ChatGPT in UAE schools is the way ahead

With tools in place to counter the misuse of the technology, schools that adopt it are on the right track

Teachers during a workshop on a ChatGPT bot in Geneva, on February 1. AFP
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In November last year, when a revolutionary new technology called ChatGPT entered the lexicon, it led to curiosity, created discussions across the globe and even caused understandable alarm in academic circles. Considering that the technology has been around for only a little over two months, concerns about the scope of ChatGPT, or Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, are still emerging. More people, including parents and students, around the world, will gradually comprehend what the software really is, what it is capable of, and indeed, what educators in classrooms are up against.

Here in the UAE, embracing technology and keeping pace with it is a part of what makes the country oriented towards the future. So it is quite fitting that some schools will embrace ChatGPT and, equally, the challenges that come with it. Schools that intend to adopt this technology are on the right track. It is for them to also assuage parents' and teachers' fears related to the use of generative AI. Those fears could be related to the honesty and integrity with which pupils do their coursework and take their exams from now on.

It needs to be borne in mind that throughout history, humans have created new technologies and innovations to which people have had to adapt, so actions such as outright banning ChatGPT are not the solution, as some schools in countries such as the US have set out to do. To create a distance with a new idea such as ChatGPT could prove futile, just as preventing children from using digital devices or completing their assignments on an iPad is. These restrictions can ultimately prove detrimental and counterproductive and impede the gaining of a complete education in today's times.

To create a distance with a new idea such as ChatGPT could prove futile

The UAE has clarity about the benefits and inevitable progress to be reaped from adopting new technologies – be it in education or transport or space travel – that enhance modern life, and thus the ineffectiveness of standing in the way of time, as it were. This is why the country is able to keep pace with rapid developments across specialised areas.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Omar Al Olama, the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, said: "Science and technology are fundamental parts of growth for the future of our economy and our industrial sectors."

There is no denying that educators have a new challenge on their hands. Equally, however, they have an advantage. Never before have they had a greater arsenal at their disposal to tackle issues such as plagiarism, with tools and apps such as ZeroGPT to detect if students have completed assignments on their own, or taken the easier way, using an AI tool.

As the technology evolves, and we learn more about the workings of a software that can generate text – and indeed, produce essays and other coursework for students – we also learn about safeguards and how these technologies can be prevented from being misused. It is that balance and judicious use, along with accepting new technologies, that can enable progress, even as the future looks inconceivably different from what one is used to.

Published: February 17, 2023, 2:00 AM