Why AI and climate change will help set the education agenda in 2024

Adapting to advancing technology and highlighting sustainability will be key to the evolution of learning

The 42 Abu Dhabi coding school is part of the education sector's technology revolution. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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The emergence of artificial intelligence as a cutting-edge learning tool and efforts to educate future generations on the climate crisis are likely to dominate classrooms around the globe in 2024 and beyond, experts said.

Generative artificial intelligence and personalisation of learning are expected to be at the heart of a rapidly-evolving education sector responsible for preparing young people for the workplace of tomorrow.

Assessment methods will change, while the concept of life-long learning will take off, said education experts in the UAE and the US.

Generative AI is being heralded as the biggest game-changer in education since the internet boom of the 1990s.

How generative AI is changing education

Marcos Muller Habig, acting chief executive of 42 Abu Dhabi – a tuition-free coding school – said ChatGPT will play a critical role in transforming how we learn and teach.

“I expect to see a much larger and more open embrace of generative AI [in the coming year].

"With AI and personalisation learning, we're seeing personalised tutors, where pupils can ask questions in their own way and receive an answer tailored to them.

"All of this is AI-generated, which is amazing, it's very personal and it allows them to be able to hone in on doubts or challenges and the artificial intelligence tool is able to kind of give them tailored help, to really help them to understand the concepts.

“More and more, what we're going to end up seeing is this adapting of assessments ... that needs to happen in order for students to be able to convey their knowledge, rather than it coming from ChatGPT for example.

"ChatGPT can write an essay, but when it's an essay about your own experience, it can't do that."

He said generative AI was also helping educators to write better, more readable, more consistent feedback for students and to speed up their work, allowing them to devote more time to their pupils and lesson plans.

Despite the technology revolution, he said traditional exams will continue to be vital to assessing the abilities of learners.

"On the flip side, I think research papers will need to be more tailored, as well as essays," he said.

Rise of AI - in pictures

Paul Almeida, dean at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, said that with the growth of AI, institutions are exploring AI-driven learning methods, and using generative AI to redefine teaching methodologies.

McDonough School of Business announced the launch of its executive MBA programme in collaboration with Dubai International Financial Centre in September.

"With personalisation, students gain the autonomy to customise their learning based on individual strengths and preferences, aligning their skillsets with the evolving requirements of the global job market," Mr Almeida said.

He said traditional classrooms were evolving into adaptable, technology-rich spaces aimed at fostering interactive and collaborative learning.

“Recognising the growing significance of AI in the contemporary workforce, educational institutions are actively incorporating these advancements into their academic programmes," he said.

Their executive MBA programme in Dubai will offer courses such as AI & Future of Work, designed to explore the effect of AI on the talent ecosystem.

Green education drive

The future of the planet is a pressing concern for governments, scientists, activists, and, of course, future generations who will be key to steering the climate agenda for decades to come.

Sustainability has become a major topic for scholarship, teaching and practice for business schools in particular, and universities in general, throughout the world.

"The emphasis on sustainability has been driven in part by students. They care deeply about the future of the earth and they see themselves as playing an important role in shaping this future," Mr Almeida said.

"Universities are in a unique position to examine the science and practice of sustainability and influence policy and practice both in the private and public sector."

One of the UAE's leading education groups is to launch a net-zero school in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City next September.

Gems Education said Gems Founders School Masdar City will generate as much energy as it consumes, helping to cut its carbon footprint and support the UAE's green drive.

Ne’ma – the National Food Loss and Waste Initiative – in collaboration with the Japan International Co-operation Centre (JICE) and Aldar Education completed a pilot of the seven-day ne’ma Diary challenge for school pupils in November.

In the pilot, 32 pupils from Yasmina British Academy School in Abu Dhabi kept a diary and recorded food waste during their daily meals.

Sahar Cooper, chief executive officer of Aldar Education, said: “The ne'ma Diary empowered our students to understand food waste's implications and helped us foster a culture of accountability and mindfulness further.

"We see participating in such programmes as seeds planted today, nurturing tomorrow's leaders equipped with the consciousness and determination to create a more sustainable world – one plate, one mindful choice, at a time.”

Lifelong learning will become more relevant

Mr Almeida said that the business world is changing continuously, rapidly and, often, in fairly unpredictable ways.

He said to thrive in this changing world, professionals could no longer depend on the education they received 10 or 20 years previously when topics such as sustainability or AI were barely addressed.

"Lifelong learning has become a critical need for professionals seeking to thrive in a changing economy, where skills, jobs and careers continuously evolve," he said.

"Countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia are committed to rapid economic growth and diversification through initiatives such as We the UAE 2031, and Vision 2030.

"For these countries, lifelong learning that helps to create an up-to-date skilled and adaptable workforce, becomes even more important."

Updated: December 28, 2023, 3:00 AM