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HOME > 28th JAMCO Online International Symposium > Changes in “Education and Media” Observed in the JAPAN PRIZE International Contest for Educational Media: With a prospect for the future of developing countries/regions

JAMCO Online International Symposium

28th JAMCO Online International Symposium

February 2020 - March 2020

Educational Content in the Developing Countries : Its Role and New Possibilities

Changes in “Education and Media” Observed in the JAPAN PRIZE International Contest for Educational Media: With a prospect for the future of developing countries/regions

Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi
Former member of the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute
Part-time Lecturer, The Open University of Japan


The JAPAN PRIZE was established in 1965 by NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, as the world’s first international contest dedicated to educational programs, with the aim of contributing to the advancement of educational programs around the world and the promotion of international understanding and cooperation. Broadcasters in developing countries/regions proactively participated in the contest from the start, which is a notable feature of the JAPAN PRIZE. The 46th JAPAN PRIZE held in 2019 received a total of 288 entries from 54 countries and regions of the world. The final selection was held in November in Tokyo, with an international panel of jurors consisting of broadcasters and experts on educational media, and the Grand Prix Japan Prize (hereinafter referred to as “Grand Prix”) was awarded to Buddha in Africa (South Africa/Sweden).

With more than 10,000 entries submitted to the contest from 1965 through 2019, the JAPAN PRIZE’s experience and history span over a half century, including biennial sessions. With changing times, the contest has been showing to the world broadly that broadcasting and other media can contribute to society in the field of education. The author has conducted longitudinal, multifaceted analyses of the JAPAN PRIZE, based on which this paper summarizes the change in educational programs and digital media content of the world, and examines what roles educational programs and digital content as well as international events like the JAPAN PRIZE* will be able to play for the developing countries/regions, and more widely for diverse countries and regions, in the future.

Note that the background to the commencement of the contest and the detailed findings from the analysis of the trends through the 2017 JAPAN PRIZE*are presented in a separate paper (Kodaira, 2018).

*The official title of the contest had been the JAPAN PRIZE International Educational Program Contest until 2007. The current title, the JAPAN PRIZE International Contest for Educational Media was introduced in 2008.

The Awards Ceremony of the JAPAN PRIZE 2019 held in
NHK Broadcasting Center, Shibuya, Tokyo

(Photo provided by the JAPAN PRIZE Secretariat)

1. Characteristics of the JAPAN PRIZE

In 1965, when the JAPAN PRIZE was launched, Japan had diverse types of educational programs both on radio and television for various viewers, ranging from young children to adults, and over 70% of the elementary schools in Japan were using NHK school broadcasts at classrooms. Meanwhile, globally, it was not rare to find countries/regions with only radio broadcasts. Under such situation, the goal of the contest, “contributing to the advancement of educational programs around the world and the promotion of international understanding and cooperation,” was appreciated by many people, and a total of 185 programs (95 radio and 90 television) from 70 broadcasters in 46 countries/regions were entered to the first contest in 1965—that was well over expectations. This alone suggests that much passion and efforts were exerted for the development of educational broadcasting across the globe.

Thus, the JAPAN PRIZE was established, and has evolved into an international event that looks into the future of education around the world by reforming itself in various ways in responding to the changes in subjects and issues dealt in the field of education as well as in the media landscape. The key characteristics of the contest are as follows. 

  • 1) Active participation by developing countries/regions

    International competitions in the field of broadcasting often start as developed-country oriented, but in the case of the JAPAN PRIZE, young nations that had just become independent, particularly in Asia and Africa, have been actively participating in the contest since its launch, placing an urgent priority on the dissemination of education for building the foundation of the country. The contest has also been inviting jurors from all around the world including these areas. This is a significant feature of the JAPAN PRIZE.

  • 2) Expansion of targeted works—from the age of broadcasting to the age of digital content

    The JAPAN PRIZE had long been a contest targeting solely broadcasting media, namely television and radio programs (radio until 1989), but with the rapid spread of the internet and the advancement of digitization, the media landscape drastically changed, which prompted the contest to take into consideration media works other than TV programs in the 2000s. The JAPAN PRIZE launched the “Web Division” in 2002 to include websites linked to TV programs and underwent a major reform in 2008 by opening the door for all the “audiovisual productions that have been produced with the intent of improving educational effects” including not only TV programs but also movie films, video works, websites, educational games, various interactive content, and so on, and the title of the contest was also changed to the current one, the JAPAN PRIZE International Contest for Educational Media.

