How AI and ML are helping tackle the global teacher shortage
United Arab Emirates-based global EdTech Alef Education is on a mission to digitally transform the education sector to support its most valuable resource: teachers.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics estimates that the world needs almost 69 million new teachers by 2030 to meet the deadline of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for quality education. But according to latest projections, the world will fail its education commitments without addressing the teacher shortage.
Overwhelming teacher workload is a major contributor to teacher scarcity and the urgency to tackle this imbalance is a key driver for United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based global education technology Alef Education. The forward-thinking organization is shrinking teacher workloads and helping them better manage classrooms through its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform built on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“Each classroom of children has a range of different learning abilities,” Amjad Khan, Director of Technology at Alef Education, explains. “Traditionally, teachers are given a curriculum book and then tasked with creating their own content and segmenting students based on different abilities. That’s a huge workload.”
Alef’s digital learning platform (Alef Platform) saves teachers preparation time by building lessons and culturally appropriate media into its system for core subjects like English, math, and science. As students use the platform, it gathers millions of data points in real-time to help teachers tune into live student feedback.
The sophisticated AI-powered technology also enables students to follow their own personalized learning pathways. “We collect data on how well the student had understood the content,” Mr. Khan says. “This is where AI and the millions of data points that we collect every day come together. We take into account how much time students spent on a lesson. We look into how well they have answered for a particular lesson and at how they have answered in correlation of that lesson with another lesson. This is where we understand each student’s weakness and make it possible for the teacher to be able to help him or her progress and improve.” Meanwhile, auto-grading of lessons through the platform gives teachers more time to teach instead of marking assessments.
The system alerts teachers to learner challenges so they can identify and remediate struggling students as well as tailor support for more advanced students. Early intervention is more beneficial, Khan adds, rather than realizing that a student had difficulty with a topic only after grading a test or exam when it’s “too late” to provide adequate support. “Each teacher has knowledge of exactly where each student is through a real-time dashboard in the classroom, which point in a lesson they are at, and how well they have understood the concept,” Mr. Khan says. “So if there’s a student who is sitting in a corner and is not doing well in a particular concept, the system immediately flags it to the teacher. The teacher can then go speak to the student and help.”
“Ultimately, we want to make sure we reduce the burden for teachers,” Mr. Khan says, adding that building with AWS has made it possible for Alef Education to build faster and to scale. Alef Education leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) services on AWS such as Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed machine learning service for building, training, and deploying machine learning models to better understand student behavior.
“We are not here to solve the problem of infrastructure and scaling. We focus on education and on building a range of products for our users. We could potentially build infrastructure ourselves but I would have to double my team. If I can get it done through AWS for a fraction of the price, it is a no brainer. AWS is also able to continuously innovate new services that allow us to remain focused on solving core problems in education.”
More than 50,000 students across 151 public schools and 38 private schools in the UAE as well as three schools in the United States in New York City and 1 school in Canada currently use the Abu Dhabi-headquartered company’s platform. Alef Education plans to expand into more countries with a vision to digitally transform the education sector globally.