To help teachers handle devices for “smart education,” the government plans to begin training teachers in 2012 — some 25 percent of teachers each year.

Citing the top score South Korea garnered in an OECD digital reading survey, the Education Ministry believes that the digital textbooks will bring about a sea change in the classroom and boost the country’s educational competitiveness.

However, some skeptics said that without any fundamental change in the current university admission policies that have triggered cutthroat competition among students and bloated the private education market, there will not be any meaningful improvement in classrooms.

The ministry announced that South Korea ranked first in the 2009 Digital Reading Assessment (DRA), which was included in the Program for International Student Assessment. PISA is a worldwide evaluation of students’ scholastic performance, conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

More news about digital textbooks:

New Jersey district plans iPad-only algebra course

Who needs a bulky textbook?

Virginia using iPads to teach social studies

Open courseware gains momentum

In the 2009 DRA, South Korea scored 568 points, far higher than the OECD average of 499. New Zealand and Australia jointly ranked second with 537 points, followed by Japan with 519 points and China with 515 points.

The exam measured students’ ability to evaluate information from several web-based sources, assess the credibility and utility of what they read, and navigate across pages of text autonomously and efficiently. U.S. students did not participate.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Korea Herald, Seoul/Asia News Network, with additional reporting by eSchool Media. To see more of the Asia News Network, go to Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.