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Big teacher is watching China pupils using AI

Some students are already changing their behaviour due to the increased monitoring

China students
Image Credit: AP
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Beijing: A Chinese school has installed facial recognition technology to monitor how attentive students are in class.

Every movement of pupils at Hangzhou Number 11 High School in eastern China is watched by three cameras positioned above the blackboard.

The "smart classroom behaviour management system," or "smart eye", is the latest surveillance equipment to be rolled out in China, where leaders have rushed to use technology to monitor the wider population. The system had been installed in one classroom, but would be deployed across the school by the summer, said the headmaster, Ni Ziyuan.

Some students are already changing their behaviour due to the increased monitoring.

"Previously, when I had classes that I didn't like much, I would maybe take naps on the desk, or flick through other textbooks," one student told Hangzhou.com, a news website run by the central government. "But I don't dare be distracted after the cameras were installed. It's like a pair of eyes are watching me."

The system works by identifying different facial expressions from the students, and that information is then fed into a computer which assesses if they are enjoying lessons or if their minds are wandering.

The computer will pick up emotions, including neutral, happy, sad, disappointed, angry, scared and surprised.

If it concludes that the student is distracted during the class, it will send a notification to the teacher to take action. The technology has also been used to test interest levels at university lectures, to gain entry to university dormitories and workplaces, to withdraw cash from ATM machines and even to buy a KFC.

Human rights groups fear that authorities are using the huge amounts of collated individual data to keep track of citizens and crackdown on dissent.

But Chinese leaders say the hi-tech sector is the cornerstone of plans to build a modern, consumer society. 

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