  • 3) Establishing a new division with the purpose of supporting countries/regions with difficulty in program production

    Not only paying attention to new media trends, but the JAPAN PRIZE has been striving to help enrich the production of educational programs in every corner of the world, which is another important feature of the JAPAN PRIZE. Following the launch of the Web Division in 2002, the JAPAN PRIZE established the Program Proposal Division* in 2003 (30th contest) in order to support the realization of ideas for television programs with educational values by awarding excellent proposals submitted by organizations in countries/regions with limited budget and/or technical facilities albeit with great ideas and aspirations (see Chapter 3 for details).

    *The title of the division has undergone changes along the way: “Proposal Division” (2006 to 2007), “TV Proposal Division” (2008 to 2017), and “Proposal Division” (from 2018 onwards).

  • 4) Serving as a hub for networking and mutual inspiration of the JAPAN PRIZE participants

    The activities of the JAPAN PRIZE are not limited to judging and recognition of the entries. Focusing on the exchange of information and views among the people gathered in Japan from around the world as jurors and observers, the JAPAN PRIZE has been providing various opportunities including symposia, seminars, and workshops since the very first contest. The topics presented and/or discussed at these occasions are diverse, ranging from possible impacts of new media environment on education to what media can do for children in difficult situations.

  • 5) Giving back the fruits to society—the JAPAN PRIZE Library, open events, provision of information

    The JAPAN PRIZE has been operating a library since 1974 for producers, researchers, and those involved in education worldwide to utilize the educational programs that won prizes at the contest. Other than the JAPAN PRIZE contest usually held in autumn, the JAPAN PRIZE Secretariat organizes various open events including screening sessions to give back the fruits of the contest to the public at home and abroad. It has also been making the contest outcomes available through TV broadcasts (broadcasting of the Awards Ceremony, introduction of winning programs and events, etc.) after each contest since 1965, with the purpose of providing opportunities for the public to take notice of educational issues of the world. Currently, the JAPAN PRIZE website (in Japanese and English) offers the basic information and the latest activities of the contest widely to the world.

  • The JAPAN PRIZE Website

    A wide range of information including past data is available.

2. Changes in educational programs and diversification of world’s content observed in the JAPAN PRIZE entries

  • (1) The trends of early entries and programs from developing countries/regions

    In the early days of the contest, from 1965 to 1979, the majority of the entries were dealing with school subjects such as science, math, languages (national and foreign), social science (geography and history), music and arts, and so on, with the purpose of improving school curriculum, as well as programs offering basic education such as languages, literacy, and vocational skills for adult audience. Science and math were more covered in TV programs, and languages and music in radio. By area of the world, the number of entries from Western Europe was predominant (around 30 percent of the whole entries), followed by Asia, Eastern Europe, and then by North America and Africa. As to entries from Western Europe and North America, the number of TV programs outstripped that of radio while African countries’ radio entries were 2.5 times higher than their TV entries.

    In 1969, TV entries exceeded radio entries for the first time, and then, with the increase in color programs, developed countries/regions became more keen to devote budgetary and human resources into educational programs, which led to the creation of large-scale educational programs represented by Sesame Street (1971 Grand Prix). Developing countries/regions also showed an impressive growth by creating more and more programs with clear educational effects mainly for radio and black-and-white television.

    Supporting the improvement of radio and TV educational programs in developing countries/regions has been an important theme of the JAPAN PRIZE. In addition to the Best Prizes in each Category and the Grand Prix, the contest introduced special prizes for radio and TV programs that “are deemed markedly successful in bringing about the desired educational effects” upon taking into consideration special conditions, such as economic, social, and that for program production within the organization, to recognize developing countries’/regions’ endeavors in improving educational program production.

  • (2) Diversification of educational programs in the 1980s and 1990s amid technological development and social changes

    Then came the 1980s, which saw a remarkable progress in programs for higher education and adult learners as well as the emergence of CG and advanced special effect techniques in the production of TV programs in developed countries/regions, which was reflected in the JAPAN PRIZE as it received more and more programs using these techniques. The Grand Prix in the 15th contest (1985) was awarded to ANIMAL PHYSIOLOGY: Flying in Birds – An Experimental Approach (The Open University/British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC), which is the leading example of this development. The author vividly remember when she viewed this program with other JAPAN PRIZE observers from around the world; everyone was amazed at how this program presented the mechanism of flying in birds, which had been a familiar phenomenon but not fully explained by then, with clear explanations and breathtaking images, and the observers vigorously exchanged their opinions on its educational effects.

