Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to address some of the biggest challenges in education today, innovate teaching and learning practices, and accelerate progress towards SDG 4. However, rapid technological developments inevitably bring multiple risks and challenges, which have so far outpaced policy debates and regulatory frameworks. UNESCO is committed to supporting Member States to harness the potential of AI technologies for achieving the Education 2030 Agenda, while ensuring that its application in educational contexts is guided by the core principles of inclusion and equity.

UNESCO’s mandate calls inherently for a human-centred approach to AI. It aims to shift the conversation to include AI’s role in addressing current inequalities regarding access to knowledge, research and the diversity of cultural expressions and to ensure AI does not widen the technological divides within and between countries. The promise of “AI for all” must be that everyone can take advantage of the technological revolution under way and access its fruits, notably in terms of innovation and knowledge.

AI technologies can analyze the behavior of students with the aid of facial recognition software. There are certain programs in which each student is assigned a score based on their degree of concentration in the classroom. While the Chinese government continues to push the limits of Chinese education by encouraging the adoption of “smart classrooms” as they push towards the development of “smart learning”.

On one hand, purveyors of intelligent technologies – such as smart schools and adaptive learning systems – believe that the development of AI education holds great potential to address teacher scarcity, offer alternative models of schooling and reshape the traditional learning paradigm. On the other hand, these developments face significant limitations and risks.

Can new innovations be implemented and made widely accessible in existing public school systems or will they deepen existing educational inequities? Are AI technologies capable of meaningfully teaching students the complex skills of creativity, collaboration and critical thinking, or will they simply magnify outmoded pedagogical practices? How will schools address and regulate the ethical and privacy concerns around the mass collection and use of student data? These are all questions that apply not only to the Chinese education system but should also be of concern to educators and policymakers in Europe as AI begins to make rapid inroads into education to fill a gap in these uncertain times.