Japan is a country that loves its robots. From elder care, to pet ownership, to pint-pulling, one is hard-pressed to find a problem in Japan that has can’t be addressed by a machine.
Continuing in that vein, the Japanese ministry of education is looking to bring AI robots into classrooms starting next year, in an effort to help students learn English more effectively. The current model sees too few qualified human English teachers in the system. This is due to lack of applicants, as well as funds to pay them.
Part of a phalanx of tech that includes tablet games and apps, and online sessions with native speakers, the robots will be rolled out to an expanded student base soon. (English is a mandatory subject for 12 to 15-year-old students; in 2020 they will begin learning the language at age 10.)
Said an unnamed official in charge of international education; “AI robots already on the market have various functions. For example, they can check the pronunciation of each student’s English, which is difficult for teachers to do.”
It seems undisputed that these bots will be a benefit — so my burning question is, what will they look like?? Is it better to have a robot teacher that inspires uncanny-valley fear or empathy? Having had human teachers at both ends of the spectrum, I wonder what tack Japan’s new robo-educators will take!