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AI education takes centre stage in the UAE

Indoors, Adult, Male MBZUAI
The UAE Ministry of Education plans to introduce AI-generated tutors into classrooms

Just over three-quarters of UAE students aged between 12 to 15 believe that artificial intelligence skills are critical in finding a job after finishing education.

Some 77 percent of those surveyed by Abu Dhabi’s Mohamed Bin Zayed University (MBZUAI) of Artificial Intelligence said AI aptitude and literacy were critical for their generation.

To harness the technology’s potential the UAE Ministry of Education plans to introduce AI-generated tutors, using tech similar to ChatGPT or Google Bard, into classrooms.

It has teamed up with ASI (formerly Digest AI) to develop an “AI Tutor” pilot programme. ASI will provide access to content, curriculum guidelines and data aligned with the national curriculum.

AI evangelists hope that the technology will help less advantaged areas. The traditional education system in the country’s rural areas often faces challenges like limited resources, a shortage of skilled teachers and access to quality materials. 

“AI opens the door to those living in remote areas, children who cannot afford to go to school, or those who can’t access the traditional school system,” said Ekaterina Kochmar, assistant professor of Natural Language Processing at MBZUAI.

Kochmar said the best approach to education is one-on-one tutoring. However as providing every student with a human tutor is impractical, AI tutors can bridge this gap and tailor education to the needs of each student.

Research by McKinsey & Company found that a significant portion of a teacher’s time, ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent, can be automated using existing technology. 

This translates to approximately 13 hours per week that teachers can redirect toward activities that directly support student learning. 

Kochmar said a hybrid system is likely to develop. Certain tasks can be offloaded to AI, while teachers can then focus on more interesting, more challenging tasks and questions to discuss with the students.