Education Revolution: The Rise of AI in the International School System

Artificial intelligence (AI) is all the rage these days. At the forefront of that excitement has been the relatively recent advent of Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, Bard, and Stable Diffusion. 

Across society, Generative AI, a large language model (LLM)-based technology that allows users to create text, images, audio, and other media by using natural language instructions, is being adopted. The same is true in the education system.

To find out more, GoConnect spoke with five leading international schools across Japan: The British School in Tokyo, The Canadian Academy, Malvern College Tokyo, Harrow International School Appi Japan, and Aoba-Japan International School. 

All the schools are establishing policy and strategy frameworks that encompass Generative AI. At the same time, they are developing the capacity of teachers and students alike so that they embrace and use the fast-developing technology effectively and responsibly.

School Policy on Generative AI

Photo by Canadian Academy

Generative AI is taking the world by storm, including the education system. This leads one to ask: what policies and strategies are educators deploying to take account of these rapid developments?

“We recognize the potential educational value of AI applications like ChatGPT, Bard, Diffit, and others,” Omar Murtaza, the deputy head of secondary school at The British School in Tokyo, says.

“We embrace changes in technology and have implemented guidelines that allow for responsible and supervised use of such AI apps in the classroom for engagement, personalized learning, and creativity.” 

Daveena Patel, the digital learning leader at Harrow International School Appi Japan (AISL Harrow), shares: “AISL Harrow acknowledges the importance of staying up to date in an ever-evolving landscape of AI and is committed to leveraging the benefits of AI to enhance teaching and learning while upholding safe and ethical use.”

Jennifer Clark, the educational technology coordinator and head librarian at the Canadian Academy, has similar sentiments. Clark notes that “as a tech team, and as a community, we established our vision for technology at Canadian Academy. That vision is that technology is a tool that drives us to meet our mission, vision and core values.” 

Photo by The British School in Tokyo

Murtaza, Patel, and Clark are not alone. Chasen Stahl, the group director of innovation at Aoba-Japan International School, says: “If I were to focus on teaching and learning in schools and the impact, specifically in that area, of AI, then the moral,  ethical, and regulatory environments surrounding this is a huge topic.”

And Mike Spencer, founding headmaster at Malvern College Tokyo, explains, the school places more of a focus on the skills that software platforms can’t replicate. “As an international school, we aim to prepare our pupils for a future where emerging technologies are part of everyday life and work. While AI shows great potential to assist with many administrative tasks, our focus remains on developing each student’s capacities as a whole person,” he says, adding that “soft skills like empathy, creativity, and leadership cannot be replicated by machines. It is still humans who can offer new perspectives, make complex ethical decisions, and build meaningful relationships.”

Challenges Over Generative AI 

Photo by Harrow International School Appi Japan

A leading Generative-AI platform is ChatGPT—or Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer. Released in 2022 by the OpenAI lab, the chatbot is one of the fastest-growing of its kind in history, gaining over 100 million users in two years. 

Soon after ChatGPT’s launch, other LLM-enabled chatbots followed: the aforementioned Bard, as well as LLaMA and Earnie Bot. And that’s not to mention text-to-image Generative AI tools such as DALL-E and Stable Diffusion.

This begs yet another question: what challenges do Generative AI tools pose in the education system—for administrators, teachers and students? ChatGPT, for instance, can generate answers to questions and even write essays. 

Patel says, “Students are expected to maintain honesty and transparency in their work, properly crediting and referencing the influence and support of previous work, including the use of generative AI like ChatGPT. 

“It must be made clear that any AI-generated text, image, video, or graphs included in a piece of work has been copied from generative AI tools.”

“Potential issues with the use of AI apps include over-reliance, decreased critical thinking, and privacy concerns,” Murtaza shares.

“To address these, we incorporate AI into our Key Stage 3 Computer Science curriculum to ensure that students are aware of the various forms of AI, how to use it responsibly, and the benefits and limitations of this technology.” The same is being done at Key Stage 5 projects.

Stahl says: “[We] have two main approaches: one is building continuous professional development programs for our teaching faculty, which include considerations for artificial intelligence. 

“The other is developing a scaffold or scope and sequence of technologies, skills, and concepts for our students—inclusive now of artificial intelligence, and determining where that fits in.”

Can Generative AI Revolutionize Education?

Photo by Aoba-Japan International School

Apparent challenges aside, Generative AI has the potential to positively influence how teachers teach and students study, leading to a revolution in the education system—let alone society at large—that has not been seen in generations. All the experts agree.

Patel notes: “Our schools follow a digital literacy curriculum that develops skills in areas such as computational thinking and programming, cyber security and wellbeing, computer networks, and data and innovation.” 

“Through this curriculum,” she continues, “that can range in some schools from Year 1 to Year 8, our students develop the skills required to use these platforms effectively and develop skills to help them judge which platforms are credible sources of information for independent research.”

Murtaza says, “The utilization of AI platforms presents a multitude of positives and opportunities for students, both in the present and in the evolving landscape of education. Firstly, these tools can significantly enhance research capabilities.

“Students,” he continues, “can access a vast amount of information instantaneously, allowing for comprehensive exploration of topics and access to resources that were previously out of reach. This encourages independent learning and the development of research skills, which are invaluable for both academia and future careers.”

And that’s not to forget the potential for AI tools to foster creativity, assist students with independent, though AI-assisted, thinking and problem-solving—from mapping out ideas to crafting essays to finding solutions—let alone acquiring new language skills of their choosing. 

“There’s a lot of the tools that we’re using,” notes Clark. “In terms of ChatGPT, there’s a really great example that’s happening right now in PE class. I was just in their class the other day and they’re currently in a unit where they are looking at methods of training and health- and skills-related components of fitness based on recommendations developed via ChatGPT.” The recommendations, she adds, are checked with guidance from the PE teacher.

Spencer adds that the technology can be used to bolster the work of both teachers and students, but should be used wisely. “These platforms give pupils 24/7 access to learning aids. When integrated thoughtfully, AI can help identify gaps and personalize instruction. It also frees teachers to focus on higher-order skills and human connections, which is vital in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. Our school provides guidance on using AI as a supplemental tool rather than replacement for human teachers, interactions, and authentic research.”

The Future of Generative AI in Schools

Photo by Canadian Academy

As the applications for Generative AI expands across society, quite apart from its growing impact in the education sector, one has to wonder what the future holds for the emerging technology. 

All the experts we spoke to not only anticipate further integration of AI, including Generative AI, in all aspects of teaching and learning, but also believe that it will become more personalized, creating a more efficient educational experience. 

They also noted that traditional standardized assessment methods will give way to adaptive systems that adjust the level of difficulty of each problem based on a student’s ability, personal AI assistants or tutors will emerge, and augmented reality-enabled learning will come of age.

Clark shares: “I hope that the result is increased and improved accessibility for all learners, that this means everybody finds a way to learn that’s right for them. If we can find ways to improve and increase accessibility, that’s half the struggle right there.”

Stahl shared similar sentiments: “Schools don’t just teach skills. They don’t just teach concepts or about subject areas like math and sciences. They [also] provide students with critical thinking and a moral framework that they can apply to any context. The technology tools, even newfangled ones like artificial intelligence, should be incorporated within that.”

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