Unesco urges worldwide smartphone ban in classrooms

The ban is expected to improve children's learning & protect them from cyberbullying

phone_education Representative image | Reuters

Unesco has called for a global ban on smartphones at schools, saying it would enhance children's learning and protect them from cyberbullying. 

The report by the UN educational body points out that the overuse of mobile phones is connected to poorer performance at school while excessive screen time affected children’s emotional stability.

The report said one in six countries had banned smartphones in school after analysing 200 education systems across the globe. The Unesco report comes against the backdrop of some European countries deciding to restrict the use of gadgets on school premises.

Unesco highlighted the importance of focusing on ‘human-centred’ education, pointing out that technology, including artificial intelligence, should not replace face-to-face teaching.

Addressing the shift towards online learning, Unesco advised governments not to ignore the ‘social dimension’. “Not all change constitutes progress. Just because something can be done does not mean it should be done. Those urging increasing individualisation may be missing the point of what education is about,” it said.

Unesco director-general Audrey Azoulay said, “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. Its use must be for enhanced learning experiences and the well-being of students and teachers, not to their detriment. Keep the needs of the learner first and support teachers. Online connections are no substitute for human interaction.”

While acknowledging that technology “stopped education melting down” during the Covid-19 lockdowns, several millions of less privileged students struggled to study without internet access.

The Netherlands is set to enforce a ban on smartphones, tablets and smartwatches in classrooms from 2024. BBC quoted Dutch Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf as saying, "Even though mobile phones are almost intertwined with our lives, they do not belong in the classroom. Students must be able to concentrate there and be given every opportunity to learn well. We know from scientific research that mobile phones disrupt this."

Finland, too, has moved against smartphone use in schools. “We will make the necessary legislative amendments to enable more efficient restrictions in cases such as the use of mobile devices during the school day so that pupils and students can better concentrate on teaching,” the Finnish government stated, as per Euractiv.