As the debate of automation destroying jobs hits the headlines more and more often, an expert in education has claimed that robots could soon replace teachers, – but this debate is missing the key point.
In the era of the national curriculum do we really need teachers? It does seem as if there is no need for teachers to bring their creativity to the classroom, or an innovative approach, what they must teach and to an extent how, is dictated to them from on high.
So why not have a robot in front of the class, saying, “now then, children, get your books out?” And “you! This is your last warning, if you do not be quiet now I will exterminate you.”
But that is not exactly how Sir Anthony Seldon, a British education expert sees it. Speaking at the British Science Festival was looking at how software might teach: “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.”
Sir Anthony said: “It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington education for all.”
Of course, there are already services such as The Khan Academy, providing online learning and access to the best teachers in the world and MOOCs – massive open online learning courses that are transforming education.
But educators must not overlook a very important point.
Us, that’s homo sapiens, are social creatures. Anthropologists such as Robin Dunbar even suggest the reason why our brains are as big as they are, and the reason why speech evolved, was to promote social interaction.
School is not just about teaching academic subjects – it is about teaching us how to work as part of a team, how to interact with others, how to be the very thing that evolution created us to be, social animals.
That is why play matters, that is why sport or games matter, that is why classroom discussion matter that is why after-school clubs matter.
We may not need teachers to teach us maths, or the rules of grammar, or how to program, but we do need help in advancing social skills, in human to human interactions, and to support that we surely need human guides.