Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education, particularly Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning, is seeing an increase in adoption over the past few years. In addition to expecting the adoption rate to rise for at least the next five years, the market capital is also forecasted to reach USD 3,683.5 million by 2023. But promising figures aside, what is most important about AI is the state of the actual technology itself.
AI is inherently a programme designed to learn and amass knowledge within a predetermined model. It is able to streamline processes in education like grading scripts or generating a student report. But what it does not possess is the ability to think outside the box. What AI today lacks is the capability to perceive purpose, and that is the wall AI is unable to overcome.
AI cannot impart the culture of learning
To impart a culture of learning is to show someone various ways to seek new knowledge and skills. The most common learning culture would be to learn from someone more experienced. In almost every country in the world, that culture of learning would be to attend a school. However, different societies have different societal norms. In Singapore, for example, once children are done with school, parents would most likely send their kids for extra lessons like learning how to play the piano or more academic ones like tuition. It is a norm where a student must have some form of lesson after regular school hours. To be able to identify such societal behaviours as the norm is something that can only be imparted by another person.
AI cannot give students a sense of purpose
Knowing why we need to gain new knowledge or skills is another important factor in education that AI cannot impart to students. At every stage of a child’s education, even for adults, there is a purpose whether we realise it then or not. For example, at the age of three, a child would attend preschool to learn basic communication skills. The purpose is to help them interact with other people and lay the foundation for future lessons. In primary school, the purpose of the lessons is to provide students with the breadth of knowledge so that they may pick the one they have an affinity with, and perhaps pursue it in the future. These are just examples of general purposes. Every student needs to find their own purpose for learning, and that, too, can only come from a human.
AI cannot provide moral support in times of need
When students know why they need to learn certain skills or knowledge, they would be more motivated to do so. But often things do not turn out the way they want it to. Students might hit a wall when it comes to understanding certain new concepts and might become frustrated when they fail to do so too many times. Hearing such students out and offering them moral support is what teachers and parents are for. To be able to pick up nuances of frustration or sarcasm from the tone of voice, and then provide encouragement and solutions specific to a student’s needs is something AI has yet to accomplish.
AI cannot identify context and morals
Last but not least, AI cannot teach morals, neither can it identify bias. For subjects such as History and Literature, a student is required to understand the context of events, especially for events that are from a different time period. How people thought back then and what they believed in shaped their thoughts and caused them to make certain decisions not within the realm of logic. Such is the nature of bias. When a person truly believes in something, no amount of information can convince them otherwise. AI, which is impartial and devoid of emotion, cannot show students how to identify context and bias.
But what AI can do, it excels at doing
AI excels in one particular area which happens to be part of any form of learning – the process. In the process of learning, there are many things that AI can contribute to: scheduling, grading, report generation and student profiling, just to name a few. AI is able to take in vast amounts of information and turn it into something useful for both teachers and students. It is this ability that propels the growth and adoption of AI in education. Despite its shortcomings, AI has helped educators save a lot of time when it comes to doing administrative tasks. This results in being able to focus their time on teaching. While the state of AI at the moment is far from ideal, it has definitely found its place in education by balancing what can and cannot be automated.