    In regard to the content of entered programs, as social changes became increasingly drastic during the period from the 1970s to the 1980s, and then to the 1990s, there was a prominent rise in the number of programs dealing with more diverse and relevant challenges facing society. In other words, content beyond the framework of school subjects increased during this period. Topics covered by the entered programs became more diversified, including more universal issues, such as the environment, cross-cultural understanding, war and peace, poverty and child labor, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, bullying and discrimination, issues surrounding children’s hearts and minds, parent-child relations and family issues, teacher-pupil relations and school issues, and aging society. It is worth noting that topics reflecting social realities, which had been considered as challenges that adults should address until the 1990s, became the issues that children also need to tackle with. The following two Grand Prix winners typify this trend: 3-2-1 CONTACT EXTRA: The Rotten Truth (1991, the United States) focuses on an environmental issue and GOOD HEALTH: No Bullying Here (1996, the United Kingdom) deals with bullying; both targeting elementary school children (Kodaira, 1997, 2003).

    Another characteristic of this period is the increase in educational programs that present learning in attractive ways, influenced by the advancement of direction methods such as easier-to-understand explanations employing new visual technologies and fun-to-learn stage effects such as using a quiz-show style and friendly characters or TV personalities. In the 1990s, programs for young children went through a significant development, and in 1997 TELETUBBIES from the United Kingdom won the Grand Prix for the first time since 1971 as a program for preschoolers.

    Meanwhile, it is worth mentioning that, among developing countries/regions, a magazine show from the Philippines, BATIBOT (SMALL BUT STRONG) won the Best Prize in a category in 1998 to become the first winner from Asia other than Japan. Featuring children as the program hosts and performers representing rich local colors, the program was highly commended for how it straightforwardly tackles with serious themes such as disabilities and gender discrimination, how it is filled with love, and how beautifully it integrates emotion and mind.

  • (3) Educational programs and digital content in the age of diversifying media: trends since 2000

    Since the year 2000, amid the diversification of media, the JAPAN PRIZE has expanded its target, in addition to broadcasting programs, to include websites, educational games, and other wide variety of digital content that make a good use of the characteristics of interactive media. This move allowed us to feel that the forms of education and learning were becoming even more diverse. A U.S. public service broadcaster developed a game series for middle schoolers to stimulate their interest in history through virtual experiences of their own country’s history, which is viewed from a character representing their generation. A Dutch simulation game was developed with the aim of contributing to improving the quality of nursing care by allowing family members and experts in this field to correctly understand the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease so that they can provide better care to patients suffering from the disease. A cross-media work intended to deliver the same message to diverse groups of audience that had different media experiences by providing information on different platforms such as television, radio, websites, and mobile terminals. In this way, a wide variety forms were presented.

    The Best Prize winner in the Digital Media Division in 2019, Like♡Me (Norway) is a drama series using an innovative format combining elements of social media, messaging apps, and live-action dramas to portray the realities of bullying among 12-year-old girls. This work is used in classrooms as a learning material. By choosing a position, either the aggressor or the victim, viewers receive messages on their smartphones from the other side, which allows them to get a first-hand experience of the bullying as the drama unfolds. The goal is to help nurture young people’s self-confidence and stimulate them to realize what consequences their own actions would lead to.

    As observed above, digital content has made a remarkable progress, but overviewing the whole entries since 2000, we can notice TV programs still occupy a central position of the contest, in terms of both the number of entries and awards received. The Grand Prix winners of the twenty contests from 2000 to 2019 are all linear audiovisual works (TV programs and movie films) and are overwhelmingly occupied by content for adult viewers (15 works); the other winners consist of one work for pre-school children, two works for older children (ages 6 to 12), and three works for young people (ages 12 to 17).

    In terms of the content of submitted works during the same period, even more serious and diverse problems emerged than in the 1990s, and themes that delve into humanity (such as life and death, and identity) and into relationships between individuals (such as true awareness of differences and diversity) have come to attract greater interest than ever before, and TV programs and movie films attentively dealing with these themes have gained much attention. The details are stated in the separate papers (Kodaira, 2011, 2017, 2018, 2019). This report introduces the characteristics of entry works since 2000 from a viewpoint of how these works respond to educational needs through specific examples.

