Skip to main content

How policymakers can address gender-based inequality in digital learning strategies for girls

Malala Fund’s new briefing paper recommends how leaders can centre adolescent girls to ensure digital learning is inclusive.

Digital learning is a critical tool in delivering quality education for every girl. It can allow girls to build agency, learn independently and access networks and information. When used as a complement to in-person education rather than a substitute, it has the potential to reach students most at risk of being left behind and allow girls to continue learning during interruptions to in-person education.

However, not all adolescent girls around the world can access the opportunity digital learning presents until policymakers address gender-based inequality in education. Girls continue to face gender-based discrimination in teaching and learning, limiting both their access to education and their opportunities to learn on equal terms with boys.  . The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how discriminatory gender norms in homes and communities restrict girls’ access to remote forms of learning. For example  household pressures exacerbated pre-existing patterns of inequality, preventing adolescent girls from learning - particularly those in poorer households, remote or rural areas and  living with disabilities. 

Recognising that forms of inequality — including discriminatory gender norms — limit students’ ability to take part in digital learning, governments and world leaders are beginning to concentrate explicitly on inclusive digital learning. 

This year, world leaders and governments have an opportunity to make digital learning inclusive and accessible for every girl by taking action at the 67th U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) and the 2023 SDG Summit as well as in their preparations for the 2024 Summit of the Future. Instead of primarily focusing on increasing access to devices or platforms, policymakers need to take bolder action to ensure all girls can take part in digital learning. They need to provide space for adolescent girls to meaningfully co-design digital learning strategies and interventions and increase investments in quality, gender-responsive education systems. 

This paper proposes a girl-centred framework to help leaders better understand how social norms affect girls’ access and use of quality digital learning. It offers recommendations that policymakers can use at global events this year to address inequalities in digital education. By following these recommendations, governments can ensure all girls are able to realise the potential of digital learning and fully participate in in-person and digital education.

This paper will be the focus of our CSW67 expert roundtable on 8 March — learn more about the virtual event and register here.


M icon logo

Malala Fund is working for a world where every girl can learn and lead.

Digital education is on the rise in Pakistan as COVID-19 keeps students at home

Grading governments’ progress towards getting every girl in school

Sign up to learn how you can help support Malala Fund and receive the latest updates on our work.