The report reveals a common yet unhealthy pattern where technology is often introduced hastily to “plug a gap.”
A new alarming report by UNESCO has revealed that there is a critical shortage of appropriate governance and regulation of technology in the field of education.
The report, titled ‘Technology in Education: A Tool on Whose Terms?’, argues for a shift towards a more “human-centered vision” where digital technology serves to enhance rather than distract from the educational process.
Is technology enhancing or deteriorating learning?
The report highlights a common yet unhealthy pattern where technology is often introduced hastily to “plug a gap” without considering the far-reaching implications for national economies, children’s mental health, or the environment.
Instead, it proposes a reflective and deliberate approach to technology deployment, suggesting that stakeholders should weigh up four factors: appropriateness, equity, scalability, and sustainability.
“Keep the needs of the learner first and support teachers. Online connections are no substitute for human interaction,” UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, said.
As for appropriateness, the report noted that while some forms of educational technology may enhance certain types of learning in some contexts, a misbalance or misuse can potentially lead to disappointing results.
It cited the case of Peru, where “when over 1 million laptops were distributed without being incorporated into pedagogy, learning did not improve.”
Additionally, the report revealed the disruptive influence of smartphones in the classroom, stating that their “mere proximity to a mobile device was found to … have a negative impact on learning in 14 countries.” Notably, less than a quarter of countries have imposed restrictions on smartphone use in schools.
Meanwhile, in terms of equity, the report raised serious concerns about how the Covid-19 pandemic severely impacted half a billion students globally.
With the shift to online learning, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly in rural areas, suffered the most. Education, as it turns out, is now closely tied to having “meaningful connectivity,” yet, a significant percentage of schools worldwide lack proper internet access.
The scalability of educational technology also came under scrutiny in the report. It pointed out that evidence supporting the efficacy of technology in education is largely anecdotal and originates from wealthier nations.
Furthermore, a lack of peer-reviewed evidence guiding the adoption of technologies was noted in the United States, calling into question the widespread implementation of these tools.
UNESCO warned that the rapid evolution of technology is causing a strain on education systems to adapt.
The report emphasises the vital role of digital literacy and critical thinking in the era of AI, and called for a continued focus on basic literacy, which forms the foundation for all digital interactions.
The Global Education Monitoring Report uses the SDG 4 (quality education) monitoring framework to assess the execution of national and international strategies to ensure all relevant entities are held accountable for their commitments.