‘Prioritize learners’: Unesco urges worldwide prohibition of smartphones in educational institutions

Unesco urges worldwide prohibition of smartphones in educational institutions

The UN report recommends the prohibition of smartphones in schools to address classroom disruptions, enhance learning, and protect children from cyberbullying. Unesco emphasizes that excessive mobile phone usage is linked to lower academic performance and negatively affects children’s emotional well-being. The agency advocates for a human-centered approach to education, where digital technology, including artificial intelligence, should never replace face-to-face interactions with teachers.

Unesco urges policymakers not to blindly embrace digital technology, as its positive impact on learning outcomes and efficiency might be overstated. It cautions against neglecting the social aspect of education, emphasizing the importance of face-to-face teaching alongside online learning.

The report acknowledges the potential of the digital revolution in education but highlights the need for regulation to ensure its proper use for students’ well-being and academic growth. Unesco underlines that online connections cannot replace human interaction and calls for putting the needs of learners first while supporting teachers.

Unesco also points out the unequal distribution of digital educational opportunities, with many economically disadvantaged individuals being excluded. The report raises concerns about the lack of robust research on the inherent value of digital technology in education, noting that much of the evidence is funded by private education companies promoting digital learning products.

While the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a shift to online learning, millions of students without internet access were left behind. Unesco estimates that one in four countries has already banned smartphones in schools, with China setting boundaries on their use during teaching hours.

In the UK, there have been debates about banning mobile phones in schools, but current policies vary among schools. The former education secretary called for a ban, but education unions argued that most schools already have their smartphone use policies in place.

Overall, Unesco’s report emphasizes the importance of thoughtful consideration of digital technology in education and ensuring its positive impact while safeguarding students’ well-being and privacy.