February 21, 2024

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Singapore’s AI-Powered English Language Assessment Initiative

The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Singapore is focusing on implementing automated marking systems for elementary and secondary English language assignments such as open-ended, short-answer questions and essays as part of the country’s national AI plan.

Errors in grammar, spelling, and syntax will be weeded out by these AI-driven systems. The instructor will place more emphasis on more advanced topics like grading ideas, structure, content, creative expression, persuasion, and tone. The MoE is confident this will free up more time for instructors to focus on developing engaging lessons and fostering positive relationships with their students.

Another advantage of the system is its capacity to collect data on common grammar errors so that teachers may work on these areas with their students. Thus, the ministry will not use these technologies to grade exams, such as the Primary School Leaving Examination.

Further, a teacher frequently needs to cope with a class where some students have already mastered the idea while others are still having difficulty since every student learns at a different level. To solve this, MoE has been testing a machine learning-enhanced adaptive learning system that can evaluate student performance in real-time and modify their learning pathways accordingly.

The creation of a learning companion with AI capabilities is a further effort under the Smart Nation plan. Inspiring the student to persevere through a difficult assignment, promoting reflection on the learning experience, and suggesting additional learning activities, will be able to enhance holistic learning.

Even though using AI as a learning companion is still quite new, there are interesting possibilities. By monitoring a student’s eye movement and the time spent on sections of the study material, for instance, AI can be used to determine how engaged they are with the material.

For math tasks, the companion can point out the portion that the learner is having trouble with and offer suggestions, resources, or prompts for an alternative approach. Singapore believes that it is critical to recognise AI’s limitations along with its potential as a learning companion.

On the other hand, technology is changing quickly, so teachers must keep up with the changes and learn new skills as needed. In May 2022, the National Institute of Education stated that it would do more to train teachers to use AI in the classroom.

By 2026, teachers-in-training at all levels, including undergraduates, post-graduates, and teachers already in the classroom, will be able to take classes on the use of AI in education. As part of a five-year plan called AI@NIE, the institute will also put money into research and new ideas about how to use AI in education.

Despite Singapore’s efforts to promote the use of artificial intelligence in education, experts and government officials have emphasised that technology will never totally replace instructors in educating and guiding children.

After all, teachers are not just people who know a lot of facts and figures that they tell their students repeatedly. They help young minds grow, give them ideas, and encourage them to be curious. They also help young people connect with other people and find their place in the world as they grow up. This is not something that AI will be able to do.

As Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative, Vivian Balakrishnan stated that “At the heart of education is interaction… I do not believe that AI will ever replace teachers.”


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