    – Since the 1990s, educational programs focusing on harsh realities of society have been playing an important role, and examples of tangible educational effects from works involving persons who actually experienced them deserve attention. The 2000 Grand Prix winner, Through a Blue Lens (Canada), is a documentary that was made possible by the trust established between a police team and drug addicts. The program well conveys a strong educational message to the youth from those who once were drug addicts that they do not want young people make the same mistakes as they did before.

    – Works that seek to cultivate proper understanding of various types of disabilities are also increasing. Tying Your Own Shoes (2010, Canada) portrays the exceptional mindsets and emotional lives of people with Down syndrome through a unique method using animations created by themselves and their own narrations. Despite using gentle images and narrative, this program is impactful enough to motivate the viewers to gain a proper understanding of Down syndrome and encourage them to break down stereotypes and respect differences. The Boy Inside (2007, Canada) is a documentary program made by a mother of a twelve-year-old boy suffering from Asperger’s syndrome (ASD) with the purpose of spreading awareness and understanding of ASD by revealing the privacy of the boy and his family to pinpoint the problem, which makes the program highly compelling. Employable Me (2018, Australia) follows the endeavors of people with developmental disorders searching for employment. This is a new type of TV show that not only introduces specific cases to the viewers but also highlights the importance of raising awareness and educating the public by making supports for the jobseekers and providing professional advice for the employers.

    – A notable characteristic of the 2010s is the increase in TV programs themed on LGBT. How Ky turned into Niels (2015, Netherlands) and First Day (2018, Australia) depict children who come out as transgender and choose to be themselves. Extraordinary Teens:My Gay Life (2018, United Kingdom) follows an 11-year-old boy, who comes out as gay, over seven years.

    – Among the JAPAN PRIZE entries since 2000, the work that left the strongest impact on the author is My Life: Born To Vlog (2018 Grand Prix, United Kingdom). The program documents the daily life of a twelve-year-old girl, Nikki, who keeps posting herself and messages on a video blog to be herself while living with a rare life-threatening medical condition, a facial arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Despite the challenges and difficulties, Nikki courageously moves forward, which not only serves as a role model for children who have to struggle with bullying or withdraw from society as hikikomori due to various reasons but also encourages all the viewers including adults to keep themselves going. (Kodaira, 2019)

    – There is also an increase in the number of programs dealing with children faced with difficulties deriving from family issues. Divorce of parents has become a not-so-rare theme for pre-school programs, and more programs present divorce as a familiar reality for young children to make the viewers relate to the issue or encourage them to care about friends’ feelings. In the 2019 JAPAN PRIZE, among 14 finalist programs in the Primary Division, three are documentaries regarding divorce of parents that portray how the children address this tectonic change from the perspectives of each child. Sleeping Lions (2016, United Kingdom) deals with child sexual abuse at home, which is a serious but difficult-to-solve problem because it does not come to the surface easily. The drama was produced with the purpose of eradicating child abuse by raising children’s awareness on this issue, and the video became available after the TV broadcast as an educational resource on the BBC Learning website, and a teacher’s guide is also downloadable. (Kodaira, 2017)

    – Over decades, educational programs taking up the topic of bullying have been produced in many countries/regions of the world. Broadcasters in the United Kingdom and Sweden developed programs for lower graders of elementary school and their teachers, to help create an environment that does not easily allow bullying. As seen in the aforementioned Like♡Me it is worth noting that media other than broadcasts have also come to focus on this theme. FACES: How I survived being bullied that won a special prize is one of such examples. FACES is a website that presents two-minute video testimonies on how people overcame bullying and regained their self-confidence, which are addressed to those who are currently suffering from bullying. As of November 2019, the website carries more than fifty messages. This is a project led by NHK calling upon world’s public media organizations for participating in this international co-production initiative that collects real voices of individuals living in various countries/regions to build a platform where people of different ethnicity, religion, and culture can support one another. 

    – Another important characteristic of the entries since 2000 is the rise in works focusing on various problems brought by the media and encouraging people to properly confront with them, which include works explaining the importance of questioning the authenticity of information provided on the internet, such as dramas and documentaries taking up actual risks that teenagers are experiencing with the spread of internet use. The Best Prize in the Youth Category in 2018 was awarded to #tagged (Netherlands), a drama depicting how a 14-year-old girl who is inseparable from her smartphone finds herself passing the point of no return because of photos that were tagged and went viral. Its unique production method—the entire story unfolds within the screen of her smartphone—is relevant and innovative, and appeals to young viewers. The drama aims to make teens think by themselves about how to use smartphones and discuss with friends and adults on this issue. The program also speaks to adults, presenting an important message.

