Japan eyes AI robots to teach English

Tokyo: English-speaking AI robots will be helping out in some 500 Japanese classrooms from next year as the country seeks to improve its English skills among both children and teachers.

The education ministry plans a pilot project costing around 250 million yen ($227,000) to improve Japanese students’ notoriously weak oral and written English, an official said.

“AI robots already on the market have various functions. For example, they can check the pronunciation of each student’s English, which is difficult for teachers to do,” added the official. AI robots are “just one example of the trial and we are planning other measures” such as using tablet apps and having online lessons with native speakers, he said.

Why need for appointing robots arises

  • The move comes ahead of a change in the national curriculum in two years that will require children from the age of 10 to learn English.
  • Japanese schools struggle to find qualified teachers for English classes and generally lack the cash to hire trained language assistants.
  • Some primary and middle schools have already turned to technology to bolster English teaching, introducing English-speaking AI robots in the classroom.

    India also needs better training

  • Aspiring Minds, a company that focuses on assessing student employability, found that about 78% of 55,000 Indian graduates surveyed in 2011 struggle in the English language.
  • A 2014 report found that Indians who speak English fluently earn up to 34% more than those who don’t speak the language.
  • However, the 2001 census data reports that 10.4% of the population claimed to speak English as a second or third language.

(With inputs from Agencies)