Artificial Intelligence and Education: how to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges?


The emergence of Artificial Intelligence in education may become one of the most relevant technologies both to optimize the teaching activity and to better respond to the needs of students.

As has been the case in history with all disruptive innovations, the advent of artificial intelligence has generated an intense debate with conflicting opinions. On the one hand, there are those who see AI as a powerful tool to improve education and to more efficiently and effectively personalize learning – both cognitive and socioemotional. On the other hand, there are those who fear that AI could have negative effects on education, such as exacerbating inequalities or eliminating jobs, and are wary of its consequences in terms of ethics, privacy and security.

The complexity of the issue, and perhaps the uncertainty of the future, involves many factors and perspectives and calls for a careful, informed, critical and balanced approach that takes into account both the benefits and the concerns. How to harness its benefits and address its risks in the field of education?

The Beijing Consensus: A Roadmap for a Technological and Educational Future

In 2019, the “Beijing Consensus on Artificial Intelligence and Education” became the first document in history to compile advice and recommendations on how to get more out of AI technologies in Education and how to address its challenges. The Consensus was adopted during the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, and was attended by more than 50 ministers, international representatives from more than 105 Member States and over 100 representatives from UN agencies, academic institutions, civil society and the private sector.

The Beijing Consensus is based on the principle that the deployment of AI technologies in education should aim to enhance human capabilities and protect human rights for effective human-machine collaboration in life, learning and work, and for sustainable development. It further states that the systematic integration of AI in education makes it possible to address the biggest challenges in education today, as well as to innovate in teaching and learning practices and ultimately accelerate achievements in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Artificial intelligence can be a great opportunity to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. But every technological revolution brings with it new imbalances that we must anticipate.”

Audrey Azoulay – Director General of UNESCO

Recommendations to take advantage of opportunities and face challenges

The Beijing Consensus offers a series of recommendations – still very much in relevance today – considering the possibility of implementing the recommended measures in response to the opportunities and challenges presented by artificial intelligence in relation to education:

  • Planning for artificial intelligence in educational policies: considering its multidisciplinary nature and impacts, aligning its use with public and educational policies, adopting integrated and participatory approaches, setting strategic priorities according to the SDGs, planning and implementing systemic strategies; taking into account financial needs and resources, and leveraging its potential to combine and analyze data sources to improve the efficiency of decision making.
  • Artificial intelligence for education management and delivery: Harness the potential of data and artificial intelligence to improve the planning, management and delivery of education, and to introduce new models of education and training that are more equitable, inclusive, personalized and tailored to the needs of different educational actors (students, teaching staff, parents and communities).
  • Artificial intelligence to support teaching and teachers: Emphasize the importance of human interaction and collaboration in the educational process, and defend the rights and working conditions of teachers. Review and define the roles and competencies of teachers, and strengthen their education and training to adapt to educational environments with artificial intelligence.
  • Artificial intelligence for learning and learning assessment: Use AI to improve learning and learning assessment, both in curricula and methodologies. Apply or create artificial intelligence tools that are beneficial and safe, that facilitate learning in different areas and that develop interdisciplinary competencies and skills. Support experiments and innovations in schools, and use data to assess student competencies at different levels.
  • Developing values and competencies for life and work in the age of artificial intelligence: the need to develop values and competencies for life and work in the age of artificial intelligence, taking into account the changes it brings about in the labor market and society. Update and develop curricula and qualifications to integrate AI-related competencies, as well as improve the acquisition of AI core competencies at all educational levels. Support higher education and research institutions to develop local talent in artificial intelligence.
  • Artificial intelligence to provide lifelong learning opportunities for all: advocate for SDG 4 – lifelong learning as the guiding principle to ensure quality education for all. Adopt and leverage artificial intelligence to facilitate personalized, flexible and recognized learning, and to be able to develop the necessary standards, values and skills for older people, women and workers to enable them to remain active for as long as they wish and to participate in their societies.
  • Promoción del uso equitativo e inclusivo de la inteligencia artificial en la educación: promover el uso de la inteligencia artificial en la educación de manera equitativa e inclusiva, para garantizar el derecho a la educación de todos los grupos, especialmente los más vulnerables. Evitar que la inteligencia artificial aumente la desigualdad o discrimine a las minorías, y a facilitar el aprendizaje de los estudiantes con dificultades, con necesidades especiales o que hablan otro idioma.
  • Inteligencia artificial con equidad de género e inteligencia artificial para la igualdad de género: reducir la brecha de género en el campo de la inteligencia artificial, tanto en el desarrollo como en el uso de sus aplicaciones educativas. Eliminar los sesgos de género en los datos y las herramientas de inteligencia artificial, y fomentar la participación y la capacitación de las mujeres y las niñas en este sector.
  • Ensure the ethical, transparent and verifiable use of educational data and algorithms: consider the ethical, legal and social aspects of data and algorithms used in artificial intelligence for education. Adopt measures to prevent bias, protect data privacy and security, and regulate the development and use of artificial intelligence tools for educational purposes. Encourage research on the potential negative effects of artificial intelligence on human rights and gender equality.
  • Monitoring, evaluation and research: stress the need for systematic studies on artificial intelligence in education, both in its positive and negative aspects. Support interdisciplinary research, innovation and analysis on AI applications, as well as foster international cooperation in this field. Develop monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to measure the impact of artificial intelligence in education and guide educational policies.

As a conclusion….

With the Beijing Consensus as a roadmap, the horizon of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into education is emerging as both a major challenge and an unprecedented opportunity. The recommendations of the Beijing Consensus stand as fundamental pillars for harnessing the opportunities that AI offers in education, while diligently addressing the inherent challenges. The key lies in the ability to merge the transformative power of artificial intelligence with the power of fundamental human rights and values.