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A consortium has been set up by 18 computer- and education-related companies to provide schools with personal laptop computers that students can use anywhere at school as part of efforts to raise their skills.

The companies, including NEC Corp., Benesse Corp., Gakken Co. and Microsoft Co., said their “broadband school” project will allow students to use the laptops during such classes as Japanese and social studies to access relevant information via high-speed Internet services.

At present, computer education is mainly provided only in computer labs, officials of the firms said.

The consortium will provide the public schools involved in the project with equipment for free, and will offer training for teachers and assistance in developing education methods, the firms said.

As a first step, the consortium has provided 80 PCs for students, and computer servers in faculty rooms, as well as other equipment, to two elementary schools in the city of Okayama.

The PCs have access to high-speed Internet links from any classroom in the schools via a wireless local area network.

Half the computers were given to the city’s Nishi Elementary School and the other half went to Homei Elementary School.

Speaking via the Internet, Okayama Mayor Seiji Hagiwara told a news conference Monday that he would like every student to eventually have access to a PC for use in the classroom.

Hagiwara said he expects increased use of the Internet to augment textbooks.

The consortium said it plans to provide similar support to other municipalities starting in the next fiscal year.

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