Can AI Actually Replace Teachers One Day?

China is gaining an edge in the area of artificial intelligence in Education

China’s ambitions in artificial intelligence are clear, from facial recognition startups to healthcare and education. A totalitarian regime (if we can call it that) might actually have advantages in how quickly AI can be integrated into society.

China’s System is More Optimized for AI

Tenets of socialism also produce interesting collective experiments in AI projects with a scale that would be difficult to implement in the West. However, I’m very impressed with the progress China is making for AI in education.

It’s only a matter of time before AI re-shapes the way the world learns, and China could be the leader.

Tens of millions of students there use some form of artificial intelligence — in the form of tutoring programs like Squirrel and digital learning platforms like 17ZuoYe, reports MIT’s Technology Review.

AI will Become Better Teachers than Humans

China is doing some very innovative things here while embracing AI as both a supplement and a replacement to human teachers — and the outcome of the country’s AI experiment could affect the future of education on a global scale.

From algorithms that curate tutoring lessons to surveillance systems that monitor classroom progress, tens of millions of Chinese students currently rely on some sort of AI to help them learn. What does this mean for outdated legacy education institutions and curriculums? Can we use AI eventually to change the paradigm of how each student learns differently?

The personalization of studies is the holy grail of AI in education, but that itself might take decades to roll out.

Some analysts believe robots might begin to replace teachers by 2027, that’s not too far from now.

China has More Startups Tackling AI in Education

Silicon Valley has identified AI as a worthy educational tool, but opponents worry it could perpetuate the global use of standardized learning and testing. In fact, it appears Silicon Valley is way behind Chinese experiments that are bolder in elementary school trials and isolated trials.

The number and variety of Chinese startups and apps impacting education is also far greater in serving China’s population that needs to learn English among other things.

China is More Ambitious with AI in the Classroom

What’s clear is China wants to bring AI inside the classroom to boost the efficacy of its education system.

The Chinese government has made AI-enabled education a national strategy, a part of an AI development roadmap that aims to make the country a global centre of AI innovation by 2030, according to a government plan released by China’s State Council in July 2017.

Experts agree AI will be important in 21st century education — but how? While academics have puzzled over best practices, China hasn’t waited around. In the last few years, the country’s investment in AI-enabled teaching and learning has exploded. What China has are the startups and the Government adaptability to challenge these startups with real life situations.

China’s Education System is Easier to Automate

China also has very standard tests that all students must complete to qualify for the next level and thus the integration of AI to “automate” certain parts of that curriculum are more straightforward.

Some analysts believe AI and robots will have trouble automating more “human” aspects of services like nursing, teaching and so forth, but for many elements of the classroom, China is proving this doesn’t seem to be the case — even a teacher can and will be automated and not just augmented by AI. That is, in the 2nd half of the 21st century, there will likely be a movement where Teachers won’t be in demand as they are today.

The unique demands placed on primary and secondary school teachers make these positions different from many other jobs at risk of automation. Students all learn differently and a good teacher must attempt to deliver lessons in a way that resonates with every child in the classroom.

But in the real world, AI can help to do this better than a single human teacher can, especially when data is collective and surveillance with AI occurs.

China Leads the world in AI Education Investment

China led the way in over $1 billion invested globally last year in AI education, according to a recent study. The report, from market research firm HolonIQ, examines the evolution of AI from K-12 through higher education and into adult professional and corporate learning.

AI could actually help the Planet ensure everyone in the world has equal access to a quality education. Specific targets include completely free primary and secondary education, access to updated education facilities, and instruction from qualified teachers.

AI in Education Could Empower Rural and Remote Communities

Many of those teachers could actually be AI-based, for example to work in remote rural regions where access to qualified teachers is difficult.

As a futurist, what I’m seeing is China leapfrogging ahead in AI in education and probably also AI in healthcare.

Early experiments with AI education are producing the kinds of longterm educational benefits China is hoping for. They could become a standard way of teaching in the nation — and eventually, even beyond its borders.

It’s very likely this would be a technology China will be able to export around the world, localized for different regions in specific ways.

We should not be naive, AI will impact all domains, industries and services out there. The skepticism among educators will eventually subside as the AI gets better and better.

Training AI in Education Will Only Take a Few Decades

This process should not take too long if you consider a few decades of training a long time for the teachers of tomorrow. The human bias is always that people need people to do the most human of things, but what if we soon live in a world where that’s no longer true?

From nurses to teachers, nobody is really safe from how AI is evolving. Those jobs are incredible and will experience skill shortages, that is, until AI automates many of the tasks they themselves once did. While it’s hard to imagine such a world, you only have to visit some schools in China to believe it.

Silicon Valley is also keenly interested, but significantly behind China now. Education has emerged as one of the hottest verticals for the application of AI in China. According to market research firm IT Juzi, it ranks third after medicine and automobiles among industries that have witnessed the most changes brought on by AI.

China Will Have the Most Data on its Citizens

If we are entering a cold tech war, China’s lead in AI in education is significant for the future global citizens of the world. China’s advancements in creating a surveillance state powered by AI also means its system is more efficient for the kinds of students and talent it wishes to produce.

Digital teachers wouldn’t need days off and would never be late for work. Administrators could upload any changes to curricula across an entire fleet of AI instructors, and the systems would never make mistakes. We have to assume that is what the world will come to, as cost-cutting and automation hits even services like Education.

All Rights Reserved for Michael K. Spencer

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