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Governments must quickly regulate Generative AI in schools, UNESCO

GENEVA, Switzerland – As pupils in part of the world return to school after the summer break, UNESCO is calling on governments to implement appropriate regulations and teacher training, to ensure a human-centred approach to using Generative AI in education. To this end, UNESCO published the first-ever global Guidance on Generative AI in Education and Research, designed to address the disruptions caused by Generative AI technologies.

Building on UNESCO’s 2021 Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and the 2019 Beijing Consensus on Artificial Intelligence in Education, the guidance promotes human agency, inclusion, equity, gender equality and cultural and linguistic diversity. The Guidance also responds to the concerns expressed at the first global ministerial roundtable on generative AI convened by UNESCO in May 2023.

“Generative AI can be a tremendous opportunity for human development, but it can also cause harm and prejudice. It cannot be integrated into education without public engagement, and the necessary safeguards and regulations from governments. This UNESCO Guidance will help policymakers and teachers best navigate the potential of AI for the primary interest of learners,” said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general.

The first sections of the UNESCO Guidance explain what Generative AI is and how it works. The following sections elaborate on the controversies around Generative AI and their implications for education, in particular how it is worsening digital data divides. Indeed, current ChatGPT models are trained on data from online users which reflect the values and dominant social norms of the Global North.

An age limit of 13

The UNESCO Guidance sets out seven key steps for governments should take to regulate Generative AI and establish policy frameworks for its ethical use in education and research, including through the adoption of global, regional or national data protection and privacy standards. It also sets an age limit of 13 for the use of AI tools in the classroom and calls for teacher training on this subject.

Lack of governance of Gen AI in the classroom

Generative AI hit public awareness in November 2022 with the launch of ChatGPT, which became the fastest-growing app in history. With the power to generate outputs such as text, images, videos, music and software codes, Generative AI tools have far-reaching implications for education and research.

Yet the education sector is largely unprepared for the ethical and pedagogical integration of these rapidly evolving tools. A recent UNESCO global survey of over 450 schools and universities showed that less than 10 percent of them had institutional policies and/or formal guidance concerning the use of generative AI applications, largely due to the absence of national regulations.

In June 2023, UNESCO warned that the use of Generative AI in schools was being rolled out at a rapid pace, with a worrying lack of public scrutiny, checks, or regulations.

The Organization released a paper revealing that publishing a new textbook requires more authorizations than the use of Generative AI tools in the classroom.



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