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Education chief backs digital texts

“The world is changing,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “This has to be where we go as a country.”

“The world is changing,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “This has to be where we go as a country.”

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Arne Duncan called Tuesday for the nation to move as fast as possible toward digital textbooks. ‘‘Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete,’’ he declared.

It’s not just a matter of keeping up with the times, Duncan said in remarks to the National Press Club. It’s about keeping up with other countries whose students are leaving their American counterparts in the dust.

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South Korea, which consistently outperforms the United States when it comes to educational outcomes, is moving far faster than the United States in adopting digital learning environments. One of the most wired countries in the world, South Korea has set a goal to go fully digital with its textbooks by 2015.

‘‘The world is changing,’’ Duncan said. ‘‘This has to be where we go as a country.’’

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But adopting digital textbooks isn’t as easy as a directive from Washington. States set their own processes for selecting and purchasing textbooks that match their needs.

Over the last two years, at least 22 states have taken major strides toward digital textbooks, said Douglas Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.

‘‘There are opportunities for the federal government to encourage states and districts not to reinvent the wheel,’’ Levin said.

Associated Press

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