Global dialogue on evolving dimensions of the right to education: New report on learners’ privacy and security

New report on learners’ privacy and security

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly accelerated the use of digital technologies in education. But beyond the emergency response, there is an international trend towards exploring how artificial intelligence and data-based analytics can support learning, learning assessments, and evidence-based policy planning processes.

The use of data in education is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they offer tremendous potential to create value by improving policies and programmes, driving transparent governance and better management of education systems, teachers’ empowerment, personalized learning experiences, assessment, and certification. On the other hand, data accumulation can lead to a concentration of economic and political power, raising the possibility that data may be misused in ways that harm learners.

As part of its work on digitalization and the right to education, UNESCO has recently released the publication Minding the data: protecting learners’ privacy and security”, arguing that a balance must be struck between the use of technology to advance educational transformation and the safeguarding of privacy and individual rights. Proper rules and protocols are needed to protect students and teachers not only in national policies but also at international level, where cooperation and collaborative efforts are also required to support policy learning, knowledge sharing and mutual understanding.

UNESCO launches through this publication a clarion call to the education community not only to pay careful attention to data privacy in education, but to take the lead in these developments.

This publication also relates to some of the challenges mentioned by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education in her recently released report on the risks and opportunities of the digitalization of education for the right to education.

Digital learning, its opportunities and challenges form integral part of the ongoing UNESCO initiative on the Evolving Right to Education, which aim to reflect on the aspects of the right to education framework that may need to be reframed in the light of 21st century trends and challenges.

This is very timely as UNESCO is organizing the Pre-Summit for the upcoming Transforming Education Summit which dedicates its fourth thematic action track on “digital learning and transformation” and recommends to “build and maintain robust, free, public digital learning content and platforms” which should “protect users’ digital wellbeing including security and data privacy”.