  • (4) Programs from developing countries/regions since 2000

    Since the late 1990s, there have been several occasions where the Best Prize in a Category was awarded to a TV program produced in a developing country/region. Among Asian entries, following the aforementioned pre-school program from the Philippines (1998), Friend, a Mongolian drama portraying a genuine friendship between a 7-year-old boy and a 16-year old boy with mental disability, won the Best Prize in the Primary Category in 2005. The Best Prize in the Issues in Education Category in 2006 was awarded to OPEN FRAME: THAT YEAR THAT DAY entered from India. The program takes on the extremely serious topic of sexual abuse of children. The production was highly commended for explicitly addressing a difficult problem in a country that is not accustomed to talking openly about sex.

    African countries, too, have won several prizes. The 2001 Best Prize in Issues in Education Category went to YIZO YIZO 2 – Episode 5 (South Africa), a powerful drama that examines a range of social and educational issues facing South African high schools, and Tsehai Loves Learning (Ethiopia) was awarded the 2008 Best Prize in the Pre-school Category. As to Latin America, the Best Prize in the Pre-school Category in 2017 was awarded to IN SIGN: THE MOON AND THE WOLF from Ecuador that exquisitely narrates folk tales in sign language and gestures.

    Special Prizes since 2000 intend not to inspire developing countries/regions but to commend works that best suit the purpose of each prize, such as “an excellent work that encourages mutual understanding among nations and races or contributes to cultural exchange” or “an excellent work that promotes understanding of the lives of children in difficult situations.” The winners include entries from developing countries/regions.

    For example, Reel Time: Nebulizer (2014, Philippines) appeals to the viewers the importance of literacy education in people’s lives through a woman who had to quit school out of poverty and enrolls in the first grade along with her daughter to learn writing and reading. The producer later reported the societal impact of the program that a lot of viewers inspired by the program had offered her different kinds of assistance such as school supplies and cash. In Involve Me‐Yemeserach (2010, Ethiopia), a 14-year-old girl living in an institution for abused children takes up script writing for the first time and introduces footage she filmed herself. She speaks out against child abuse and old customs such as parent-arranged marriages, and explains in her own words what she is doing for opening up her future. The program aims to foster confidence among children in difficult circumstances.

3. Proposal Division for supporting program productions in developing countries/regions

  • (1) Establishment of the Proposal Division

    Educational TV programs in developing countries/regions have made a good progress along with the times, which is reflected in the winning works of the JAPAN PRIZE, but an appropriate environment for producing educational programs is yet to be created in many countries/regions even in the 21st century. It is not rare to see cases where prolonged conflicts and civil wars have devastated educational resources (schools, learning materials, and teachers) and where environments for program production that had been put in place were destructed.

    Against such backdrop, the Program Proposal Division was established in 2003 with the aim of supporting the realization of ideas for television programs with educational values by awarding excellent proposals submitted by organizations in countries/regions with limited budget and/or technical facilities albeit with great ideas and aspirations. Since then, the producers of five proposals that passed the preliminary selection have been invited to Japan as finalists every year to deliver presentations in front of the jurors and observers to explain their ideas and answer questions from the jurors. The jurors discuss the value, educational effects, and appropriateness of each proposal, judging from a viewpoint that a winning proposal has potential to be successful despite limited means of production and that the prize money will be a substantial aid in the realization of the proposal*.

    *The Hoso Bunka Foundation Prize is awarded to “the most outstanding proposal for a TV program which will contribute to education in an entrant’s country/region.” In addition to the above prize, the National Foundation of UNESCO Associations in Japan Prize was established in 2005.

    The prize-winning organizations must complete the proposed programs, utilizing the prize money that can be allotted to part of the production costs, and present the work during the JAPAN PRIZE in the following year. The 2019 JAPAN PRIZE screened the completed program of the best proposal winner in 2018, Life. The program portrays teenage boys tackling to reduce suicide among young people of indigenous decent. The producer who returned to Tokyo reported the production process and audience feedbacks in Mexico, based on which discussion followed.

