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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Computers will be running classrooms in a decade, says prominent UK schools chief

The development of artificial intelligence will revolutionise education with tailored one-to-one tuition for students, says British education pioneer

Tesla vehicles are being assembled by robots at Tesla Motors Inc factory in Fremont, California
Tesla vehicles are being assembled by robots at Tesla Motors Inc factory in Fremont, California

Teachers will be reduced to maintaining discipline as computers take over the job of running lessons in classrooms of the near future, the former head of one of Britain’s best-known schools has predicted.

The revolution in schooling will take place within a decade with computerised teachers taking charge of one-to-one study programmes tailored for each student, according to Sir Anthony Seldon.

He told a science festival that he was “desperately sad” about his prediction of a reduced role for teachers, whose primary functions would be limited to discipline, setting up equipment and helping pupils when necessary.

“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,” he said.

The computers will react to a child’s pace of learning and adapt accordingly. "We're looking at screens which are listening to the voice of the student and reading the face of the student. Reading and comprehending," he said.

The advance of artificial intelligence (AI) and the impact technological improvements will have on jobs has long been debated. In 2013, an Oxford University study suggested that nearly half of all jobs could be automated.

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That compared with much lower estimates last year of about nine per cent by the world’s most prominent economic body, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which suggested that lower-skilled jobs would be hardest-hit by the technology.

Sir Anthony’s suggestion that teachers would be among the victims of the AI revolution was in part based on the introduction of computerised teaching aids on the west coast of America driven by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife set up a foundation in 2015 in part to promote a “movement to support the development and broad adoption of powerful personalised learning solutions”.

He has previously questioned whether it would be possible for a child born today to be able to learn one hundred times more than is learned today.

“It certainly will change human life as we know it,” said Sir Anthony, the former head of Wellington College and current vice-chancellor at the University of Buckingham.

"Everyone can have the very best teacher and it's completely personalised; the software you're working with will be with you throughout your education journey.

"This is beyond anything that we've seen in the industrial revolution or since with any other new technology.”