The Ladder to Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to become the next big information revolution. As we move into an increasingly data-driven world, there is a critical need to build an AI-ready workforce. How are India’s educators and educational institutions gearing up to tap into this huge opportunity?

The World Economic Forum has estimated that machines and algorithms will create as many as 58 million jobs by 2022.

Among the top 10 trends that will impact the jobs of the future in the Indian economic landscape, increasing adoption of new technology, advances in AI, and expansion of education are particularly significant.

With over five million graduates entering the workforce every year in India, educational institutions have a tremendous challenge in staying relevant and developing an industry-ready young workforce.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), India’s leading education board, recognizes the need to help students prepare for a disruptive future. With over 20,000 schools in India and more than 200 schools internationally, CBSE has taken the lead in equipping students with the right technology skills through a new pilot program.

Leading the Way with an AI Curriculum

The CBSE, known for its transformative approach to education, has been an early advocate for building an ecosystem of innovation. Their goal is to introduce young individuals to different emerging technologies and empower them with the knowledge to gain early advantage as they enter the workforce.

We need to give youths the opportunity to learn and understand AI-based concepts and technologies and be connected with the careers of tomorrow.
— Dr. Biswajit Saha, CBSE’s Training and Skill Education Director

In 2019, CBSE partnered with IBM India to develop an AI-integrated pilot program to train teachers and students. IBM will help create a professional learning community in collaboration with industry members and provide global project opportunities for students. This program will also enable students to earn badges and accreditations for their learning achievements.

“Unlike creating a curriculum for professionals, introducing the subject of AI to school children is different,” says Dr. Gaurav Sharma, Vice President, IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software. “We have a chance to create a course to give the best effect by using a design-based approach to problem-solving with AI.”

Initially piloted in a few major cities in 2019, AI will be a part of the curriculum and offered as an elective for class IX - XII students from the academic year 2020-2021.

Building Problem-Solving Skills

The implementation of the AI program from CBSE and IBM is in three stages.

While developing the customized curriculum, IBM partnered with Macquarie University in Australia, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), 1M1B, and Learning Links Foundation to create a model that could be used in different settings for various age groups.

Students will need to be digitally confident and global in their outlook, to be great problem solvers, collaborators, and communicators.
— Dr. Anne Forbes, Senior Lecturer STEM Education, Macquarie School of Education in Australia

Students learn through readings, customized online resources, and hands-on projects. For instance, using an India-based map app, students will create social media posts, and then track them, observing how algorithms are used in real life.

“The job roles that our students may fill will increasingly demand a knowledge of how to leverage and collaborate with AI as a tool for problem-solving,” says Joseph South, Chief Learning Officer at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), whose company is building a free, global online course for IBM’s open P-Tech platform.

We use as many real-world, concrete AI examples as possible to engage students with the course.
— Joseph South, Chief Learning Officer, ISTE

As students become more comfortable with design thinking, more opportunities like coaching, mentoring, showcasing at events, will open up for them. They’ll also be able to take part in Hackathons, such as the “AI for Better India” event, which took place in 2019 for students in Delhi and Bangalore. Over 225 students generated hundreds of ideas as they coded and developed positive solutions that could improve India in all facets of life.

Rewards and Risks

AI can be applied to any industry – for example, healthcare, banking, and financial services, insurance. Ultimately, the long-term goal is for students to understand both the rewards – and the risks – of AI. Such knowledge and context of AI will allow India's future workforce to enhance its technological capabilities, apply problem-solving skills to tackle real issues, and bring in innovation to make a difference to society. AI can also help in data protection, cybersecurity, disaster management, or help identify perils such as fake news.

While on this learning journey, young learners can look for inspiration in Sankar Kumar Pal, the scientist who has developed several machine learning programs; and in Anuprriya Gogna, the advanced technology engineer who developed several healthcare applications.

Adopting a future-focused stance on critical issues such as climate change, universal healthcare, and a more inclusive society can only help those who want to make a real impact with a career in AI. And these are the people who will drive India's social and technological progress.

Students must be resilient enough to view hurdles or problems as learning opportunities. AI provides a perfect context to begin developing those skills.
— Dr. Anne Forbes, Senior Lecturer STEM Education

The 2020 global pandemic has undoubtedly caused much disruption in the sector, but it has also opened up so many opportunities to transform the way we learn and teach.

The time for innovation is now.

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