Towards a EU legal framework on artificial intelligence

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While the debate around the risks and benefits linked to the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education is gaining momentum, the EU institutions are going a step forward to regulate the use of artificial intelligence in the education sector.  

On 21 April 2021, the EU Commission adopted a proposal for the first-ever legal framework on Artificial Intelligence, following a broad public consultation to which ETUCE contributed in 2020. The EU Commission’s initiative proposes a structured regulation to address the challenges that the use of Artificial Intelligence poses in all sectors, including education.

ETUCE welcomes the fact that that the EU Commission’s proposal identifies the use of Artificial Intelligence in education as a “high-risk”, affirming that “such systems may violate the right to education and training as well as the right not to be discriminated against and perpetuate historical patterns of discrimination”. Indeed, in the ETUCE statement on the European Commission White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, education trade unions expressed their concern regarding the long-term impact of AI on education quality and inclusion in education as well as, on working conditions and health and safety of teachers and other education personnel. To address these risks, the EU Commission’s proposal requires that AI tools used in education must comply with stricter requirements to guarantee quality, transparency, trustworthiness, and security. Furthermore, users must receive adequate information about the risks associated with the AI systems.

Despite appreciating the EU Commission’s suggestions, ETUCE underlines that when it comes to education, it is crucial to provide teachers with adequate and free of charge training and continuous professional development on the best way to use AI systems in their professional context. The need of developing training programmes for teachers to acquire adequate AI literacy is also supported by the European Parliament in a resolution on artificial intelligence in education adopted on 19 May 2021. The EU Parliament made clear that artificial intelligence must not replace the fundamental role of teachers in education.

Education trade unions have a crucial role to play in addressing the risks of artificial intelligence in education. It is of utmost importance for education social partners to be involved in the upcoming governance systems to monitor the implementation of the regulation, such as the European Artificial Intelligence Board, through meaningful social dialogue, both at national and European level.

At the trade union level, ETUCE is working on a proposal for resolution on Artificial Intelligence to be adopted by the ETUCE Extra-ordinary Conference in July 2021.

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