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Machine learning is indispensible – but will it replace teachers?

Machine learning, is not a new concept. Discovered as early as the pre – 1950s, it has just recently in the 2010s made a foray into our daily lives. With organizations across sectors embracing artificial intelligence and machine learning to replace mundane human tasks, robotics is touted to be the future of technology.

Quite recently, the education sector – a segment whose basics involve a real life human imparting knowledge to a learner has also welcomed artificial intelligence in its crevices. With the startup culture booming in the eco-system, Ed- tech has become the new buzzword in the industry. Further, startups like BYJUs and Khan Academy have played a phenomenal role in making education accessible, economical and location independent.

Various reports have stated that globally approximately 50-60% jobs have been successfully replaced by robots and virtual intelligence systems, thus raising the pertinent question – Will AI replace teachers in the near future?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you will be well aware of how robotics and machine learning has made its way to schools. Smart classrooms, biometrics, data analysis – there is not a single function in the education system which hasn’t gotten a digital facelift yet. Nonetheless, the importance of teachers is widely reducing. Whether teachers will be replaced completely, partially,
or absolutely not is completely open for debate.

Machine learning has a lot of benefits. Robots can be automatically upgraded hence eliminating the question of being relevant. They also lack human errors, are customizable and cost efficient. Unlike teachers, robots do not require pay, health care, employee benefits or leaves and can be function able at beck and call. Machines are also indifferent to race, religion, caste, creed, colour or personal biases and opinions and hence the knowledge imparted by them is unbiased and unaffected by human emotions. Thus, benefitting students of different socio-economic backgrounds.

Moreover, machine learning can take minutes to do tasks which teachers can take hours to accomplish. Tasks like student assessment, lesson planning, adaptive learning and personal attention. Besides, due to the unlimited memory and recall power in machines, they can store more information than the human mind can process. Lastly, there is a global lack of teachers at every level due to which millions of students are deprived of good quality education. This problem can effectively be solved with the help of machines that can be deployed at various locations to provide valuable education to students.

Having said that, teachers can provide a value to education that currently no robot or machine can provide. Early childhood development requires a child to build an emotional relationship with their surroundings. While machines can teach students concepts of English and maths, things like empathy, emotions, friendship, understanding and processing knowledge and ensuring that a given instruction is absorbed and understood by a child are qualities that a machine cant impart. An important part of teaching is also managing a classroom and disciplining a child. A machine that is blindly teaching what has been fed into its system while a child is paying zero attention is of no use to the system or the student and will have negative ramifications instead. Socio- emotional skills and dealing with other people and communication are simply things which cannot be replaced by a robot, atleast in the near future.

Technology is jumping leaps and bounds today – and there may very well be a robot that can exactly replicate the quantitative and qualitative abilities of a real teacher – however, till that time – the machine learning can support and aid teachers but cannot replace them. Robotics, machine learning and AI can help teachers in making their jobs easier, precise and error free. They can impart quantitative education seamlessly. However, qualitative education is still going to be teachers forte and is never going to become obsolete.

TL; DR – Machines are too cool, but teachers are the real MVPs. Teaching involves quantitative and qualitative abilities. Hence, machines can be an effective tool in aiding teachers but cannot replace them in the near future.

What do you think? Teachers, machines or a symbiotic union of both – what is the future of classroom education? We would love to hear from you – let’s discuss in the comments below.



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