Bridging the digital divide and ensuring online protection

Right to education - bridging digital divide
Last update: June 15, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the sudden mass deployment of online distance learning solutions with many countries not equipped to ensure all learners could pursue their education without disruptions. While, as recognized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, digitalization of education should never replace on-site schooling, there is scope for expanding educational opportunities.  

Digitalization of education allows for more flexible and personalized learning processes and pathways and pedagogical innovation, but also drives changes in the way education management systems are conceived and learners’ competences evaluated. Yet, this is not without major risks and concerns around data privacy and protection, increased digital divide - as access to technology and connectivity are unequally distributed -, and learner wellbeing. These concerns are particularly accentuated for children, as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child highlighted in its recent observations. 

From a rights-based approach UNESCO is seeking to bring greater clarity about how the right to education applies given increasing technological changes in education within the framework of the initiative on the evolving right to education. UNESCO also seeks to support Member States to ensure greater protection of learners’ data and is publishing a report which explores the response from the broader education sector to the question of managing data privacy. More information on UNESCO’s work on ICT in education. 

In addition, UNESCO and Dubai Cares have launched the Rewired Global Declaration on Connectivity for Education, a new roadmap for the digital transformation of education. The Rewired Global Declaration on Connectivity for Education draws on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and puts forward principles and commitments to ensure that connected technologies advance aspirations for inclusive education based on the principles of justice, equity and respect for human rights.