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China's Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Education

China is working toward developing educational methods mediated by artificial intelligence.

Experts agree AI will be important in 21st-century education—but how? While academics have puzzled over best practices, China hasn’t waited around. In the last few years, the country’s investment in AI-enabled teaching and learning has exploded. Tech giants, startups, and education incumbents have all jumped in. Tens of millions of students now use some form of AI to learn—whether through extracurricular tutoring programs like Squirrel’s, through digital learning platforms like 17ZuoYe, or even in their main classrooms. It’s the world’s biggest experiment on AI in education, and no one can predict the outcome.

But experts worry about the direction this rush to AI in education is taking. At best, they say, AI can help teachers foster their students’ interests and strengths. At worst, it could further entrench a global trend toward standardized learning and testing, leaving the next generation ill prepared to adapt in a rapidly changing world of work.

The vehicle of instruction is the laptop. Students and teachers alike stare intently at screens. In one room, two students wear headsets, engrossed in an English tutoring session...

“It’s so quiet,” I whisper to the small gang of school and company staff assembled for my tour. The Hangzhou regional director smiles with what I interpret as a hint of pride: “There are no sounds of teachers lecturing.”

It was also pretty quiet during the computer-mediated accelerated schooling from James Blish' 1957 Cities in Flight:

The "schoolroom" was a large, gray, featureless chamber devoid of blackboard or desk; its only furniture consisted of a number of couches scattered about the floor. Nor were there any teachers; the only adults present were called monitors, and their duties appearaed to be partly those of an usher, and partly those of a nurse, but none pertinent to teaching in any sense of the term Chris had ever encountered. They conducted you to your couch...

Chris also suspected that the grey gas not only cut off his vision, but also his other senses; otherwise he should surely have heard such random sounds as the coughing of other students, the movements of the monitors, the whir of the ventilators... Yet the end result of all this was almost surely not true sleep, but simply a divorcing of his mind from every possible bodily distraction with might have come between him and his fullest attention to the visions and voices which were poured directly in to his mind...

I'm a little bit disappointed that the new Chinese methods don't include some kind of hardware - a nice helmet, perhaps, like the learning cap from The Knowledge Machine (1948) by Edmond Hamilton.

See also Universities Irrelevant By 2020, which focuses on a different line of science fiction support. Also, take a look at Human Academics Recommend AIs As Teachers and China Uses Artificial Intelligence To Grade Student Papers.

Via Technology Review.

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