Artificial intelligence in the service of education to improve academic success

On Monday, March 14, Canada’s Education Minister Jean-François Roberge and Éric Caire, Minister for Cybersecurity and Digital Affairs, announced a $10.6 million investment over two years aimed at upgrading all of the School Service Centers (CSS ) to digitize collected data ). Artificial intelligence will make it possible to identify students at risk and come to their aid quickly, thereby improving academic success.

The Minister of Education recalled the difficulty that the education services have encountered during the pandemic to know the number of positive cases in class, absenteeism, etc. He also explained:

” Any [de ces] Educational information was easily accessible and quickly accessible. Each time it was an educational obstacle course and we had to collect all this information manually, through surveys, questionnaires, reporting. »

He added:

“It’s an old way of collecting data that has slowed us down. Our schools, our school service centers, are gold mines of information and data. You had to be able to drill in the right place and pull it out. »

Pretty promising use of AI

This AI tool is already being tested in some Canadian CSSs to predict which teens are most likely to drop out. It is based on school results, but also on absenteeism, behavioral problems, etc. The school administration receives a list of these students every month, the educational teams can react quickly to help these young people. Daniel Bellemare, director general of the Center de services scolaire in Cœur-des-Vallées in Outaouais, where the experiment has been taking place for about two years, said:

“It’s a really incredible tool, it allows us to spot students who are in a gray area and have fallen into a rift before. »

and adds:

“The school team, which no longer has to carry out the data analysis themselves with the available resources, has more time to take care of its students. »

At the CSS in Cœur-des-Vallées in Outaouais and at that in Val-des-Cerfs in Estrie, the use of digital intelligence has enabled over 90% of the most vulnerable students to be identified as soon as they arrive at Secondary 1. The Minister of Education clarified:

“We are not making the school teams’ work any harder,” stressed Minister Roberge. We don’t come and tell the teachers what to do. We don’t play in the pedagogy of the classes. We come to facilitate the work of school teams, reduce the severity of accounting bureaucracy by extracting data and sharing information. »

Guaranteed privacy

The data analyzed relates to absenteeism and academic success, but also concerns staffing needs and infrastructure maintenance. All this data is anonymized and translated into dashboards. Minister Eric Caire clarified:

“The Quebec government must be cyberparanoid. Given that we are still working with huge amounts of data, I would like to assure Quebecers: every measure is being taken to ensure the cybersecurity of this information. »

“This first major effort by the government of Quebec in artificial intelligence” by Eric Caire is produced with the help of the Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence (MILA), the Institute for Data Valorization (IVADO), the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Technology (OBVIA) and GRICS, an information technology in education field specialized company.

Mixed reception by the educational team

The teachers said they are aware of the need to go digital, but want to make sure it’s done correctly and that human judgment is taken into account, among other things. Éric Gingras, president of the teachers’ union CSQ, said:

“No matter how effective a model, it will always remain a model. At the end of the day, it will always take someone to make a professional judgement. These guides will not be able to consider a student’s entire journey, their strengths and weaknesses, their development as only educational staff can. »

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