Artificial Intelligence and Internet are two sides of the coin which need to be the currency of our education system
I studied in a classroom with peers who were probably as clueless as I was, and chose to stare at the walls or look at the teacher to feign attention (we’ve all been there eh?) I did my undergrad, and diligently pursued mass communication to now pursue a career in journalism. A lot of my friends went ahead into specialised fields like engineering, medical science and computer courses. But probably two decades from now, our kids won’t need to cram up information or study in a classroom with mute coloured walls to get a job. The era of specialised learning is at its fag end and the millennials know it.
The rise of online learning and free massive open online courses (MOOCS) are a clarion call to the future and spell the end of the traditional college model, which has a lot of apparent flaws. Our education system’s blueprint uses a cookie cutter approach– measuring all students at the same level in a classroom. But truth of the matter is that college degrees are an asset in a country like ours, which still favours a thorough (but not quality-centric) education. But we too are slowly progressing towards more skill-based education.
While a lot of skill-intensive training was undertaken in the manufacturing sector in our labour-intensive country, we now need to look towards two things that will soon run the world- Internet and Artificial Intelligence. The former has pervaded all aspects of our life while the latter is greasing its wheel and revving up its engines. Our focus needs to shift from manufacturing towards ordinary service sector occupations, which even world leaders have come to terms with. The founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, warns of significant market disruptions, especially in the manufacturing sector, because of how AI will change the world.
The education system has been disrupted equally by the two. Learning process will and already has undergone a significant change over the past decade. While automation may sound scary, it sure turns in profits, and most human endeavours will soon yield to a machine. While it may(or may not) tantamount to lack of jobs, the fact remains that we as prospective workforce, need to evolve to quickly move from one sector to the other when automation hits us with full force.
With easier and greater access to electronics by students, education sector for most start-ups is a cash cow. Companies are capitalising on this by creating advanced learning programs. E-learning will eventually combine artificial intelligence to help students excel at a task and supplement their efforts when need be. AI can undertake cluster studies and decipher hidden patterns in a classroom to figure out the understanding level and modify course structure appropriately. The internet allows them to pursue education at an individualised pace. One of these undertakings, that uses AI in the classroom is Century Intelligent Learning, which allows teachers to create online curriculum always accessible by students. AI identifies gaps in knowledge and recommends what topic the student should study next based on their aptitude. While online courses lack the sophistication for a measurable impact on a student’s life, it has increasingly been used to supplement the learning process. Which is why online teaching portals, especially the ones using AI are witnessing a rising graph.
Our education system needs to create a space for automation in the future. AI will create new jobs in the future for which we need many short-term skill based courses instead of tedious and cumbersome degrees. No matter how advanced artiﬁcial intelligence becomes, some jobs will always likely be better done by humans, especially those involving empathy or social interaction. I do not imply that teaching will be extinct, but a wider education base, which includes a variety of subjects, are the need of the hour, starting with Artificial Intelligence. Hence unless my kids want to be scholars, they’d be better off with hands-on experience in different fields instead of completely theoretical 3-4 year of undergraduation in one core department.
However one drawback of the entire hullabaloo around automation and the internet is its impact on the poor, who make up the majority our country, and have limited access to education. Internet penetration in poor neighbourhoods in more than what basic amenities receive but its unregulated structure makes it hard for the government to implement internet as a mode of knowledge dissemination. However, the emphasis on regional languages may target digital inclusion of the marginalised. Internet and MOOCs may give them a shot at education, where the government has failed miserably.
I do not foresee a future that replaces teachers by robots and AI algorithms but our current system needs to reboot and be perceptive to change, because as Bob Dylan puts it, the times they are changing…