On May 16-18, 2019, Beijing (PRC) hosted the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and education, entitled “Planning Education in the AI Era: Lead the Leap”. The Conference was co-organized by UNESCO and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.
The event brought together over 500 participants from 105 Member States, with 67 Ministers, Deputy/Vice Ministers, representatives of UN agencies and international organizations, leaders of the AI industry, academic experts, policy makers and practitioners.
The Conference featured discussions around the opportunities, emerging in the AI formative years to smear differences and ensure no one is left behind, with particular reference to UNESCO’s values of equitable, inclusive and transparent use of AI in education. In order to ensure impactful debates and their further system-wide implementation, special attention within the event was given to the importance of international cooperation between stakeholders. The Conference agenda included a high-level Ministers’ Forum that shed light on the impact of AI on education and learning, and the AI policies and strategies towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4. The five plenary sessions and three section meetings addressed key issues of promoting the sustainable development of AI strategies for education.
UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education (UNESCO IITE) took an active part in the preparations for and holding of two breakout sessions within the framework of the International Conference.
Mr. Tao Zhan, Director of UNESCO IITE, chaired the section meeting entitled “AI transforming the delivery and management of education”. The session’s objective was to demonstrate how AI could be harnessed to enhance and transform the delivery and management of education. Key questions for discussion included the following:
- How can the delivery and management of education at different levels (K-12, TVET, HE, lifelong learning) be enhanced by data and AI technology?
- What are the effective and transformative models for using AI to boost education management information systems (EMIS)?
- What are the effective partnership or collaboration models for harnessing data for the delivery or management of education, with a special focus on supporting education for the most vulnerable groups?
The section meeting “Leveraging AI to promote inclusion and equity in education” was chaired by Ms. Natalia Amelina, Chief of the Teacher Professional Development and Networking Unit at UNESCO IITE. The session participants reviewed examples of the AI use to promote inclusion and equity in education, and discussed issues of fundamental importance for this area, specifically:
- How can AI be harnessed to support education for the most vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities?
- What are the risks of AI applications that may exacerbate exclusion and marginalization and disparities and inequalities in access?
- How can funding and partnerships be mobilized to ensure the inclusive and equitable deployment of AI in education?
During the Conference, participants developed the Consensus on AI and Education to form the framework for the follow-up action by UNESCO and other parties concerned. The major outcomes of the Conference will be presented in a synthesis report.