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UNESCO calls for global ban on smartphones in schools

Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2023. 5:29 am CST.

By Breaking Belize News Staff: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has voiced concerns over the excessive use of smartphones in schools, calling for a worldwide ban on these devices to preserve the quality of education. The UN agency argues that overreliance on mobile phones can hamper the learning process and lead to significant educational disparities.

The report, entitled “Technology in education: A tool on whose terms?”, underlines the importance of a “human-centered vision” where digital technology is used as a supporting tool rather than taking center stage in classrooms. The organization also highlights the potential threat of data leaks, as only 16% of countries currently have laws in place that guarantee data privacy in classrooms.

Manos Antoninis, the UNESCO official responsible for the report, warned about the misuse of data in educational tech, saying, “We know that vast amounts of data are being used without the appropriate regulation, so this data ends up being used for other non-educational purposes, commercial purposes and that’s, of course, a violation of rights that needs to be regulated.”

The report also throws light on the disparities created by digital learning, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a shift to online-only tuition left half a billion students worldwide without access to education. The report notes a geographical imbalance in online resources, with Europe and North America disproportionately favored.

Addressing these disparities, UNESCO is advocating for countries to set their own standards for the way technology is designed and used in education. They emphasize that technology should never replace in-person, teacher-led instruction and should align with the shared objective of quality education for all.

“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,” warned UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

The report also raises several critical questions that policymakers and educators should consider as educational technology becomes increasingly accessible and utilized around the globe. These questions relate to the appropriate use of technology in class, the balance between online and in-person teaching, and how technology can best serve the learning needs of students.

As part of the proposed solutions, UNESCO is calling for countries to set benchmarks for connecting schools to the Internet by 2030. They also urge a focus on marginalized communities that were most affected by the rapid shift to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also mentions the necessity of incorporating digital literacy and critical thinking into education systems, especially with the advent of generative AI. It reveals that 54% of the countries surveyed have outlined skills they want to develop for the future, but only 11 out of 51 governments surveyed have curricula for AI.

The UNESCO report was launched at an event in Montevideo, Uruguay, hosted by UNESCO and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay, with additional support from the Ceibal Foundation and 18 ministers of education from around the world.


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