South Korea believes that digital textbooks will bring about a sea change in the classroom and boost the country's educational competitiveness.

Thick textbooks weighing on students’ shoulders might disappear across South Korea in four years, as the government seeks to convert all paper textbooks into digital versions by 2015, the Education Ministry said.

Using smart phones, tablet PCs, and smart televisions, school students of all ages will be able to view the content of existing textbooks, ministry officials said.

The ministry also seeks to hold nationwide academic tests online, they said.

The ministry and the President’s Council on Informatization Strategies reported this plan on “smart education” to President Lee Myung-bak at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae, they said.

In addition to the content of paper textbooks, supplementary materials and two-way study methods will be included in the digital textbooks. Some of the books will be customized to suit the needs of the physically challenged, officials said.

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The ministry plans to digitize all subjects for elementary school students by 2014 and for middle and high school students by 2015.

It also plans to begin increasing online classes in 2013 for three years, so that those who cannot come to school owing to weather conditions or health problems can continue their studies outside of school.

In addition, the ministry plans to encourage students to take the “University-Level Program,” under which students will take college-level courses. And using Internet Protocol Television, it will run after-school programs to teach foreign languages, multiculturalism, and other subjects.