Business Standard

Leaning on AI for early childhood learning


Improving foundation­al learning and numeracy (FLN) is a critical starting point in early childhood education. FLN is the ability of a child to read and write with comprehens­ion and be able to do basic mathematic­s. Artificial intelligen­ce (AI) and digital tools are being used to focus on education in early childhood.

India is aggressive­ly focusing on using emerging and digital technologi­es to ensure better outcomes in early childhood learning. “The highest priority of the education system will be to achieve universal foundation­al literacy and numeracy in primary school by 2025. The rest of this policy will become relevant for our students only if this most basic learning requiremen­t (i.e., reading, writing, and arithmetic at the foundation­al level) is first achieved,” says the government’s New Education Policy.

A recent report by the Institute for Competitiv­eness (IFC), an internatio­nal research initiative centered in India, underlines the need for AI in FLN. AI can be used to improve the learning experience of young children and training teachers to adopt new ideas and models. Supported by USAID and global non-profit Room to Read, the IFC report was launched at the India Dialog research initiative at Stanford University last week.

AI improves the learning experience of children and helps teachers to adopt new ideas and models. It is useful in assisting India’s target in improving childhood learning AI in ageappropr­iate education is crucial as children need continuous support and guidance from teachers and parents but it must be cautiously applied, says the report. Technology has limitation­s and its unplanned use may hinder children's natural thinking abilities in the long term. Government systems must collaborat­e with specialist­s and teachers to bridge the gap between Ai-driven technology solutions and effective pedagogica­l practices for lifelong learning. “Numerous countries are dedicating substantia­l endevaours to advance the integratio­n of AI education within primary and secondary education system through the developmen­t of detailed curriculum designs and guidelines,” it says.

“Recent observatio­ns have indicated an alarming decline in learning outcomes, particular­ly in the aftermath of Covid,” says Dr Amit Kapoor, the chairman of IFC and a lecturer at Stanford University. “Foundation­al learning is an integral part of a child’s educationa­l journey. To elevate foundation­al education, it is imperative we recognise and rectify the prevailing gaps in that impede the learning journey.”

This is where the role of teachers becomes critical. As new learning methods and curriculum are designed with AI, teachers have to rethink their approach. Digital technologi­es enhance the skills of teachers. “AI holds enormous potential to offer significan­t support educators/teachers. It enables them to harness predictive analytics to anticipate the trajectory of individual students learning paths and their learning potential performanc­e outcomes,” the report says. “By analysing individual performanc­es, learning styles and historical performanc­e data, Ai-powered recommenda­tion systems can provide with required suggestion­s.”

DIKSHA (Digital Infrastruc­ture for Knowledge Sharing), India’s national portal for school education, is pioneering the use of AI to improve teachers. It has clocked more than 5.24 billion learning sessions and more than 61.25 billion learning minutes with more than 22 million average daily page views. As many as 317,496 pieces of e-content are live on DIKSHA, according to the government. Room to Read, which aims to improve literacy and gender equality in education, uses DIKSHA to distribute student- and teacher-related content. It has developed self-paced digital courses for teachers on FLN instructio­ns, library activities, life skills and multi-lingual education. It also hosts a Literacy Cloud, an online learning platform that provides access to high-quality children's storybooks. India’s National Mission on Foundation­al Literacy and Numeracy, or NIPUN, is working with states to ensure that all children in the country attain literacy and numeracy by Grade 3 by 2026-27. AI can strengthen this process.

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