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Machines ‘will replace teachers within 10 years’

Storyline:Science & Tech
‘Extraordinarily inspirational’ machines will provide highly personalized teacher AI, says Sir Anthony Seldon

Inspirational teachers of the future will be intelligent machines rather than humans as teacher AI continues to advance, according to a university vice chancellor and former headteacher.

Within 10 years a technological revolution will sweep aside old notions of education and change the world forever, Sir Anthony Seldon has said.

School teachers will lose their traditional role and effectively become classroom assistants, according to the vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham, who was previously a master at the independent Wellington College, in Berkshire.

Human teachers will remain on hand to set up equipment, help children when necessary and maintain discipline, he added. However, the essential job of instilling knowledge into young minds will wholly be done by artificially intelligent computers.

Sir Anthony said: “It will change human life as we know it. It will open up the possibility of an  Eton or Wellington education for all.

“Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalized. The software you’re working with will be with you throughout your education journey. It can move at the speed of the learner.

“This is beyond anything that we’ve seen in the industrial revolution or since with any other new technology. These are adaptive machines that adapt to individuals.

“They will listen to the voices of the learners, read their faces and study them in the way gifted teachers study their students.

“We’re looking at screens which are listening to the voice of the student and reading the face of the student. Reading and comprehending.”

Teacher AI revolution

Sir Anthony outlined his vision in a talk at the British Science Festival, which took place last week in Brighton. It will also be the subject of his new book, The Fourth Education Revolution, due to be published on 14 September.

In the AI classrooms, each child will progress at his or her own pace, said Sir Anthony.

There would be no more set courses applicable to all students because teaching, carried out by emotionally sensitive machines, would be highly personalized.

Asked if he was suggesting machines would replace the inspirational role of teachers, he said: “I’m desperately sad about this, but I’m afraid I am.

“The machines will be extraordinarily inspirational.

“You’ll still have the humans there walking around during school time, but in fact the inspiration in terms of intellectual excitement will come from the lighting-up of the brain, which the machines will be superbly well-geared for.

“The machines will know what it is that most excites you and gives you a natural level of challenge that is not too hard or too easy, but just right for you.”

He expected the National Union of Teachers, which has merged with the ATL union to become the National Education Union, to be “very alarmed” by the prospect, a feeling he shared.

“The technology’s already beginning to arrive,” he said. “It’s already there on the West Coast of the US and it’s already beginning to transform schools.

“I’m expecting this to happen in the next 10 years.”