AI in schools
Call on Artificial Intelligence and its tools to help out with the classes. It's not as far-fetched as it seems. Image Credit: Agency

Artificial Intelligence has become such a topic of debate, with developments progressing faster than ever. We have made incredible leaps in the pursuit of further automation, and the UAE is right at the fore.

The government have mapped out a plan for AI integration across transport, health and space, with a target to achieve specific objectives by 2071. The UAE was also the first in the world to appoint a government minister dedicated to AI, and has already started rolling out AI programmes, such as the CCTV network ‘Oyoon’ - credited with hundreds of arrests - and facial recognition software at airport E-gates.

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With such rapid success already evident, the UAE should now look to expedite a similar incorporation of AI into educational institutions. There is a clear roadmap to follow... and even potentially add to. Existing technology is already capable of several feats that can enhance the learning experience, as well as ease the burden on teachers.

David Kellerman at the University of New South Wales in Sydney has developed a system capable of answering a pre-designed set of questions, flagging up other questions for teaching assistants to follow up on, and track students’ performance to build personalised study sets. This delivers a more personalised mode of teaching.

US universities like Syracuse, the University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon University have all developed their own systems that can analyse students’ specific strengths and weaknesses, which it can then use to design an individualised feedback package delivered in real-time for them to work on.

Pick one off the shelf

The UAE can draw upon existing infrastructure developed by these universities, as well as collaborate with any number of companies that have designed their own platforms. Some mainstream examples include Cram101 (a software that condenses traditional syllabuses to make them more comprehensible with summaries, flashcards and tests), Netex (which allows professors to create pre-set assistance programmes with helpful videos and a personalised assessment tool), and ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Space, a programme that assesses students’ proficiencies across subjects, then designs specific curriculums to ensure gaps in knowledge are adequately filled).

It is important to note, that these AI systems are not designed to replace teachers entirely, but rather assist them. I can relate to the common phenomenon of feeling lost in a class where the teacher is trying to address everybody at once. AI can cut out much of the administrative work that tends to occupy a large proportion of teachers’ time, such as marking tests or analysing student data to highlight areas for improvement.

This way, AI can streamline much of the educational experience, alleviating teachers of their more mundane responsibilities, freeing up more bandwidth for one-on-one instruction.

I can attest to feeling frustrated or discouraged within certain subjects because I struggled to comprehend concepts that came easily to others. If my teachers had more time to allocate to working alone with me on my weaknesses, I am confident that I would have progressed faster and further.

Sets them apart

This is a quandary that is undoubtedly felt by students and teachers, and one that AI can resolve. Further, AI will also be a boon for UAE schools looking to distinguish themselves as among the best. The more that AI is assimilated into educational institutions, the more appealing those institutions will be to potential talent. Delivering cutting-edge educational experience is a sure-fire way to differentiate local institutes from global competition. Although this will take years to accomplish, the potential payoff of ameliorating the UAE’s international reputation as a heavyweight competitor in the educational sphere certainly seems worthwhile.

- Umer Lakhani is a Dubai-based undergrad.