Governance of student data

Issue brief | Evidence, gaps, unanswered questions and recommendations for policymakers, educators, civil society and tech companies

Teenage student is taking an Online Assessment Examination from her home


This work is part of UNICEF's Good Governance of Children's Data project.

Data-collecting technologies are increasingly ubiquitous in children’s lives, and their educational lives are no exception. The use and collection of information about children by technologies used to teach them, surveil them and make predictions about their abilities have profound implications for their privacy, well-being, safety and future prospects.

The impact on children of data collection and use in the educational context has only become more concerning with the shift to remote learning compelled by the COVID-19 global pandemic. While remote learning programs have provided laudable benefits to some students when classes could not otherwise take place safely, the heavy reliance on educational technology (“ed tech”) prompted by the pandemic also raises a number of questions about how student data is collected and used.

  • What kind of data is being collected from children via pedagogical technology, technology-based school infrastructure (such as scheduling apps, electronic hall passes, tools that process data about students in order to predict educational outcomes), and student surveillance programs? How is that data being used?
  • What kind of evidence supports the pedagogical value of ed tech services?
  • What are the regional variations to each of these questions, with an emphasis on ensuring that the risks and considerations for the Global South are not neglected, and the varying needs of countries are distinguished and addressed?
  • Do any existing frameworks concerning the use of data in education sufficiently address key issues?

A range of evidence exists to answer these questions. This issue brief aims to provide a circumspect overview of that evidence, identify gaps in the research and unanswered questions and suggest possible steps and guiding principles that policymakers, educators, civil society and tech companies should consider.

Lindsey Barrett, Georgetown University Law Center
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