Italy proposes overturning smartphone ban in schools

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An Italian education minister has proposed overturning a directive banning children from using smartphones in class. Photo: SummerSkyes11/Flickr
11:51 CEST+02:00
School children could soon be spending their lessons glued to the screen of their smartphones after Italy's under-secretary of education pledged to overturn a 2007 ban on the devices in classrooms.

“Enough with this luddism,” Davide Faraone, under-secretary for education, told La Stampa.

“The government is investing heavily to digitize our schools, so banning the use of phones and tablets in class is a bit of a contradiction.”

The Education Ministry outlawed mobile phones nine years ago and since then, many other places in Europe have followed suit.

In 2009, France banned them from primary schools, while the Spanish region of Castille-La Mancha outlawed them in all schools in 2014 in a bid "to end a daily battle" between teachers and students.

Even where bans do not exist, schools have routinely chosen to forbid phones in the classroom as they strive to keep students' on task. A reported 33 percent of all UK schools don't allow phones.

The ministry's decision to reintroduce the devices comes as part of a €1 billion government push to bring Italy's schools up-to-date.

Over the next few years, the government will install Wi-Fi and ultra-fast broadband in all schools and train teachers to use digital technologies as educational resources.

The plan will have children increasingly using smartphones and tablets to do their reading in class and submit their homework.

“It will greatly benefit students with learning difficulties and disabilities, as devices have a more instant impact,” Faraone said.

“I've seen this in my own daughter, who is autistic.”

The government hopes that by allowing children to use their phones in class, the high rates of cyber bullying among school children will fall.

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According to national statistics agency, Istat, 5.9 percent of all youngsters are subject to cyber bullying and the tragic suicide of a 14-year-old earlier this year led to calls for the government to introduce laws to combat the problem.

“We can either ban the devices, or we can try and get teachers to educate children about how to use them responsibly,” Faraone said. 

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