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Machines will replace teachers in inspiring pupils, public school head predicts

Sir Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, says there will be a technological revolution within 10 years.

Inspirational teachers of the future will be intelligent machines rather than humans, the influential former head of one of Britain’s most famous public schools predicts.

Within 10 years a technological revolution will sweep aside old notions of education and change the world forever, Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham believes.

School teachers will lose their traditional role and effectively become little more than classroom assistants.

The former master of Wellington College believes having a machine for a teacher will help pupils learn at their own pace (Steve Parsons/PA)

They will remain on hand to set up equipment, help children when necessary and maintain discipline, said Sir Anthony, a former master of Wellington College.

However, the essential job of instilling knowledge into young minds will wholly be done by artificially intelligent (AI) computers.

Sir Anthony, a historian and political commentator who has written biographies of ex-prime ministers David Cameron, Tony Blair, John Major and Gordon Brown, said: “It certainly will change human life as we know it.

Sir Anthony wrote a biography of former prime minister Tony Blair (Victoria Jones/PA)

“It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington education for all.

“Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalised; the software you’re working with will be with you throughout your education journey. It can move at the speed of the learner.

“This is beyond anything that we’ve seen in the industrial revolution or since with any other new technology.

“These are adaptive machines that adapt to individuals. They will listen to the voices of the learners, read their faces and study them in the way gifted teachers study their students.

“We’re looking at screens which are listening to the voice of the student and reading the face of the student. Reading and comprehending.”

Sir Anthony outlined his vision in a talk at the British Science Festival which took place last week in Brighton.

It will also be the subject of his new book The Fourth Education Revolution, due to be published early next year.

The first revolution consisted of learning the basics of survival – foraging, hunting, growing crops and building shelters – he said.

The second involved the first organised sharing of knowledge and the third was marked by the invention of printing.

In the AI classrooms, each child will progress at his or her own pace, said Sir Anthony.

There would be no more set courses applicable to all students as teaching, carried out by emotionally sensitive machines, would be highly personalised.

Asked if he was suggesting machines would replace the inspirational role of teachers, he said: “I’m desperately sad about this but I’m afraid I am. The machines will be extraordinarily inspirational.

“You’ll still have the humans there walking around during school time, but in fact the inspiration in terms of intellectual excitement will come from the lighting-up of the brain which the machines will be superbly well-geared for.

“The machines will know what it is that most excites you and gives you a natural level of challenge that is not too hard or too easy, but just right for you.”

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