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AI to 'alter' the role of teachers
« on: September 29, 2018, 12:06:05 AM »

AI to 'alter' the role of teachers

Schools must adapt to new era, experts say

Teachers' skills will never be rendered obsolete by artificial intelligence (AI), education experts say.

Advanced technologies such as AI and robots are expected to transform how students learn in the classroom and threaten the future of the teaching profession, says Silchai Kiatpapan, CEO of Pico (Thailand). However, AI will never replace human teachers because of their ability to empathise with students will always differentiate people from machines.

"AI can take the drudgery out of teaching, teach students to read or do math, but a large part of education for children is teaching them social-emotional skills which only human teachers can provide," Mr Silchai said.

Human teachers will always be needed to manage the classroom environment and to give students the encouragement they need, but they may no longer be valued as content-area experts. Teachers will become more like supporters or facilitators who guide on the side instead of sage on the stage.

He was speaking at a press conference held Thursday to announce EDUCA 2018 -- a seminar organised by Pico (Thailand) titled "Value of Teachers", which will focus on the role of teachers in this digital age. The event will be held from Oct 17 to 19 at Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi.

Mr Silchai said a recent study by OECD has found that more and more teachers are suffering from high levels of stress. Many teachers worry that artificial intelligence will either take their jobs or reduce teachers to mere robots themselves.

"Less than a third of the teachers believe their profession is valued by others. That's why during this year's seminar, we want to talk about the value of teachers and how they can prepare and improve themselves in a potentially disruptive era," he said.

Oranuch Lerdsuwankij, CEO and co-founder of Techsauce Media, said STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, which the government has been promoting, are mainly hard skills and only a third of what students need to be effective people in the digital age.

The remaining skills were competency and character qualities, such as problem-solving skills, teamwork, communication, grit, social awareness and curiosity, she added.

"These qualities need to be fostered and learned, and the main actor who can facilitate this is the teacher, not a robot," Ms Oranuch said.

Thanita Phucanatnaranubala, an expert at the Distance Learning Foundation, said AI might be able to take on time-consuming administrative work, but it won't replace the teacher.

For example, when many students make similar mistakes on the same assignment, it is usually an indication of a problem needing a teacher's attention. Most importantly, teachers can be mentors who guide their students.

Ms Thanita said teachers should teach both the right skills and the right attitude.

She said she has taught in many troubled areas in Thailand, and many students she has met have low self-esteem.

"Many tell me they are stupid, that things are beyond their ability," she said.

"But as teachers, we must make them believe in their abilities.

Nipaporn Kunlasomboon, an education specialist at Pico, said it is necessary for teachers to prepare themselves for a disruptive world before they can inspire their students and get them ready to face an uncertain future.

However, she said, responsibility must not be put solely on teachers. Parents should also get involved.

"If your children are digital natives, you need to understand their nature. Parents and teachers must work together on how to benefit the most from advanced technologies," Ms Nipaporn said.