Protecting the human rights of teachers and students and education in the digital age

published 23 July 2020 updated 24 July 2020

In an interview with EI, Christina Colclough, future of work expert, discussed teacher adaptation to digitalisation, life-long learning, the digital divide, the relationship between virtual and physical learning, data, and related issues. She stressed that the use and abuse of data was a danger to worker and human rights.

Christina Colclough works on future of work questions in several sectors. She brings that experience to the EI reference group on the Future of the Teaching Profession on which she serves. She was questioned by Martin Henry, EI Research Coordinator.

Colclough argued that the “future” of work is, in fact, the “present” of work and that teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a digital shift. With school re-opening, in areas with good internet access and capacity, education will come back in both digital and physical forms. It is important for teachers to become familiar and comfortable with the use of digital tools, including those based on artificial intelligence.

Given the pace of change, initial training and “on-the-job” training will not be sufficient. Regular re-skilling and up-skilling will be necessary. Life-long learning needs to be re-conceived as well as expanded, according to Colclough. Given the break-down for many workers of regular, stable employment, there needs to be greater cooperation among private and public employers, trade unions and public authorities to ensure that training and education are collective responsibilities and rights should be available to all.

On data, Colclough said that “nothing is a free lunch”. The gathering and control of data and its “ownership”, although often hidden, is very lucrative and has made a handful of companies rich and powerful. Although measures in some places have been taken to protect rights to privacy, with rare exceptions, workers have little or no control of their data or access to it. The same is true for students. Among other things, that means inaccurate or old data, some of which may be damaging for a lifetime, cannot not be rectified.

According to Colclough, the trade union struggle to protect human rights, including worker rights, in the new environment, requires asserting the right to control data and negotiate its use. It also should be a priority for the ILO, the OECD, and the UN.

The podcast is available here.