Improving girls’ educational opportunities with digital learning

IGSD - Malala Fund, Digital Learning

Researchers from IGSD are working with Malala Fund to develop a strategic approach to support digital learning, particularly for girls. Girls affected by crises such as wars and political instability, environmental disasters, and those becoming refugees, are at particular risk of missing valuable school years. In recent times, the global education crisis was exacerbated by the closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected up to an estimated 1.6 billion children and youth (UNICEF-ITU 2020). Many countries sought to move learning online, leveraging online platforms, TV, and in some cases radio, to provide remote learning. However, due to intersecting inequalities and digital divides, equitable access to these
solutions remains a challenge. Globally, an estimated 1.3 billion school-age children have no internet access at home (UNICEF-ITU, 2020).

This research project examines the lessons learned from the use of digital technologies for education in low and lower-middle income countries, where in many areas electricity and connectivity are limited, teachers face large class sizes, and girls may be at risk of dropping out of school for a variety of reasons. The team, led by Dorothea Kleine (IGSD) and Fiona Ssozi (Makerere University, Uganda), conducted a literature review and expert interviews.Based on this they developed, in dialogue with Malala Fund, a girl-centred approach to digital learning which they have now published in an IGSD Working Paper.

The paper recognises the intersectional inequalities which impact on girls’ learning opportunities. It highlights the role social norms in different societies play in shaping not only the access of girls to the internet and digital learning resources, but also their access to a suitable learning space and time for study. Further, it examines ways in which girls’ psychological resources such as self-efficacy, resilience, confidence and creativity, can be fostered, in in-person as well as digital learning. The paper recommends focusing public and philanthropy funds also on harder to reach groups.

Malala Fund’s mission is to “work for a world in which every girl can learn and lead” ( They have used the research and adapted the girl-centred approach for their own report to the international policy makers as well as the business and NGO community. In their forthcoming report they highlight in particular the role of social norms and offer a girl-centred framework for digital learning.

Malala Fund and IGSD will now be collaborating in dissemination events, including an expert roundtable as part of the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s 2023 Session.

Centres of excellence

The University's cross-faculty research centres harness our interdisciplinary expertise to solve the world's most pressing challenges.