Rapid Evidence Review: Girls’ Education and EdTech

Key Findings

  1. EdTech can benefit and empower girls more relative to boys, both inside and outside of formal education.
  2. Most studies suggest a significant digital divide between boys and girls. There are biases and assumptions about whether girls benefit from and enjoy using EdTech, or are at risk because of it. These biases limit their access in and out of the classroom.
  3. Parents and teachers are the gatekeepers to girls’ access to technology. Parents and teachers must be involved in programme development and get regular training to avoid increasing the gender digital divide. 
  4. A broader range of technology options like mobile phones may help overcome barriers and challenges, resulting in more opportunities for girls.
More details on what we found

Technology access empowers girls

When decision makers remove barriers for girls and give them full access to technology, girls are likely to respond with a high level of engagement. In fact, access to technology has shown to be more empowering for girls and women than for boys and men. 

The benefit girls get from technology goes far beyond formal education. Girls and women are reported to find greater economic opportunities and make more informed decisions about their own health.

Barriers for girls

Many girls don’t have full access to technology because of the gender-enforced barriers outlined in our review. Most studies looked at in the review acknowledge a significant gender digital divide in low-income countries, which results in girls having less access to technology. 

This disparity between boys and girls is the cause of broader biases about girls and technology within the classroom. 

Teachers and training

Teachers harbour misconceptions about girls and technology. These include widespread biases that girls aren’t good with technology and don’t enjoy using it. This means teachers may be less likely to encourage girls to take computer or technology-based courses.

Studies referred to in our paper mention endemic problems with teacher training in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), particularly in Africa. Problems include the standard of technology training and gender-inclusive teaching.

Avoid compounding the problem

A key concern is that technology will only make matters worse unless decision makers think about gender at every stage. Most importantly, teachers must be trained to resist gender stereotypes. 

There are also concerns about the ways that curriculum and pedagogy disadvantages girls. For now, educational reform and teacher training don’t seem to be priorities for many governments. This may be due to a lack of political will and the absence of policies to support technology in girls’ education.

Outside of school

Girls have unequal access to technology outside school because of attitudes about domestic roles, cost and security fears. This limits access to formal and informal education, which impacts literacy. 

Some studies suggest girls have internalised these gendered attitudes and begin to self-regulate their access to technology. 

Limitations of the review

The review has some limitations. It doesn’t compare the types of technology girls can access or the levels of access for different groups of girls. 

Most studies referenced in the review only looked at access to computers or tablets. This ignores more accessible low-cost radios or mobile phones. 

Using different technology may address problems with power and connectivity in LMICs. This must be considered in any discussion about girls benefiting from technology-enabled education.

None of the studies look at how technology can overcome gender bias within existing education systems. For example, how it can be used to train teachers to use technology and gender-responsive pedagogies.

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