By Anya Sandhu
AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been found to be an extremely useful resource for many people across the world as it can be used for anything from writing essays to answering complex maths problems. Chat GPT is frequently mentioned when talking about AI as it is a software commonly used by many students. Numerous people have argued the case that AI could replace English teachers in the classroom.
If AI can write essays, texts and articles are English teachers still necessary?
Firstly, what is AI? AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and is the ability of a computer program to think and learn with human intelligence. It is a program which mimics human cognition and can complete tasks such as learning and problem-solving. Hence, the question lies, can AI replace English teachers? This is a theory from Anthony Seldon, a British education expert who claims that robots will replace teachers by 2027. Some may argue for the case for many reasons: it can write anything from essays to articles for you within seconds and can also explain figurative language techniques and can also offer immediate feedback for students’ work and give aspects to improve on. With an AI teacher, there wouldn’t be a need for days off or being late and AI is able to create lesson plans and give one-to-one attention to students, it can essentially do everything an English teacher can do…. But can it?
Others may argue against it and say that AI can enhance the English Language but not replace the teacher because it cannot replace the emotional and social side of having a teacher in the classroom which Dr Evelina Galaczi from Cambridge stated at the British Council’s New Directions Conference, ‘Teaching is still very human-centred, and AI cannot replace the social and emotional aspect of learning, but it can enhance the experience.’ She also debated that AI does not have all the answers and includes risks such as inaccurate content, bias and issues around cheating among students. Human interaction and emotional support are essential for countless students to properly engage with learning and overall pupils may not be comfortable with having a robot in the classroom. Another reason is that AI was never invented to replace the teacher but to enhance their teaching and assist with the daily tasks of their job. Additionally, relying on AI too heavily can have a huge negative impact on pupils.
Consequently, do English teachers need to see AI as a threat to their jobs? The majority have argued that this theory is not possible for the simple reason that Artificial Intelligence does not have the emotional, social and mental side of teaching. If a student has mental health issues or a subject they need to talk about, an AI teacher would never be able to provide the empathy and knowledge needed to help and make the student feel better. It cannot replace the human interaction and emotional support students need to succeed in their education. AI also wouldn’t be able to deliver the lesson in a way that is suited to everyone, some students may have behavioural or learning difficulties. As our generation is also very reliant on technology and social media, if we rely on machines for everyday tasks, we can risk technology addiction.
Despite AI being unable to replace teachers, it can be a huge asset to improve learning in the classroom in many ways- an extra pair of hands. Rose Luckin, a professor at the University College London Knowledge Lab gave forward the idea that it can benefit a teacher in many ways such as by taking attendance or routine gradings. She also said that it can reduce the workload of teachers which can help prevent overworking and stress which could limit the burnout that has exacerbated the teacher shortage. It can unquestionably benefit teachers in numerous ways, but it also can have a positive impact on students such as more personalised learning to their needs and improved data analysis to gain insights into students’ performance. Regardless of all these advantages of AI in education, it will be a challenge to integrate this into the classroom. Primarily, it may be difficult to convince parents, students and teachers that a robot in the classroom can be a good thing; many might not be comfortable with the technology as countless parents would worry about students becoming too reliant upon it and losing their own sense of initiative while learning e.g.- instead of pupils trying to work it out for themselves, they would find the solution much more easily via AI.
As discussed, there are many factors to consider when bringing Artificial Intelligence into education; people see it as an asset, but others may view it otherwise. Overall, there is still a lot to debate when considering it, but I hope this has got you thinking about this issue too.