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Are you ready for one more subject in CBSE curriculum?

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It is a known fact that the Central Board of Secondary Education is contemplating and making grounds ready to introduce Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a new elective subject for classes 8, 9, and 10. If this plan becomes an action, the schools will have robots and artificially fed machines freely moving and sharing space with the students on the play-grounds.

The CBSE Board has not made any official statement about introducing the subject at school level yet. However, the officials confirmed that the board definitely has such big plans. Once the subject is introduced at school level, the class 8,9 and 10 students will be able to opt for it.

According to a CBSE Board official, “AI is an emerging area and one that is extremely important globally. AI education exists in schools in the US. It is the only way forward.”

In the year 2018, a tremendous growth has been found in the AI as a potential research and job sector which means a lot has to be done at school level too. According to the job search site Indeed.com, 179 % increase has been seen in the job seekers asking for jobs related to AI. The brainchild think tank of Narendra Modi led NDA government – NitiAyog – released a “national strategy” for AI subject so that India has an edge over other countries on the subject. It also started an initiative AIforALL to increase research and support for the growth of the country in all terms. India stands third in the most skilled workforce in AI in the world.

Are schools ready to teach AI?
The biggest question and concern now is that if the schools are competent enough to teach AI as a subject to children in India. The CBSE can introduce the AI as an elective subject and it totally depends upon the school authorities to provide learned and competent teaching staff for the subject.

Professor Gautam R Desiraju of the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru said, firstly, we need to undo the idea that computers cannot think, only humans can. That itself is the basis of AI, teaching machines to think and understanding how that can be harnessed to further human goals. For that, we need to first revisit the computer classes and clarify to students what computers can and cannot do. Currently, most schools do not even have good computer faculty.”

Though it appears bad, but it is the ground reality that almost 11 million untrained teachers are present in the workforce according to Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar in 2017. In 2016, he also informed that 17.51% posts at elementary government school level and 14.78% at secondary school level were vacant. It means that the schools are not recruiting the required number of teachers for regular subjects itself.

Professor Desiraju stated that short-term courses or refresher courses should be introduced to improve the condition of existing teachers, particularly in the field of technical knowledge.

Teaching AI would require teachers with good knowledge in robotics, big data and internet which is a rare trait. This can lead to some equipped schools only to provide the subject while rest can’t even dream about it. This will further increase the gap between the quality of education provided at private and government schools.

Will it increase the burden of students?
On the other hand, though the students are happy and excited to learn about AI, they are also scared that it may further increase their burden. The students opine that the subject should be taught in an interesting way and not to be turned into a dull and boring one. Many students stated that the subject is interesting but should be taught only to those students who want to further pursue their higher studies in AI.

The schools are also skeptical about the subject. They think that schools should be given an option whether to choose the AI or not. The school authorities also suggested that the state and central education departments should start providing training to the teachers and schools.

Though CBSE is making its grounds ready for introducing this new subject in its curriculum and also working on drafting syllabus for class 8, 9, and 10, there is much more to be achieved before the AI lab classes can be conducted in the schools of India as done in certain schools of US’s Silicon Valley or China. There is lot more ground work at educational institutional level to be done before we dream achieving inclusive growth in India.

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