TOKYO, Sept. 5 (Kyodo) — In a move toward full-scale digitalization of education in Japan, 12 school textbook publishing companies on Thursday announced their plan to develop a common platform for tablet devices in classrooms.

With the help of Hitachi Solutions Ltd., the 12 companies aim to enable as many schools as possible to introduce tablets, to be used with conventional printed textbooks, in the spring of 2015.

"We have decided to join forces in the field of digitalization because it's just too hard for one company to meet the various needs of schools," Mitsumura Tosho Publishing Co. President Hiroshi Tokida said at a press conference.

"We will continue to improve the quality of printed materials while trying to combine them with digital materials," said Tokida, who heads the 12-party consortium.

The Japanese government hopes all students in the country will be equipped with educational tablets by the end of 2019.

In March 2012, around 23 percent of elementary, junior high and high schools were using some type of digital device, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

But many of them have complained about the different formats offered by textbook publishers as well as the different operating systems of tablet devices.

The consortium called CoNETS, after the phrase "Connecting to the Next Education for Teachers and Students," is aimed at resolving such problems and helping children learn more enjoyably and efficiently.

The 12 companies are Mitsumura Tosho, Dainippon Tosho Co., Jikkyo Shuppan Co., Kairyudo Publishing Co., Sanseido Publishing Co., Kyouiku Geijutsu Sha Co., Teikoku-Shoin Co., Taishukan Publishing Co., Shinkoshuppansha Keirinkan Co., Yamakawa Shuppansha Ltd., Suken Shuppan Ltd. and Nihon Bunkyou Shuppan Co.

Many of them specialize in particular subjects, for instance Kyouiku Geijutsu in music and Yamakawa Shuppansha in history.

In Asia, South Korea and Singapore are among the front-runners in introducing digital educational materials.