Where does AI leave education?

The Head's Study

A new AI story or statistic hits the news daily with many having post-apocalyptic overtones. As if that wasn’t enough, the urban myth that a significant portion of our children will have jobs that do not currently exist has been eclipsed by some predictions that all human jobs will be automated within the next 120 years.

So where does that leave education? I hope AI will be the catalyst for change to our exam system that appears increasingly out of touch with preparing our children for the world of work. It was interesting to read this week that Scotland may be leading the way by scrapping exams for 15 and 16 year olds.

As for in the classroom, we are now starting to look at AI and our curriculum. Just as we overhauled schemes of work through the EDI optic following the Black Lives Matter movement, so now we will step back and consider pupils’ learning in an AI world. Key to this is embracing opportunities whilst honing critical thinking. Analysing information and making decisions based on evidence and logic are uniquely human skills that cannot be replicated by machines. More than ever, we need to teach children to evaluate the information so readily available through AI, assess its validity and be sensitive to nuance and bias. The greatest opportunities for this will be found through project-based research and debate. Our Festival of Ideas, Extended Project Qualifications, Extended IB Essays and LEAD diploma are great examples of this. This week, as part of our International Women in Engineering Week, groups of students will be collaborating to solve real life design problems that one of our alumnae, Harriet Cornick, has encountered in her prosthetics clinics.

Couple critical thinking with empathy, another uniquely human trait we must continue to hone to counter the scaremongering of AI domination. I wrote recently of the research proving how reading fiction increases our emotional intelligence significantly. This and our children’s values and strong moral compass will inform how they use AI to better their lives.

And for us as parents and teachers? As with social media so with AI. We need to share the journey of discovery with our children. We cannot expect to be ahead of them but should aspire to work with them, learning together the benefits AI can offer. As for the AI anxiety that seems endemic? Seek out those good news stories to celebrate. And remind your daughters to stock up on fabulous fiction books to immerse themselves in over the long summer holidays that beckon.