  • (2) Entry tendencies of the Proposal Division and characteristics of winning proposals

    A total of 691 proposals for educational television programs from 81 countries/regions were entered in this division in the past 17 contests from 2003 to 2019 (see Table 1). By areas, the number of entries from Asia is overwhelmingly high with 452 proposals (65.4%), followed by Africa with 135 (19.5%) and Latin America with 48 (6.9%). Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Afghanistan, and Bhutan make up a high proportion of entries from Asia, Kenya and Malawi for Africa, and Colombia and Argentina for Latin America. Asia and Africa have the same number of entrant countries/regions, but Asia has higher number of entrant organizations and continuous entries, which contributes to the overwhelmingly high number of entries from Asia.

    Table 1. The number of entries in the Proposal Division (2003 to 2019)

    Area Countries/Regions Number of entries Ratio of entries (%)
    Asia 21 452 (65.4%)
    Oceania 4 18 (2.6%)
    Middle East 6 13 (1.9%)
    Europe 13 21 (3.0%)
    Africa 21 135 (19.5%)
    North America 2 4 (0.6%)
    Latin America 14 48 (6.9%)
    Total 81 691 (100%)

    *Table was compiled by the author based on the data released by the JAPAN PRIZE Secretariat after each contest.

    *See the Appendix Table at the end of this paper for the total number of entries in the all Divisions of the JAPAN PRIZE.

    In regards to the tendencies of winning proposals, Asia, with the highest number of entries, has the largest number of winning proposals, but Africa and Latin America have been increasingly successful since 2009. In the 2019 JAPAN PRIZE, PUMZI & VUYO (South Africa) won the Best Proposal, and Young African Farmers (Kenya) the Excellent Proposal; both are entries from Africa. The former is a proposal for an animation featuring two types of animated birds that are on the endangered list to teach young children the importance of conservation in a fun manner. The latter proposal aims at encouraging more young people to engage in agriculture, which would also lead to enhanced food production. Both finalists are aware that their topics are highly important not only for their own countries but also for other African nations.

    The 2019 Proposal Division: the presentation session and the five finalists
    (Philippines, South Africa, Kenya, Serbia, and Colombia)

    (Photos provided by the JAPAN PRIZE Secretariat)

  • (3) Diverse themes featured in the Proposal Division with specific examples of completed programs based on winning proposals

    The themes of the entered proposals are diverse. Since the launch of the Division, it has received a wide variety of proposals trying to communicate to the viewers the importance of diverse elements; such as of education for all as some regions still have a deep rooted idea of “girls do not need education,” the provision of opportunity to learn at school, the introduction of various forms of schools and teachers to inspire the viewers to consider ideal ways of spreading education, better literacy education, hygiene education with specific examples, better understanding of agriculture, and endeavors to overcome long-established customs in communities such as child marriage.

    [Examples of completed programs]*

    Media organizations in Bangladesh have submitted a considerable number of proposals aimed at solving the country’s low literacy rate, regarding it as a serious issue to overcome. Among them, Education on the Boat: hope for tomorrow submitted by the Bangladesh Open University (2007 Special Prize) introduces the reality and the achievements of an innovative scheme of providing education utilizing boats as classrooms, which carry books, computers, and teachers, and travel to flood-prone communities where villagers do not have easy access to schools. This is an excellent program that tangibly describes the significance of embracing new ideas in achieving education for all. There is a way (2008 Best Proposal, Sri Lanka) is a drama portraying a boy who, despite living in difficult circumstances where many schools are lost and electricity is scarce due to war, earnestly studies for the approaching scholarship exam in a bunker even at the night because he has to pass it to continue his studies. With the bright eyes of the protagonist boy, the program leaves a stark impression. Our TV is a carton! (2011 Best Proposal, Malawi) is a documentary that may inspire many teachers across borders. The program visits various schools and shows the teachers’ continuous efforts to improvise learning resources from cartons and other locally available materials as well as the vivid facial expressions of the children enjoying the lessons.

    Furthermore, a number of proposals address universal themes such as letting children, who will define the future, know the importance of news, depicting expectations for democracy, portraying young persons striving to overcome bullying and discrimination to create their own future, looking into the environmental issues including global warming and disaster prevention, leading young children into the world of learning in a fun way, and tackling problems facing the media.

    [Examples of completed programs]*

    What’s the buzz? (2009 Best Proposal) submitted from Swaziland (now Eswatini) is aimed at providing teenagers, who rarely get the chance to watch or read the news, with the opportunity to learn the importance of knowing about the world and communicating information. In the process of program-making, the broadcaster itself offers high school students not only technical trainings but also guidance on the basics of journalism to promote film production “developed by and for young people,” which is a vital point of this show. Diverse themes are covered, from familiar football news to serious social problems within the country such as child abuse; it is especially impressive to see how the project pays immense attention to the growth of teenagers as they face the realities of society, think for themselves, and develop as future leaders.

