Yvonne Buluma Samba, former teacher and CEO of e-spaces reflects on why ‘Maths until age 18’ would not be as effective as harnessing the benefits of technology in creating a world-leading education system in the UK
In his New Year speech, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wanted the UK education system to rival the best in the world. He also wants everyone to study maths up to 18 years old.
But, to achieve his first ambition, he may need to forego his second. He’ll also need to embed the latest tools and techniques in our classrooms, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The state of our schools
The British school system was designed a couple of hundred years ago during the industrial revolution. This model served its purpose during most of the 20th century.
However, the current system is now under pressure. Teachers are leaving in their droves due to the admin and marking burden.
Social mobility has all but stalled. A Social Mobility Commission report in 2018 found that the ability to achieve better pay and social position had stagnated since 2014.
Learning is homogenised rather than tailored to individuals.
In addition, a poll by professional services firm PwC found that most businesses felt the education system is not preparing young people for the world of work. A third say that their workforce lacks basic literacy and numeracy skills.
However, new technology like AI can help tackle these issues. Such tools can enhance student engagement, tailor education to the individual and inform subject choice.
AI can help enhance student engagement in learning.
By using AI-powered devices and software in class, teachers can regularly check student understanding through a series of prepared questions asked during the lesson on a device. Some tools use a traffic light system so teachers and students can see how they are performing in real-time.
Green indicates a correct answer and a good understanding. Amber indicates further questioning may be needed. Red suggests pupils need more help.
AI-enabled platforms, such as e-spaces, provide a new way for teachers to make decisions in class, being able to rely on data – not their intuition – to see if a pupil has understood.
When students don’t understand, teachers can intervene. As every teacher will know, when students get what they are learning, they are more engaged in class, less disruptive and will perform better.
AI-enabled tech can also provide students with another means of communicating with their teachers through online messaging.
Less confident students are more likely to ask questions and flag when they do not understand, improving their engagement and performance in lessons.
Tailoring education and informing choice
AI-powered platforms that log and process learning data can help teachers automatically assess, personalise and adapt lessons. This enables teachers to tailor learning to the individual student.
Moreover, by recording such data over time, AI enables teachers and students to see in which subjects where students are strongest.
Over time, this has the potential to revolutionise our schools and level up our education system.
No longer do students need to choose subjects which they ‘feel’ they are best at. They can instead choose those subjects where they ‘know’ they are best at – based in the data they have seen over the course of their time in school.
So, Rishi Sunak’s aim of introducing ‘maths to 18’, ignores this significant point.
Getting those students who don’t want to study maths to sit through class after class may lead to more disengaged pupils, which will impact performance – both for them and the school.
So, if Rishi Sunak wants to create the best school system in the world, he should drop the requirement for all students to study maths up to 18.
How tech can help level up our schools
As the historian and former Wellington Headmaster Anthony Seldon has noted, while the government is embracing AI in many areas, such as transport or industry, it has been slow to apply this approach to education. Many schools are “still locked in a 20th-century mindset”.
Currently wealthier private and grammar schools use the latest tools in class to help their students learn and perform better. However, many comprehensive schools are yet to adopt such techniques.
AI-powered technology has the potential to revolutionise our education system by making our schools more data-led while restoring the joy of learning for all involved.
Overall, such technology can help level the playing field and ensure our schools can compete with the best in the world.
About the author
Yvonne Buluma Samba is a former teacher and CEO of e-spaces, an AI-enabled real time teaching and marking platform that aims to restore the joy of teaching and learning.