Starting this January, ten Japanese elementary and middle schools will be distributing Nintendo DS systems to their students as educational tools.
Obviously the kids won't be playing Pokemon in class, with the DSs being intended strictly for "educational software" purposes. Exactly which software will be implemented in the program is unclear, though there are an abundance of third party educational titles available in Japan that focus on language learning and kanji practice.
The measure was passed by the Osaka Board of Education, meaning the DSs will be distributed by the school and that they will be paid for with Japanese tax payer money. This unorthodox use of education money has left some residents upset, perhaps understandably so. While distributing the DSs might seem like a way to appeal to the tech sensibilities of the youth, they seem as likely to be a distraction as they are an aide. Given that the Japanese economy is hurting as much as everyone else's at the moment, giving money to a company that isn't exactly strapped for cash like Nintendo seems unnecessary.
Why the school didn't opt for something designed solely as an educational device, like LeapFrog or its Japanese equivalent, is somewhat boggling. Picking a device that's primarily a game system seems like the school board is leaving itself wide open to a mob of angry parental complaints. Depending on how it's handled though, it's actions like these that can open people up to the idea of videogames being able to do more than just mindlessly entertain.
Source: Japanator (via Kotaku)