    BELIEVE IN YOURSELF (2012 Best Proposal, Nepal) depicts how a 21-year-old woman, who lost her parents at the age of three to an accident and has been on a wheelchair since then, became the first wheelchair model of the country, driven by keen interest in fashion, while vigorously challenging society for a more disabled-friendly environment. This documentary demonstrates that an individual who is determined to achieve a goal serves as an inspiration and encouragement to a wide range of people, with or without impairments.

    *All of the completed programs based on winning proposals are archived in the JAPAN PRIZE Library and are lent out to broadcasters and educators on the condition that the content is to be used as research, studies, and training materials.

    “The TV Proposal Division 10th Year Celebration Forum” was held in 2012. A delegate from Bhutan reported that his proposal’s winning in the JAPAN PRIZE not only provided the cue for the government to offer aid to teachers but also led to a reformation of the educational system and to the inroduction of “innovative learning” utilizing various types of new media. Making a difference in the development of local education in such a specific way is just exactly the contribution the JAPAN PRIZE is hoping to make. Moreover, many positive feedbacks were given by participants in the Proposal Division such as “sharing experiences with associates from various countries led me to great discoveries” and “meeting with world peers furthers personal education, which ultimately leads to the improvement of educational programs.” These comments highlight the significance of the JAPAN PRIZE as a place for mutual inspiration.

Concluding Thoughts

This paper overviewed the transition of educational programs and digital content submitted to the JAPAN PRIZE from across the world by paying a considerable attention to entries from developing countries/regions. Themes and issues covered in education are expanding as society becomes more diversified, but many people do not have access to these experiences, and therefore audiovisual works that portray and embody difficult-to-understand worlds have a potential to make a significant difference in education. It appears such examples have been increasing in recent years. Furthermore, through the JAPAN PRIZE, the author keenly feels that the world shares a passion for utilizing broadcasting and other available media in education, regardless of differences in educational and production environments, which was reconfirmed in the JAPAN PRIZE 2019.

Many themes of educational programs in developing countries/regions are universal, which has become particularly noticeable in recent years, and many of these programs can be a good reference for producers in other areas of the world. Even more important is finding clues to answer questions such as “What is a quality program/content?” and “How should we use each medium to enhance educational effects?” for the sake of one’s own country or region by learning the trends of educational programs and digital content of the world from a wide perspective, meeting people engaging in productions or research from various standpoints, sharing information and opinions, and deepening relationships with them. The process of translating these experiences into better productions, educational activities, or research activities per se is significantly valuable.

The other point the author would like to highlight is roles played by international co-production initiatives such as FACES, which is presented in Section (3) of Chapter 2. One of the symposia at the JAPAN PRZE 2017 featured FACES as part of an effort to “call for improving education of the world and solving social problems through international collaboration of public service broadcasters,” introducing its activities in detail, and since then the project has developed itself furthermore, with more organizations taking part, and its website improved. As the website’s common format makes it easier for global users to participate by making a two-minute short video each, the project is receiving interest also from developing countries/regions, but it will further need to devise various methods to let more people know about the initiative. The author also hopes for further developments of the project in the future, such as opportunities for participating organizations to share the accomplishment in each country/region with one another and launches of new projects spun off from the initiative.

Appendix Table: The number of JAPAN PRIZE entries by area: before and after the introduction of the Proposal Division

  Asia Oceania Middle East Europe Africa North America Latin America Total

Numbers in parentheses indicate percentages.

*Table was compiled by the author based on the data released by the JAPAN PRIZE Secretariat after each contest.
*The number of entries since the 30th Contest (2003) includes those submitted to the Proposal Division. In regards to the aggregated number of entries throughout the all 46 contests, Europe has the largest share (34.3%), followed by Asia (31.2%). Before the introduction of the Proposal Division, Europe ranks first (39.2%), outstripping the second-place Asia (22.8%), but the rankings are reversed after the introduction of the Proposal Division, with Asia (39.0%) topping the list, followed by Europe (29.7%).
The table does not show the number of completed-work entries (TV programs and digital content only, not including entries in the Proposal Division) from the 30th to 46th contests to avoid confusion. The total number of these completed-work entries during this period is 4,554 (100%), among which Asia has the highest number of entries (1,591) (34.9%), slightly larger than the second-place Europe (1,537) (33.8%), which indicates Asian countries/regions have been actively submitting not only proposals but also completed works.


