12 Jul 2024

Benefits of generative AI in education outweigh the risks

UK manufacturing

Nearly 60% of teachers say that interacting with AI systems will be a key skill required for jobs in the future, however many students don’t feel prepared with the skills required for the 21st century workforce. Smart Machines & Factories reports.

New generative AI tools are disrupting the education sector and posing both challenges and opportunities for students and teachers. Capgemini Research Institute’s new report, ‘Future ready education: Empowering secondary school students with digital skills’, also found that students aged 16-18 feel much less confident about whether their digital skills make them workforce-ready than their teachers. This is especially true for foundational skills in the areas of digital communication and data literacy.

Education systems around the world are already making moves to either accommodate or exclude generative AI tools such as ChatGPT from students’ day-to-day activities. Nearly half (48%) of secondary school teachers, for example, report that their schools have either blocked or restricted the tools’ use in one form or another. Other “early adopters” have been less restrictive in their approach with 19% saying that such tools have been allowed for specific use-cases, and 18% noting that they are still evaluating it for its applicability and usefulness in the classroom. Overall, over half (56%) of secondary school teachers agreed that curriculums and assessments needed to be adapted to account for student use of AI-generated content, and a similar proportion (52%) believe AI tools will change the teaching profession for the better.

Balancing the risks with the benefits

While many can see the potential of generative AI tools, 78% of secondary school teachers globally still share concerns about the negative impact of generative AI tools on student learning outcomes, including the perception that the value of writing as a skill will be diminished (66%) and that the tool will limit student creativity (66%).

Despite these concerns, half of secondary school teachers globally say that the potential of generative AI as an educational tool outweighs the risks. Of the perceived benefits that AI tools could bring, key use cases highlighted by teachers include using it to teach how to interact with and understand AI models (60%), to aid critical thinking exercises (56%), and as a tool to help suggest edits to students’ work (52%), among others.

The sentiment towards generative AI varies significantly across different geographies: teachers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Finland recognize the importance and potential of generative AI, much more than Singapore, Japan or France.

Equipping students with key skills for the future

Almost two thirds (64%) of secondary school teachers are convinced of the importance to develop students’ digital skills to make them job-ready and the vast majority (82%) agree that compulsory education in digital skills would be beneficial to students. However, the report highlighted a gap in confidence between adults and teenagers: 70% of teachers and 64% of parents believe that students have the necessary skills to be successful in today’s workforce, while 55% of students aged 16-18 agree. The research also finds that there is a significant gap in confidence between teachers in large cities (83%) and in rural areas (40%), and that urban 16-18 years old girls feel nearly twice more confident than in rural areas. Finally, teachers in rural areas are less likely to believe that digital literacy is a priority for their school than their peers in suburban and urban areas[1].

As per the research, while 72% of students aged 16–18 feel confident about their basic digital literacy[2], less than half (47%) feel the same way about digital communication and data literacy[3] – attributes which are considered crucial for success in the modern workplace. The report highlights that instilling confidence is key to empowering students to correctly identify fact from misinformation online. While the majority (80%) of students say they are confident in finding information online, fewer know which online sources to trust (66%) and even less are able to decipher fact versus opinion online (61%).