By Favour Chiagozie Ebubechukwu
In 2018, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics reported that Nigeria has the largest population of out-of-school children in the world, with an estimated 10.1 million children out of school. This deeply concerning statistic underscores the urgent need for innovative solutions to address the education crisis gripping the nation. However, amidst the darkness, a ray of hope emerges through the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In this article, we embark on the uncharted territory of AI in education through the insights shared by Prof. Olumide, a leading expert in the field. As we delve into his recommendations in the following sections, we discover a roadmap for leveraging AI to combat the education crisis plaguing Nigeria, emphasizing the importance of fairness, unbiased development, and the mitigation of potential negative consequences.
AI-Based Initiatives: A Dynamic Opportunity for Collaborative Solutions: In response to the lack of AI-based initiatives targeting out-of-school children in Nigeria, Prof. Olumide highlighted the dynamic opportunity for multidisciplinary collaborations across fields and sectors to develop indigenous solutions using AI. He emphasized that collaboration can better address the problems and challenges, particularly with school enrollments in Nigeria. Building upon Prof. Olumide’s insights, it is crucial for educational institutions, policymakers, and industry leaders to proactively establish collaborative partnerships to pool resources, expertise, and knowledge. This could involve creating joint initiatives or consortiums focused on developing AI-driven solutions that address the specific challenges of out-of-school children in Nigeria, such as economic barriers, geographic accessibility, gender inequality, conflict and insecurity, quality education, cultural and linguistic diversity, among others. Such collaborative efforts will ensure comprehensive and sustainable progress. Ensuring Fairness and Unbiased AI Applications: Prof. Olumide emphasized the need to involve AI experts in the policy formulation process. He stated, “Our policymakers will need to go beyond the paper and pencil era and engage AI experts as part of policy formulation teams.” He highlighted that by involving AI experts in policy formulation teams, biases can be identified and rectified, as these experts can contribute to data gathering, engine development, and advisory roles to align AI systems with desired outcomes. Their insights can aid in creating guidelines and frameworks that promote transparency, accountability, and ethical AI practices, such as establishing clear guidelines for data collection and usage in AI systems, and creating interpretable models that provide insights into how decisions are made, allowing for better understanding and identification of potential biases. This way, Nigeria can foster an inclusive AI ecosystem that addresses biases, ensures fairness, and upholds the principles of equity in education.
Mitigating Potential Negative Consequences: Prof. Olumide aptly acknowledged that every technology, including AI, has its drawbacks. He mentioned the challenges associated with technologies like ChatGPT and highlighted the importance of awareness creation, policy formulation, and enhanced security measures for AI systems in education. Therefore, to mitigate potential negative consequences, Nigerian educational institutions, policymakers, and industry leaders must prioritize comprehensive awareness campaigns. These campaigns should educate stakeholders about the benefits and limitations of AI in education while emphasizing responsible and ethical use. Robust policies and guidelines must also be established to govern AI implementation, ensuring transparency, privacy protection, and data security. Additionally, conducting regular audits and assessments are crucial to identify unintended consequences and refine AI systems for optimal results.
The Biggest Opportunity for AI in Nigerian Education: In closing, Prof. Olumide underscored the potential of AI as recommender systems, highlighting their impact on students, scholars, researchers, industry professionals, faculty members, and policymakers. According to him, “AI recommender systems can guide students by suggesting areas of collaboration, predict student performance, recommend suitable teaching styles and tools for faculty members, and assist policymakers in evidence-based decision-making.” By embracing AI as recommender systems and harnessing their predictive capabilities, Nigeria can unlock the transformative potential of AI in education. Personalized recommendations, tailored support, and data-driven insights will empower individuals and institutions to optimize their learning experiences, foster collaboration, and drive positive educational outcomes.
In essence, Prof. Olumide’s insights hinge on addressing the challenges faced by out-of-school children in Nigeria through collaborative efforts, ensuring fairness and unbiased AI applications, mitigating potential negative consequences, and leveraging AI as recommender systems. By implementing these recommendations, Nigeria can chart a path towards revolutionizing education, providing equitable access, and fostering quality learning for all.
Ebubechukwu is a graduate of English Education from the Lagos State University