  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (1986) “Tamedia jidai no kyoiku hoso to shorai tenbo: Nippon Sho seminaa yori [Educational broadcasting in the age of multimedia with future outlook: from the JAPAN PRIZE seminar]” Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa [NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research] 36 (2), pp.15-27.
    (Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa is a monthly journal published by the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute)
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (1990) “Atarashii jidai ni mukete no sekai no kyoiku hoso: ’89 Nippon Sho kokusai ankeeto wo chushin ni [Educational broadcasting for the new age: highlighting the 1989 questionnaire survey on the JAPAN PRIZE]” Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa [NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research] 40 (3), pp.26-37.
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (1991) “Worldwide Educational Broadcasting: Diversity and Challenge in New Era” Studies of Broadcasting [NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute] 27, pp.221-243.
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (1997) “Tayoka suru sekai no kyoiku bangumi: Nippon Sho kyoiku bangumi kokusai konkuru wo chushin ni [Diversifying educational programs around the world: highlighting the JAPAN PRIZE International Educational Program Contest]” Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa [NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research] 47 (3), pp.42-57.
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (2003) “Sekai ni miru kodomo muke bangumi no douko [Global trends in educational broadcasts for children: highlighting the JAPAN PRIZE International Educational Program Contest]” Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa [NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research] 53 (1), pp.44-55.
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (2011) “Nippon Sho konkuru ni miru sekai no kyoiku bangumi kontentsu no choryu [Trends in world educational media based on entries to the JAPAN PRIZE since 2000]” Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa [NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research] 61 (3), pp.72-88.
    (Online English version available on the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute’s website)
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (2015) “50 nen wo mukaeru Nippon Sho konkuru [The JAPAN PRIZE celebrating its 50th anniversary]” Hoso Kenkyu to Chosa [NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research] 65 (10), pp.84-87.
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (2017) “Dai 43 kai Nippon Sho konkuru jushou sakuhin kara [Reviewing the winning works of the 43rd JAPAN PRIZE]”, Shichokaku Kyoiku [The Audio-Visual Education] (Japan Audio-Visual Education Association) 71 (1), pp.12-13.
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (2018) “Nippon Sho konkuru ni miru sekai no ‘kyoiku to media’ no henyo [Changes in ‘education and media’ observed in the JAPAN PRIZE International Contest for Educational Media]” NHK Hoso Kenkyujo Nenpo 2018 [The Annual Bulletin of NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute 2018] No.62, pp.89-172. (English summary on p.307)
  • Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi (2019) “Dai 45 kai Nippon Sho konkuru jushou sakuhinn kara [Reviewing the winning works of the 45th JAPAN PRIZE]”, Shichokaku Kyoiku [The Audio-Visual Education] (Japan Audio-Visual Education Association) 73 (2), pp.52-53.
  • “Nippon Sho Hokokusho [The JAPAN PRIZE report]” 1st (1965) to 45th (2018) issues (JAPAN PRIZE Secretariat)
  • The JAPAN PRIZE website, Japanese and English pages (the final results of the JAPAN PRIZE 2019, 46th contest, and other information including past data available)

*All internet links were last accessed on November 30, 2019.

Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi

Former member of the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute
Part-time Lecturer, The Open University of Japan

Kodaira, Sachiko Imaizumi joined NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) in 1977 after graduating from Sophia University in Tokyo, Faculty of Foreign Studies (Major: English Language, Minor: International Relations). Since then till February 2019 she conducted various types of studies regarding the educational use of media as well as children and media at the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute. She studied both the situation in Japan and international trends. She also served as an educational affairs commentator on NHK Radio and TV (2002-2009).
She has been following the JAPAN PRIZE, an international contest dedicated solely to educational content, for over 40 years. She was a member of the jury for the JAPAN PRIZE 2006, gave a special lecture “The Trends of the World’s Educational Contents: Grand Prix Japan Prize Winners Revisited” in 2010 and served as a panelist for the session “‘Engaging’ and ‘Transmedia’: The Ideal Model For Children’s Audiovisual Contents” in 2011 and for the 50th anniversary special session “Bringing the Past into the Future: 50 years of the JAPAN PRIZE” in 2015.

Past Symposiums

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