TRADE Undersecretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba said workers and students must be prepared for the looming introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly generative AI.
Ms. Aldaba, who heads the Competitiveness and Innovation Group at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said that according to a study by EDBI and Kearney, the successful implementation of AI in the Philippines could contribute $92 billion to the economy, equivalent to around 12% of gross domestic product.
“But we all know that in order for us to be able to take full advantage of these opportunities, it is important to equip our workforce. We need to have future-ready skills in an AI-powered future,” said Ms. Aldaba, who was speaking at the Asian Development Bank’s 10th International Skills Forum.
She said the digital divide, lack of regulation, and unresolved ethical issues continue to hinder AI progress.
“On the digital divide, not all students have equal access to technology and the internet. Some lack the necessary devices or internet connectivity, creating disparities in their ability to benefit from AI-powered educational resources,” she said.
Anant Agarwal, founder and chief executive officer of online learning platform EdX, said at a panel discussion at the ADB forum that AI can help both learners and teachers.
In particular, he said that learners can make use of AI tutors which allow students, wherever they are in the world, to ask questions in the language they speak.
“The tutor is available at all times, understands all languages, and can explain things to you in a way that can really help you understand the material,” Mr. Agarwal said.
He said that when the AI tutor was introduced in the EdX platform, the volume of student questions rose by a factor of six.
Mr. Agarwal said teachers can use AI as a co-pilot that can translate video transcripts and create summaries, among others.
Ms. Aldaba said students and educators have varying levels of digital literacy and proficiency which can affect their ability to effectively use AI tools.
“AI should be used to bridge educational disparities, not exacerbate them. Ensuring that AI tools are accessible and beneficial to all students, including those with disabilities and for out of school youth, is going to be crucial,” she said.
She added that the use of AI raises privacy concerns as it collects and analyzes student data for personalized learning.
“For us to be able to build this AI ecosystem, trust is a fundamental element and ethical AI in education should provide clear explanations of how decisions are being made,” she said.
Ms. Aldaba said that AI algorithms can inherit biases from the training which could potentially disadvantage certain student groups.
“Ensuring fairness and mitigating bias in AI systems is a critical ethical concern,” she added.
Yaacob bin Ibrahim, professor-in-practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said there is a need to look at how AI can be used in an ethical manner.
“Like all tools, it is designed around data, which is not perfect. And so, you have the problem of discrimination and bias,” he said.
“Most legislations have guidelines in place to make sure your data is clean, fidelity is good, and integrity is good,” he added.
He also added that AI should not be seen as something that can replace educators, instead calling it a means of heightening human interaction.
“It is merely a tool … It is supposed to be supplementing education, not replacing it,” he added.
He said that the relationship between the teacher and the student is a “human enterprise that can never be replaced.”
Ms. Aldaba said that to address these challenges, the government must have in place data privacy regulation, ethical guidelines for AI usage in education, equity policies that address the digital divide, and policies that support teacher training in AI literacy.
“We need to implement accountability frameworks that hold educational institutions and AI providers responsible for the ethical and effective use of AI in education. We also need to create mechanisms for regular oversight and auditing of AI systems in education to identify and rectify the ethical issues,” she added.
She said that international collaboration and standards should be encouraged to ensure consistency and ethical best practices in AI-powered education.
“AI in education holds the promise of personalized learning and improved outcomes, but it must be implemented responsibly with careful consideration of the digital divide, ethical issues and appropriate policies that would safeguard our students and educators,” she added. — Justine Irish D. Tabile