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AI in India’s educational sector

The Ministry Human Resource Department, in a press release, said that several national tech universities in the country have set up AI centres for education and research and development.

These universities include the Indian Institutes of Technology in Kharagpur and Madras and the Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing in Kancheepuram.

Also involved are the National Institute of Technology in Silchar and the National Institute of Technology in Bhopal.

Their centres will offer courses related to AI, for example, in deep learning foundations and applications, reinforcement learning, probabilistic reasoning, predictive and prescriptive data analytics, system identification, physical cybersecurity, and digital image processing.

India’s acts and statutes that govern these institutions allow them to freely collaborate with institutions and universities across the world for academic and research.

In this year’s interim budget (2019-20), the government allocated IN ₹93,848 crores (approximately US $13.15 billion) to the education sector, which is 3.3 percent of the total budget expenditure.

Although there is no clear budgetary allocation plan, a part of the finance will go toward implementing AI courses in schools. The Minister of Corporate Affairs said that the government plans for a National Programme on Artificial Intelligence, which will be catalysed by the establishment of the National Centre on Artificial Intelligence as a hub, along with other Centres of Excellence (CoE).

He said nine priority areas have been identified. Also, a national AI portal will be developed soon.

According to a document released by India’s Policy Commission (the National Institution for Transforming India– NITI Aayog) titled the National Strategy for AI, AI can potentially solve for quality and access issues observed in the education sector.

The potential use cases include augmenting and enhancing the learning experience through personalised learning, automating and expediting administrative tasks, and predicting the need for student intervention to reduce dropouts or recommend vocational training.

It said that an effective education sector can transform a country through the development of human resources and increased productivity.

Particularly in the context of emerging countries, the level of education and literacy of the population plays an important role in its development and the overall transition to an advanced economy.

In India, this is amplified because of its large youth population. Estimates indicate that currently over half the population of the country is below the age of 25. As the adoption of digital means of gathering data increases, it is important that these methods are effectively leveraged to deliver improved education and teaching, the document said.

Albeit slowly, the rate of adoption of technology in education is improving. It is estimated that schools globally spent nearly U $160 billion on education technology, or ‘EdTech’, in 2016, and forecast spending to grow 17 percent annually through 2020.

Private investment in educational technology, broadly defined as the use of computers or other technology to enhance teaching, grew 32 percent annually from 2011 through 2015, rising to US $4.5 billion globally.

The document said that the adoption of new technologies is still lacking, however, often attributed to the unwillingness of teachers and students.

A recent survey found that the lack of technology adoption in schools can be largely attributed to the absence of teacher training.

While 83 percent of the teachers surveyed use computers, it was primarily limited to audio and visual display or student practice. Only about 41 percent use technology for tracking student data and only 27 percent for participating in forums.

Another study found that trained teachers are more likely to use technology in the classroom. 88 percent of trained teachers reported making use of available computers as compared to only 53 percent of untrained teachers.

It said that AI has the potential to bring about changes in the sector by supplementing pedagogy and establishing systems to inform and support decision making across stakeholders and administrative levels. However, the implementation of AI must be preceded by efforts to digitise records of teacher performance, student performance, and curriculum.

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