June 30, 2023

Do we prefer AI to shape future generations than to invest in human teachers?

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Megan Lee in London, United Kingdom

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According to new school workforce data released by the UK Department for Education this month, almost 40,000 working-age teachers have left the profession, the highest level since records began in 2010.

With one in four new teachers leaving the profession within three years, it is no wonder why an English secondary school headteacher interviewed by The Guardian compared trying to fill these roles to “advertising for a unicorn.”

With teachers underpaid, schools underfunded, and the government under-equipped to mitigate these issues, it almost seems that decision makers have forgotten that for teaching to take place, teachers must exist.

Yet, against the backdrop of this ever-worsening crisis, a Grand View Research report valued the global AI in education market size at USD 1.8 billion in 2021 and predicted an annual growth rate of 36% from 2022 to 2030.

From a practical point of view, investing in AI over human teachers is undoubtedly where our global trend is heading. Though the costs of implementing and developing new technologies have always been high, the pandemic has created a shift from conventional classroom teaching to online learning, thereby revolutionizing the education sector.

This poses the following question: Do we prefer AI to shape future generations than to invest in human teachers?

Recently, public schools in Newark, United States have been the “guinea pigs” in trying out a new automated teaching aid from Khan Academy. Powered by GPT-4 technology from OpenAI, Khanmigo is a form of artificial intelligence that uses language models to produce text that mimics humans.

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As a technology solution that leverages AI to help students, it can act as a personal tutor. For example, it can guide students through the writing process by asking questions to encourage them to develop the plot and characters, or it can help students with math by guiding them through problems with prompts and hints without revealing the answer.

Though the general consensus was that such a tool “could use improvement”, what emerges from this experiment is the potential AI has to replace our teachers.

We have always identified the advantages of having a physical teaching figure in the classroom as being the best way to foster a learning environment with social and emotional support. Human teachers have always played an integral role in shaping our moral and ethical development through a contextual understanding of the classroom environment to adapt teaching methods to students.

However, as we witness AI take on more recognisable and familiar human voices to create responses that can be tailored to each student, such as being able to adapt instructions based on a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles, this seemingly undermines the importance of having human teachers.

Yet, it is crucial to note that we should not be viewing AI and human teachers as competing alternatives. It is more constructive to consider them as complementary forces in education. Investing in AI and ensuring the just treatment of our teachers should not be mutually exclusive.

While the global market, however, is leaning towards AI to shape the worldviews of our next generation over human teachers, this does not mean it is the right direction to be headed in.

It is an undeniable and universal truth that humans need to accurately infer the intentions and feelings of others to engage in successful social interaction. One’s emotional intelligence encompasses the capacity to perceive, understand, manage, and express emotions, as well as to recognize and respond effectively to the emotions of others – an aspect of human interaction and social awareness impossible to truly replicate in AI.

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Megan Lee

Culture Section Editor

Hong Kong | United Kingdom

Born in 2006, Megan is a student from Hong Kong studying in the UK. She is interested in all aspects of the arts, especially how it can be used as a medium to explore different perspectives.

In her free time, she loves reading and writing. With an avid interest in linguistics, she speaks English and Chinese but is currently learning French, Latin, and Korean.

Megan joined Harbingers’ Magazine as a contributor in 2023. As a self-published journalist, she was quickly promoted to the role of the Culture Section editor. She is also working on creating a Harbingers’ podcast she will host and produce.

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