Sixty Years of Educational Television: Transition of School Broadcast Programs

Published: January 2019

NHK’s Tokyo Educational Television was launched in January 1959 as the first Japanese TV broadcasting service dedicated to educational content. It has developed into NHK Educational TV (ETV) and will celebrate its 60th anniversary in January 2019. In the early days of the Educational Television, the longest broadcasting hours were devoted to school broadcast programs.

This paper analyzes the transition of NHK’s school broadcast programs by tracing the sixty-year history of educational television, which is divided into three 20-year periods, and from the following five perspectives: “social conditions and educational policy,” “broadcasting technology and media environment,” “program scheduling,” “program content (structure and direction),” and “program usage and program research.”

The first period (about 20 years from 1959 through the 1970s’) can be called as the expansion period of TV school broadcasts.

NHK had made various attempts before initiating TV school broadcast programs, seeking what kind of educational programs could be provided by utilizing the characteristics of moving images. Since the government’s curriculum guidelines “Courses of Study” at that time prioritized “systematization,” school broadcast programs also tried to reflect the curriculum of each grade and subject, which consequently increased the airtime of school programs. Meanwhile, as research on the usage of school broadcasts progressed, debates arose on how to use the school programs.

The second period (from the 1980s through the 1990s) saw the flowering of education by broadcasting as well as its turning point.

In the 1980s, video recorders widely spread among the public. Video also made location shooting easier, and since video recording became available among schools at a faster pace than among general households, the school broadcasts’ utilization increased. At the same time, the spread of commercially available videos and the introduction of computers at schools made the conventional idea of education by broadcasting—“live, whole, and continuous”—hit a turning point.

The third period (from the 2000s to present) is characterized by the linkage of broadcast programs with the internet.

In the 2000s, digitalization made it possible to provide high definition programs and send supplemental information via data broadcasts. Furthermore, the launch of school programs’ internet site enabled the delivery of video clips, in addition to the broadcasts of school programs. With the new Courses of Study becoming more diversified, including the introduction of “the Period for Integrated Studies,” the programming of NHK’s school broadcast programs became more flexible in terms of the number of programs to air and of the broadcast hours, and direction methods were also diversified, implementing various concepts such as “open-end” and “segment.” In addition to conventional studies on education by broadcasting, the scope of research has been widened to education by media including audiovisual education and information education.

This paper attempts to discuss the direction of educational media in the future by comprehensively tracing the history of NHK school broadcast programs.

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