We must change the education system
Hugh Graham

Time brings about a haunting realisation that everything under the sun, and even the sun itself, is finite. This teaches that it matters not what we do, change is inevitable.

Children are generally significantly more tolerant to change, as adulthood robs us of this tolerance as we age. The explanation for our resistance or reluctance to change is very simple. Change is a relentless assault on our structural integrity. Many of us have spent years tracing steps along paths stomped in by past generations that either led us in the right direction or didn't. We resist, we fight, and we detract to great success... until change loses its patience. Well, it appears change has lost its patience and set ChatGPT in motion. Now with little to no access barrier to the AI, we will have no choice but to rethink assessment.

For those who don't already know, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched in November 2022. To put it simply, imagine a robot that you can ask almost anything and get a valid answer and have it perform almost any task more efficiently than most people. For example, you may ask it to write you a whole novel, textbook or essay about anything. What does that have to do with our education system? Well, this AI is so advanced that even experts struggle to distinguish between the work it generates versus the work of a human being. Consequently, many students and content creators have taken to having the bot complete their work for them. Of course, you may say it is a regulatory issue and all we have to do is bar its use from certain people. However, that much is simply not possible due to its accessibility.

I have been petitioning for a change in our education system to one that embraces critical thinking and analysis. I have been calling for a system that reveals aptitudes and places less emphasis on an individual's ability to recall information. Why does this matter? The accessibility of information has drastically reduced the value of one's ability to simply store and recall information. When the information was not so reachable, it was fine to focus on regurgitation, but the advent of information technology has granted us a head start; we already have reliable access to the information so we can now place more emphasis on what we do with the information.

ChatGPT has also brought a set of advantages with it. For instance, it can write essays on almost any subject. How about instead of tasking a student to write an essay, we move to having the student critique an AI-generated essay or otherwise, then assess their ability to write an essay based on how well they can critique one. Of course, this is not a perfect strategy, but it is the line of thinking that has got us from the point of counting on our fingers to normalising calculators in classrooms.

It would be far more productive to embrace AI and evolve our systems by incorporating it in our learning and teaching. We have made large advances in recent years in understanding pedagogy – the science of learning. However, we are yet to present the most effective methods of imparting and onboarding information. We have got as far as to acknowledge that there are different learning styles for each individual. Yet, we can do better. We were all students at some point, so we know of instances where teachers have had to dig deep to present examples upon examples in order for every student to grasp a concept. Well, ChatGPT has the ability to general a multitude of examples and explanations so as opposed to banning the AI from the classroom, have the teachers wield it as another item in their arsenal? No, the answer to ChatGPT is not to make all forms of assessment face to face so as to outlaw and police its involvement. That is a lazy attempt at preserving a system that was designed for an era that has long passed.

We have all heard someone say "education is the key" in some capacity but how strongly do we believe this to be true? Our initial reaction to ChatGPT and advanced systems like it will be our answer. I am not saying we should jump to embrace every new tech. I understand much of our scepticism, especially about things we don't understand, but we shouldn't be petrified by our ignorance. It is our duty as elected leaders to learn about new systems and entertain the idea of advancements that can improve our society. Without an open mind, the road to development will always be closed to us.

Hugh Graham is Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Western; Opposition spokesman on commerce, science and technology; and CEO of Paramount Trading Company Ltd.

Hugh Graham

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