China's Plans to Bring Artificial Intelligence To The Classroom

Artificial Intelligence is being used to “diagnose” more than just diseases. Peter Cao, a chemistry teacher in China's Anhui province, says he spends a good portion of his day “diagnosing.” By this he means grading and reviewing the work of his students, then deciding which areas of his lessons students are comprehending and which areas need more focus. This “diagnosing” process helps him to create lesson plans and to decide which teaching methods are most useful.

Master Learner, a Chinese education start-up valued at more than US$100 million, may be able to speed up and enhance this “diagnosing” process. The 300 engineers at Master Learner developed an artificial intelligence-powered system that is trained using the large numbers of math, physics and chemistry questions asked by Chinese middle school students on a daily basis.

China's state counsel released an AI development plan in July that hopes to make the country a global center of AI innovation by 2030. Part of this plan includes making AI-enabled education a key strategy. China is known to offer quality education to those “concentrated in metropolitan areas, while education resources in rural areas suffer,” said Ben Hu, a Chinese entrepreneur hoping to solve this inequality. Hu's company has an AI-enabled English learning app with the ability to teach any number of students with only one AI teacher, meaning greater affordability. This is unheard of in a country where English training schools charge an average of 30,000 yuan per year.

China plans to ensure rural students will also be able to take advantage of this modernization by requiring governments, no matter the level, to spend no less than 8% of annual funding on the digitalization of education. Last year, 300 billion yuan was invested in the digitalization of education. Of the 76 million middle schools in China, only 3 million of the schools are lacking access to the internet.

Zhang Kailei, from the Master Learner start-up believes that with AI, teachers will be able to provide higher quality education “as the machine can help them identify concepts pupils are not comprehending in almost real time.” He has hopes to expand to 1,000 classes across China by the end of the year.


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