Monday, August 7th, 2023 03:00 | By

Smartphone. Photo/Pexels

A UN report has recommended banning of smartphones in schools to curb disruption in class and cyber-bullying among learners.

The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (Unesco) has said in the report that the use of mobile phones resulted in academic underperformance while uncontrolled screen time was affecting learners emotionally.

Even just having a mobile phone nearby with notifications coming through, Unesco said, was enough to result in students losing their attention from the task at hand and it took them up to 20 minutes to refocus on what they were learning.

The 2023 global education monitoring report titled Technology in Education, A Tool on Whose Terms, showed that countries like Belgium, Spain and the United Kingdom where learners were not using phones in class, recorded improved learning outcomes.

In the report, Unesco has raised concerns about the safety and well being of young learners being exposed to some technologies in school at an early age.

“We saw children as young as nine years old requesting smartphones, and it was evident that these children were not emotionally ready to navigate the complexities of these devices and the digital world,” the report states.

Introduce laws and policy

It also reveals that only one in four countries have so far introduced laws or policies to ban the use of phones in schools.

“The bans are more common in Asia. Both Bangladesh and Singapore banned smartphone use in class, but not in school. France bans smartphone use unless strictly for pedagogical purposes or to support children with disabilities,” Unesco said in the report.

Some of the findings are likely to broaden the scope of the ongoing debate about the future of learning institutions where digital technology is viewed as the probable successor of traditional student-teacher class interaction.

“With online learning, there is the promise of personalized learning. This hope leads us to forget the fundamental social and human dimension that lies at the heart of education. It is worth reiterating the obvious: no screen can ever replace the humanity of a teacher,” said Audrey Azoulay the Director-General of UNESCO.

The report emphasizes that digital technology should be a complement but not a substitute for the face-to-face teaching method.

“Technology should support, but never supplant, the human connection on which teaching and learning are based. The focus should be on learning outcomes, not digital inputs,” the document reads adding that a previous report by the agency said that the relationship between teachers and technology must be one of complementarity – never of substitutability.

The report warns policymakers against ‘blind’ enrollment of technology in schools without proper assessments warning that the expected outcome of improved academic performances and economic suitability being advocated by educational products companies out to make sales, could be overrated.

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