet environments appropriate for children. It has worked with local university students on a variety of projects, include staging plays with such complicated topics as "what should be done if a book report copied from the Internet wins a writing contest"

This fiscal year, the Ogi municipal board of education will work with IT Support Saga to draft and implement a plan for teaching Internet morals in each school subject at all primary and middle schools in the city.

At the Kamakura Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, a similar effort started last fiscal year. High school

students lead lessons on Internet morals for middle school students.

The high schoolers take around six hours of classes to build a foundation of knowledge as part of the school's information sciences classes, which are taught in part by experts from information technology companies. The high school students are then tasked with considering how to teach their newfound knowledge, and ultimately present the information to their middle school counterparts.

This fiscal year, second-year high school students will take part in the program. In a class in late April, these students were taught about a variety of ethical situations.

Their instructor explained: "If you take a person's photo without permission and upload the photo on the Internet, it constitutes an infringement of the person's portrait rights," and "If you take mischievous photos and carelessly post them to the Internet, it could lead to trouble."

One 16-year-old student said: "Considering how best to share our knowledge with our juniors while we learned increased our own interest."

Shoji Sato, a 54-year-old teacher at the high school, explained the idea behind the method saying: "I believe our students will feel closer to the issues when they're taught by people from the same generation."

The need for education in Internet morals was pointed out in the fiscal 2002 school curriculum guidelines for middle school technology and home economics classes. Since fiscal 2011, education in this area has been seen as necessary for all students from primary to high school.

In recent years, there have been increasing problems due to inappropriate or careless messages and posts on the Internet, a phenomenon partly attributable to the proliferation of smartphones.

This year, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry issued guideline materials and films for instructors about Internet moral education, distributing them to prefectural and municipal boards of education across Japan in April.

Because Internet-based data is easy to copy and alter, the guidance and teaching materials explain that careful consideration of other people and associated rights, including copyright, portrait right are important.

Professor Kazuhiro Sumi of Saga University, who heads IT Support Saga and is an expert on technological and information education, said: "As issues about plagiarism in academic papers have created great controversy, it's necessary to ensure that minors learn not only to protect themselves from dangers on the Internet but also to have a sense of responsibility for their own actions."


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