A report from UNESCO on technology in education has highlighted what it describes as a “lack of appropriate governance and regulation”.
The UN body has urged countries to set their own terms for the way technology is designed and used in education, adding that technology should never replace in-person, teacher-led instruction.
Entitled ‘Technology in education: A tool on whose terms?’, the 2023 Global Education Monitoring Report acknowledges that technology can improve some types of learning in some contexts.
It cites evidence, however, showing that learning benefits disappear if technology is used in excess or in the absence of a qualified teacher.
The UNESCO report states that smartphones in schools have proven to be “a distraction” to learning, but it points out that fewer than a quarter of countries ban their use in schools.
“The digital revolution holds immeasurable potential but, just as warnings have been voiced for how it should be regulated in society, similar attention must be paid to the way it is used in education,” said Audrey Azoulay (UNESCO Director-General).
The report described governance and regulation of technology in education as “fragmented”, with only 60% of countries giving their education ministries control over education-technology strategies.
UNESCO also highlighted privacy risks to children, citing one analysis that found that 89% of 163 education technology products recommended for children’s learning during the COVID-19 pandemic could or did watch children outside school hours or education settings.
“In addition, 39 of 42 governments providing online education during the pandemic fostered uses that ‘risked or infringed’ upon children’s rights,” it said.
The report also highlighted increased cyber-security risks, saying that only 16% of countries explicitly guaranteed data privacy in education by law, and only 29%, mainly in Europe and Northern America, had a relevant policy.