20 July 2022

The potential of AI to transform education

Powering education through AI
By Shabana Hussain

The transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be seen in every industry, including the education sector. AI is transforming the way teachers teach and students learn. Quality education is the right of every child but because of educational inequality, significant challenges persist in ensuring equitable access to affordable and quality education. AI’s potential in the education sector can be the game-changer that governments all over the world are looking for to ensure equitable access to quality education. The efficiency of schools can be significantly enhanced by applying analytics and data to the classroom.

AI is clearly the future of education. Market Search Engine estimates that global AI usage in education will reach $5.80 billion by 2025. And as per Markets and Markets, the global market share of AI in education is expected to reach $3.68 billion by 2023, representing a CAGR of 47 percent. While there are fears that technology can never replace teachers, even its detractors agree that AI can improve educational best practices. According to UNICEF, AI can have the greatest impact on today’s children “from how they are conceived, to the services they can access, how they learn, and the jobs they will train for”. AI can be used to improve access to quality education, improve student learning outcomes, create personalized learning experiences, fill any gaps in learning and teaching and reduce non-teaching administration workload of teachers.

Here the top five ways in which AI is changing the education sector:

1. Automating education-related admin processes:
Teachers spend a lot of time on non-teaching related work such as grading test papers, evaluating homework, making progress reports, making reports, managing teaching materials, organising resources and materials for lectures. All these tasks overwhelm teachers and leaves them feeling overworked. Artificial Intelligence can automate these tasks, leaving teachers to focus on their core responsibility of teaching, thereby saving them time and effort. AI can be used to grade essays, through augmented intelligence assistance, which can leave teachers free to dedicate their time to their students. It will help them become better teachers.

2. Individualised Learning:
Personalised learning based on an individual student’s needs has been a priority for educators for years. This can be achieved through AI, which will allow a level of differentiation that’s impossible for teachers to achieve, since they manage 30 or more students in each class. Intelligent instruction design and digital platforms use AI to provide learning, testing and feedback to students from pre-K to college level, that gives them the challenges they are ready for, identifies gaps in knowledge and redirects to new topics when appropriate. AI can help in highlighting specific topics that a student is weak in and repeating subjects that they have not mastered. Custom tailored education can be a reality with AI. All that a teacher will have to do is offer support and help to students in the classroom.

3. Improved student engagement:
AI can significantly improve the level of teacher-student engagement through the use of advanced technologies such as gamification and virtual reality. These technologies improve engagement of students in the classroom, by making learning fun. There are many AI-powered algorithms that can analyse a student’s knowledge and interest, which can help in creating in customized learning programs. Teachers can assess a student’s strengths and weaknesses and provide them with extra time if needed to improve their learning.

4. Smart content creation:
Teachers spend a lot of time in preparing exercises and assessments for their students. AI can assist teachers by creating smart content such as study guides and exercises. It can help teachers create content that makes teaching and learning more comfortable for them and the students. This could be electronic textbook aids, lessons on smart TV’s, video lectures etc. Teachers can use AI to create engaging digital content and to update content regularly.

5. A teacher’s best friend:
A teacher’s learning journey never ends. AI can help teachers continually educate themselves in subjects they have no knowledge of. This will help teachers become better at teaching. AI can even function as a decision support for teachers. They can use data to make more informed decisions. For instance, in France, CapGemini collaborated with the Ministry of National Education of France, to find a solution to the problem of decreasing results and low scores of French students in mathematics and reading. AI was used to evaluate the impact of teaching methods and reveal new learning paths.

AI in education comes with its own challenges. It has increased the digital divide-the gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not. Many schools in India do not have access to information communications technologies (ICT). A strong digital infrastructure and internet is needed for AI and considering the low internet penetration in rural areas, many schools will be left behind. The other big challenge is preparing teachers for a classroom, powered by AI. Teachers will have to learn new digital skills to use AI in a meaningful way. This is a challenge for AI providers as well on learning how teachers work and offering them solutions that work in a classroom environment.

Having said this, the benefits of AI must be available to all children. As of now, most of the AI development in education has come from the private sector. The government will have to come up with solutions to create an ecosystem to bring the endless opportunities that AI offers to the education sector. This can be achieved by framing a comprehensive public policy on AI, to create an ecosystem that serves sustainable development. Equity and inclusion should be the core values, when drafting such a policy. The good news is the Government of India, has taken cognizance of the potential of AI in education. In a NITI Aayog discussion paper titled, “National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’, education is mentioned as one of the five sectors, where AI has high potential for solving societal needs. It suggests potential use cases of AI, including “augmenting and enhancing the learning experience through personalised learning, automating and expediting administrative tasks, and predicting the need for student intervention to reduce drop out or recommend vocational training.” With the right approach and policy, AI can be effectively used to improve access to quality education.