China to build brain science labs to nurture smarter students

Updated 2018-01-27 11:24:02 Xinhua

Chinese students are known for their focus on rote learning and high test scores, much of which has been attributed to the rise of tutoring companies. Now more and more companies are working on how to alleviate the burdens on students with artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Tomorrow Advancing Life (TAL), a Chinese K-12 education company, unveiled its brain science program in Beijing Thursday, announcing a plan to build six global labs with the assistance of scientists from universities like Stanford.

"The latest brain science research has proven the possibility of nurturing smarter brains using AI technology. Once we know how brains react to one specific course they are learning, we can provide personalized courses to different students so as to fully activate their brains," said Huang Yan, TAL's chief technology officer.

Within three years, it will build 500-member research and development team who specialize in AI and brain science application, according to Huang.

"On the one hand, we will monitor trainee's brain functions with class observation and diagnosis in a bid to build a system that can track learning process effectively. On the other hand, we will upgrade the assessment scale accordingly," said Yang Ying, head of the program, also a neuroscience researcher.

Products must be designed under scientific guidance and based on the data collected from real learning situations, said Yang.

According to a KPMG study released last year, venture capital investment in China shifted from big data in 2015 towards AI in 2017.

Transformational new technology such as AI or digital technology are bringing new personalized education to both tutoring centers and formal schools.

Chinese high-tech companies like Baidu and iFlytek have spent big in applying their cutting edge technology to the field of education. IFlytek opened a free automated test scoring platform in 2014, which has attracted more than 10,000 schools.

"Teachers can detect a student's learning pattern from mistakes they have made. The platform has enabled teachers to focus more on class interaction, instead of test scores," said Jiang Tao, vice president of iFlytek.

Over the past decade, Chinese government spending on research has seen double-digit growth on average annually, according to the KPMG study. China is aiming to nurture well-rounded talent who can face fierce competition in the future, instead of pedants.

"One good thing about the brain science program is it can make learning more efficient allowing students more spare time for arts, PE or projects that can arouse their interests and promote critical thinking," said Huang.

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