Indian government must address ethics of artificial intelligence in education ‘as utmost priority’

By on 28/09/2022 | Updated on 28/09/2022
A picture of schoolchildren in India
Image by AkshayaPatra Foundation from Pixabay

The United Nations education agency has called on the Indian government to take a host of actions to boost public trust and understanding in the use of artificial intelligence in education.

In its annual report on the state of education in the world’s largest democracy, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) focused on the potential role for AI in schools. India’s 2020 National Education Policy has called for increased technical knowledge at all levels of education, including the integration of AI to promote quality and skill-based education.

UNESCO said that the use of AI had “endured various misconceptions”, and highlighted that AI could have a number of positive uses in the Indian education system. These included using intelligent tutoring systems to conduct assessments, track learning progress and provide regular individual feedback, and the development of smart schools and universities to deliver quality content to remote locations using AI techniques like facial and speech recognition alongside augmented and virtual reality.

However, its recommendations called for an increased focus on improving trust in artificial intelligence. In particular, the review called on the government to “consider the ethics of artificial intelligence in education as an utmost priority” as well as rapidly providing “an overall regulatory framework for artificial intelligence in education”.

Read more: Artificial intelligence in the public sector: an engine for innovation in government… if we get it right

Other recommendations in the report included a need to improve public trust in artificial intelligence, with options including more work by government to expand AI literacy efforts, and attempting to correct algorithmic biases and the resulting discrimination.

The recommendations come as the Indian government aims to improve its digitisation in a host of areas through its Digital India programme, which is intended to transform the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

Eric Falt, the director of UNESCO’s New Delhi office, said that while improving the quality of education and the learning outcomes of students are the utmost priorities of all countries, India has made significant strides in its education system.

“Strong indicators point to the country’s notable efforts to enhance learning outcomes, including by using artificial intelligence-powered education technology,” he said.

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Dr. Rajendra Kumar, the additional secretary in India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, said the ministry was “really pleased to note that UNESCO has dedicated the theme of its 2022 ‘State of the Education Report for India’ to artificial intelligence in education”, adding: “We believe that this report is timely, as it can contribute towards transforming India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy and make Digital India a reality.”

The ten recommendations in full

  • Consider the ethics of artificial intelligence in education as an utmost priority
  • Rapidly provide an overall regulatory framework for artificial intelligence in education
  • Create effective public-private partnerships
  • Ensure that all students and teachers have access to the latest technology
  • Expand AI literacy efforts
  • Attempt to correct algorithmic biases and the resulting discrimination
  • Improve public trust in artificial intelligence
  • Request the private sector to better involve students and educationists in developing AI products
  • Place ownership of data with the students
  • Embrace the versatility of artificial intelligence in education systems

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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