Kids “prefer” robots to teachers – says education professor


SCHOOL pupils say they would “prefer” being taught by robots instead of teachers, an academic has claimed.

During a recent tip to Asia, Professor John Hattie said he observed a class being taught by a robot, with kids telling him they preferred the android to a human.

The director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute was speaking at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) last week, saying development in artificial intelligence should be “welcomed” by the teaching profession.

Quoted in an educational magazine, he said: “Last year when I was in Asia, I watched a class being taught by a robot and it was really fascinating because at the end of the session, I had the opportunity to talk with the kids and I asked them about the experience.

The conference took place last week at the EICC

“And you know the story: the teacher-student relationship is critical; the student-student relationship is critical.

“What did these kids say? ‘Eh, we prefer the robot to the teacher.’

“That whole business of artificial intelligence is screaming us in the face. It’s very advanced and is getting there faster than you can imagine.

“We need to be very welcoming and interested in how the robots can help us in our work to reduce some of the problems that we have that are related to human interaction and all the biases that relate to it.”

However, online users have expressed their scepticism as to how a robot can actually carry out the roles of a teacher.

Simon Redican said: “Just wondering how the robot would deal with the year 11 pupils on their phones, rather than revising? Or, the same work avoiding pupils asking to go to the toilet, yet again?”

Tom Burkard added: “Strange this – we worry about our children growing up in a virtual world with their faces buried in their smartphones, and now John Hattie wants them to have virtual teachers.

“I suppose we’ll now have to invent virtual jobs.”

Stephen Down wrote: “Pupils might prefer the robot, but what impact does it have on the quality of their learning overall?”

Anthony Hardy said: “Kids prefer to have headphones constantly. Kids prefer not to do homework. They prefer lots of stuff. Doesn’t mean it does them any good or if it’s the right thing to do.”

However, one person agreed with Professor Hattie’s suggestions.

Anne Brown said: “Totally agree [with] this, especially for students with Special Education Needs.

“My high functioning autistic son has struggled with ‘taught’ geometry for years, but is now finally getting it because he can use Khan Academy and watch the same video again and again and again then try the exercise as many times as necessary without feeling judged and with an encouraging message.

“Turns out that explaining things in different ways was just making it worse.”

Robots teaching pupils has already been implemented in China.

Robots are being used as teachers in Chinese nurseries due to a shortage in the country.

It is thought China will be faced with a shortage of 110,000 nurseries and 3m teachers in order to accommodate the growing number of young children.

The robots are said to be able to teach subjects from English to Golf.