Robots could replace teachers within the next decade

18 September 2017 - 10:54 By Henry Bodkin
Humanoid robot 'Pepper' interacts with pupils at Kurata Elementary School in Tottori, Japan.
Humanoid robot 'Pepper' interacts with pupils at Kurata Elementary School in Tottori, Japan.
Image: Getty Images

Robots will begin replacing teachers in the classroom within the next decade or so as part of a revolution in one-to-one learning, a leading educationalist has predicted.

Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, UK, said intelligent machines that adapt to suit the learning styles of individual children will soon render traditional academic teaching all but redundant.

The former master of Wellington College said programs being developed in Silicon Valley will learn to read the brains and facial expressions of pupils, adapting the method of communication to what works best for them.

"The machines will know what it is that most excites you and gives you a natural level of challenge that is not too hard or too easy, but just right for you," said Sheldon.

As part of robot-led learning, teachers would adopt the role of "overseers", monitoring the progress of individual pupils, leading nonacademic activities and providing pastoral support, said Sheldon.

"You'll still have the humans there walking around at school time, but in fact the inspiration in terms of intellectual excitement will come from the lighting-up of the brain which the machines will be superbly well-geared for," he said.

This new era of automated teaching promises an end to grouping children by year, as the personalised nature of the robots will enable pupils to learn new material at their own pace, rather than as part of a class.

He warned, however, that the new technology would have to be carefully introduced to avoid "infantilising" pupils and teachers.

The efficiency of automated teaching would also mean that only 30% of school time would be spent in class. As a result, he expected teachers unions to be "very alarmed" by the prospect.

"The technology's already beginning to arrive," he said.

"It's already there on the west coast of the US and it's already beginning to transform schools.

"The great danger is that it takes jobs away and for humans beings. Much of our fulfilment in life comes from the satisfaction of work," he said. - The Daily Telegraph

This article was originally published in The Times.