Headmaster’s Blog

Earlier this year I attended a conference and was fascinated to learn more about the impact of Artificial Intelligence on society and in particular the education sector. From Siri to self-driving cars, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is progressing rapidly and here to stay. While science fiction and the newspapers focus on robots with human-like characteristics, AI can encompass anything from Google’s search algorithms, driver-less cars and even smart weapons.

Currently AI can only focus on one area, such as playing chess. In the future, however, it is possible that AI will develop to such an extent that it can become better than humans at all cognitive tasks. Such ‘super-intelligence’ will have a profound impact on humanity, which is why researchers are suggesting that we consider the risks now.

The implications for education, of course, are enormous. With respect to the preparation of material, for example, AI can scan the profile of a student in order to personalise content for them immediately. Also, teaching will become even more personalised as AI can undertake adaptive assessment and direct the student accordingly in order to fill any gaps in knowledge and set challenging questions. This means that setting and marking assignments will evolve to allow students to take the right assessment at the optimal time for their learning. AI is not going to replace teachers; but it will allow teachers to harness technology to support students.

More than ever students will need an education that equips them with the intellectual grounding and moral compass to understand society. Machines can be trained to feign human empathy, but they can never feel emotions. At BMS students learn to work and relate with one another as part of a tolerant and welcoming community. They have a multitude of opportunities to develop social intelligence whether it be in the common rooms, responding to their teachers’ questioning, reading a book or joining a club. In particular, the creative and performing arts, sport and outdoor education are vital in allowing students to develop their emotional intelligence whether it be through a drawing, listening to a piece of music, reacting to a play or playing sport for a team. Unfortunately these subjects are under pressure nationally but we are fortunate that here at BMS they are flourishing.


Alex Tate