How AI Could Reshape Education in India
India has the largest K-12 educational system in the world with 260 million students. However, it still ranks low globally on academic achievement and student performance. Nearly half of students lack basic literacy and math skills after studying in school for five years. However, the rise of new classroom technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), shows promising hope for rural communities seeking to improve student success. Here is how AI could reshape education in India.

The Challenges

Thirty-eight percent of government public school students in grade three are unable to read simple words. Only 27 percent of students could perform double-digit subtraction. Teacher preparedness and competency is also a reported issue. In one study, only 11 percent of government school teachers in the Indian state of Bihar could demonstrate the steps by which to solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem.

Surprisingly, a survey through the Center for Global Development has found no significant correlation between high teacher salaries and achievement in India. After evaluating per capita GDP and economic context, Indian teachers receive relatively good pay. Nevertheless, reports determined that low-cost private schools had similar learning levels where teachers received significantly less pay. The results highlight the need for more highly trained teachers and better professional preparedness programs.

Notwithstanding these educational challenges, early evidence shows a number of adaptive AI programs offer promise in mitigating the educational deficits in poor educational communities and schools. Oftentimes, these programs supplement the traditional curriculum and even absent teachers. This is how AI could reshape education in India.

How AI Could Reshape Education in India

  1. Mindspark: Mindspark is an adaptable Indian AI program that adjusts to a learner’s knowledge and skills. As the student progresses, it introduces more challenging concepts. The software includes text, video, games and interactive tutorials that people can access on multiple devices. Proponents of Mindspark have remarked that although AI may not be the best educational solution for countries that already have an effective education infrastructure, it has shown to raise scores for areas that experience teacher shortages or absenteeism. MIT’s randomized study in Delhi of 619 government school students found that students progressed significantly in math and Hindi after using the Mindspark software. Priced at approximately RS 1,000 per month ($14 per month), it is a cost-effective program for students.
  2. Byju’s: Named after its founder, Byju Raveendran, Byju’s is an Indian learning app. Similar to Mindspark, the program’s AI adapts to student users to create personal learning experiences, a mapped syllabus, interactive tests, recommended videos in response to mistakes, interactive questions, quizzes, games and interactive lessons. The program uses a bank of student data on learning patterns to personalize feedback and assessments. Although innovative and fun, the company currently only markets adaptive software to urban families looking to supplement their child’s education with a new delivery method. Forbes India recognizes that while the model receives good funding through venture capital, greater access to Byju’s AI for poorer communities through government and nonprofit investments would be advantageous to the country.
  3. Onebillion: Onebillion is a U.K. education nonprofit that created a modular course for children designed to improve their writing, reading and numeracy. It includes carefully structured courses with a huge bank of activities, games and stories adapted into many different languages. It includes a digital teacher who offers individualized, weekly diagnostic tests to ensure the addressing of learning gaps. Teachers can monitor student progress through the system as well. It is for students who have little or no access to formal schooling. The organization incorporates a localization process that keeps the content relevant by partnering with local communities and experts. Like Mindspark, the aim of the organization is to get the software directly into the hands of the student who lacks formal educational mentors. Onebillion has reached more than 100,000 students globally, including students in rural India in 2016.

The Future for India’s Education

What is evident thus far, especially from the implementation of Mindspark, is that AI has the potential to address gaps in education in India for poor, rural communities that lack high-quality teachers and programs. Access to effective tools is currently in favor of wealthier communities in India. Forbes India opines that more investment from the government, nonprofits and companies is necessary to expand the influence of these new technologies into the communities that need them. India, which already has one of the world’s largest software industries and telecommunications systems, may prove how AI could reshape education in India with investments in education technology.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Wikimedia Commons