80% of pupils don’t want robots in the classroom

Poll of 500 sixth formers finds students fear being taught by artificial intelligence (AI)

More than 80% of sixth-formers in a survey released today think that a human being is a better teacher than a robot could ever be, with the same percentage rating the personal relationship they have with their teachers as important.

In a poll of approximately 500 16-18 year olds in state and independent schools, teenagers expressed concern over schools using AI to teach. They felt this would mean a lack of real-world human contact and inspiration, plus less attention and emotional support.

Some students were worried that robots acting as teachers could be hacked and produce false information, or find out their personal details. Others feared a standardisation of education, reduction of creativity –  and boredom.  One said: ‘I can’t imagine a robot teaching philosophy – in fact the thought sickens me.’

The poll was undertaken ahead of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) Spring Conference on 2nd May 2018 which will discuss artificial intelligence and virtual reality in education.

Poll findings include:

  • Over 80% think a robot could not be a better teacher than a human being, with just 12% feeling excited about the possibilities
  • Students rate the importance of the personal relationship they have with their teacher at 82%
  • Artificial intelligence is not currently a hot topic amongst 6th form students with more than 70% discussing it less than once a month
  • Students gave their schools a rating of 23% for how up to date they were with AI
  • Nearly 40% of respondents thought they knew more about AI and its uses than their teachers
  • Nearly 25% thought the rise of AI had affected the career they were thinking of pursuing
  • 43% were worried that it may be harder to get a job because AI is taking over so many areas of working life
  • When asked “How do you think a robot might be better than a teacher in the classroom?” typical responses included more knowledge and better organisation

The findings of the survey, which was conducted in April 2018, can be accessed via Survey Monkey.

Chris King, Chair of HMC and Head of Leicester Grammar School, who will be chairing the conference, said: “Nothing can replace the magic that happens when an enthusiastic teacher and a willing pupil are in the room together. It is gratifying that pupils value the human relationship with their teachers and care is needed to make sure that it is never compromised.”

“Whilst exciting developments are taking place, we will have to wait a long time for robots to be able to empathise with teenagers and draw on their own experience to bring a subject alive. Teaching is much more than passing on information,” continued Chris. “However, much of the concern pupils are showing could be fear of the unknown. AI has huge possibilities for adding richness to pupils’ experience, personalising their learning and freeing up teachers to do what really matters. Adults and children are learning about this together and it’s important that we all pay more attention to this area to understand how best to use AI in education and prepare pupils for a world in which it is commonplace.”

Professor Rose Luckin, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at University College, London, said of the findings: “I agree with the majority of students who do not believe that a robot can take the place of a human teacher. However, AI enhancement would be able to assist teachers to spend more time applying their human expertise on high-quality interactions with their students.”

“The increased use of AI in the workplace and in life is something that schools absolutely must start considering,” added Rose. “The development of AI that can learn academic knowledge faster and more accurately than humans has brought about a situation that requires us urgently to make some dramatic and significant changes to our approach to education.”