Four or five years ago a few collaborators and I conducted an online hackathon where we set out to rethink education.
A few projects were born from that hackathon, of which one still exists. That whole experience taught us that it’s very hard for people to let go of the idea that one should educate oneself with the help of online tools like this law tutors online, and that people are just habituated to be educated from the top down.
This is a very important topic that has grand ramifications for the future of our society. There are countries, like Finland, who have an education model that works for everyone in their country. But one country that is taking citizen education to the extreme, and is an example of what not to do, is China.
China is conducting a social experiment on many levels, one for citizens and another for students. Imagine a world where cameras capture bird’s-eye-view footage of thousands of classrooms, in which every student is recognized, recorded, and assigned scores simply based on their positions and facial expressions. While it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, this type of surveillance is happening now in China, in pilot programs at seven schools serving a total of 28,000 students.
The Disconnect, takes a look at the facial recognition technology and “intelligent education” initiative that China’s government hopes will boost the country’s education system.
“The parents can see it, too,” Zhang says, tapping on a student’s name. “For example, this student’s report shows that he rarely volunteers to answer the teacher’s questions in class. So his participation in English class is marked as low. Number of questions answered: one,” Zhang reads from the AI-generated report. “This week, the student spent 94.08 percent of class time focusing. His grade average is 84.64 percent. He spent 4.65 percent of the time writing, which was 10.57 percent lower than the grade average.”
Student surveillance is not the future of education
Does the above commentary seem like a fun way to get people to learn?
The above approach to education continues the tradition of “coerce and punish”, where students are monitored, ranked and forced into doing they don’t want to do. More importantly for me is this: you can’t force people to learn.
Also published on Medium.