AI in education needs greater inclusion of women: Unesco

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Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for education in India needs equipping women for technology in education, Unesco’s State of Education in India 2022 report makes clear. The report, focusing on artificial intelligence in education, states 85% of adolescent girls in the country don’t have a laptop at home, and 83% got less than an hour at their school computer labs per week.

Despite this, the country was ranked at the top in terms of talent concentration and relative AI skill penetration—leading the world in terms of relative skill penetration by gender, with women exhibiting a higher rate than men in the country—in the Stanford University’s Institute for Human-centred Artificial Intelligence’s 2022 Artificial Intelligence Index.

That said, with women accounting for 22% of India’s AI talent pool and a third of AI-related scientific publications, the lack of access to technology in early education for women could be leading to lost potential, experts say.

The AI market in India was valued at $6.4 billion in August 2020, and is expected to reach close to $8 billion by 2025. The National Education Policy 2020 emphasises the need for imparting technical knowledge at all levels of education to prepare students for the AI economy. Both the government and the private sector are taking steps to include AI in education and to ensure that the youth and emergent workforce are academically equipped for a AI-led world.

Rajendra Kumar, additional secretary, ministry of electronics and information technology, said, “We have a national programme on AI, based on the national strategy on AI. Our goal is to bring all relevant stakeholders together to ensure that we can use these advanced technologies for developing applications for specific domains, like education.”

To that end, the government has partnered the private sector, one example of this being the Central Board of Secondary Education and Intel’s joint to promote AI literacy in schools. The government has undertaken efforts on its own as well, with programmes such as the Atal Innovation Mission, under which over 14,000 schools have been chosen to set up Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) to include modules on, among others, drone engineering and AI.

The Unesco report, among other recommendations, stresses on ensuring all students and teachers having access to the latest technology and making ethics the centre of AI in education, including attempting to correct algorithmic biases and the resulting discrimination.

Eric Falt, director, Unesco New Delhi cluster office, says “We just need to ensure that everything has the human side of it at the centre of policy development, along with ethics, inclusion, and accessibility.”