Dubai: For the first time, students in CBSE-affiliated Indian schools in the UAE and elsewhere will be able to study Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a subject.

Starting from the next academic year, which begins in April for Indian schools, students in Grades 8, 9 and 10 can choose to take AI as an elective subject.

The development follows a decision taken during a meeting of the CBSE governing body recently in India, as reported by Indian media.

The CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education), is the largest education board in India. There are around 20,300 schools in India and some 220 schools in 25 other countries, including the UAE, affiliated to the CBSE.

On Sunday, school principals in the UAE welcomed the news on AI becoming a new subject, and said students need to know about the pros and cons of AI, as the technology will dominate future job markets, industries and lifestyles.

AI is generally defined as the ability of a machine to think, learn and carry out tasks usually requiring human intelligence. Machines answering a wide variety of questions, making restaurant bookings, recognising faces, or controlling cars can be described as AI in action.

School principals in the UAE told Gulf News that familiarising students — the leaders of tomorrow — about AI was the need of the hour.

‘Ahead of the curve’

Amol Vaidya, senior director of operations for Global Indian International Schools (GIIS) in the UAE, said: “AI will affect business, jobs and even lifestyles. If a child is in Grade 1, he or she will enter the workforce after 15 or 16 years from now — we need to give them the relevant knowledge of AI from today.”

He added: “The CBSE is ahead of the curve in deciding to introduce AI. I don’t see any other education board doing it. I think schools will have to bear the responsibility of teaching AI, training teachers and designing courses. The CBSE has a mandate for the framework and guidelines — the execution will be up to the schools.”

‘No escaping AI’

Vaidya believes AI will eventually become a compulsory subject in schools.

“There’s no escaping AI, you have to learn it and work with it. As with everything else, there are pros and cons to AI. For example, many of us may be unaware of this, but our shopping habits or travel bookings can be subtly manipulated by AI studying our behaviour and spending patterns.”

At GIIS, Vaidya said, children are introduced to concepts of AI and robotics from kindergarten so that as they progress up the grades, they are already familiar with these technologies.

‘Sensitise students’

Deepika Thapar Singh, chief executive officer andprincipal of Credence High School in Al Khail, Dubai, said: “It is imperative for the youth of today to understand the significance of AI and its applications. This course will sensitise them about the uses of AI for the benefit of mankind, which will help them to distinguish the ill effects of AI from its advantages.”

She added: “Credence is always at the forefront of including innovation and technology in teaching and learning and we are looking forward to introducing AI in our school.”

Skill-based education

Mohammad Ali Kottakkulam, principal of Gulf Indian High School, Dubai, said subjects such as AI mark a shift in teaching methods.

“Experts agree that it is difficult to predict what will be the possible jobs by 2030 or what will be the skills required for those jobs. The only way we can help our next generation now is to equip them with the 21st century skills. Hence, the advanced countries already have shifted to skills-based education. Other Indian educational boards also should not delay in introducing this in their curriculum,” Kottakkulam said.

He added: “Due to the local requirements, pertaining to the National Agenda of the UAE, schools here have already incorporated STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) activities and competitions involving AI into their curriculum.”