Artificial Intelligence in education must not undermine the professional role of teachers

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On 7 June 2021, the ETUCE Bureau adopted the ETUCE position on the EU Regulation of Artificial Intelligence. The Regulation was proposed by the European Commission on 21 April 2021 and aims to lay down harmonised rules for the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in all sectors by using a risk-based approach.

In its position, ETUCE welcomes the classification of AI tools in education as high-risk and supports the proposal to introduce stricter horizontal legal requirements before authorising on the market the AI systems for the education sector. However, ETUCE calls for clear and binding measures, including ethical guidelines, to tackle the numerous AI-related concerns such as trustworthiness, accountability, privacy, equality and transparency of AI systems.

Besides underlining that Artificial Intelligence in education should be developed in accordance with the professional needs of teachers, ETUCE demands the interdiction of AI tools designed to replace or de-professionalise teachers and education personnel. Considering the rapid expansion of Ed-tech companies and increasing commercialisation and privatisation in education, ETUCE underlines the importance to protect the public value of education from private interests. The position calls for more public responsibility of the governments that should actively develop public platforms for online teaching, in full respect of professional autonomy and academic freedom of teachers and other education personnel.

As the Regulation suggests the establishment of a governance system, ETUCE highlights that teachers, academics and other education personnel need to be engaged as co-creators of AI tools in education rather than as mere users. Besides, it is crucial to actively involve education social partners in the forthcoming ‘Artificial Intelligence Board’, in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Regulation, through regular consultations and social dialogue both at the national and European level.

Regarding the transparency and trustworthiness of AI systems, ETUCE highlights that providing information on AI systems is not enough if teachers and students are not provided with the adequate digital skills to interpret them. Therefore, ETUCE requires the introduction of digital, AI and data literacy in school curricula and teachers’ initial and continuous professional development as well as equal access to the ICT tools for all teachers and students. At this scope, it is essential to ensure adequate public investment at the national and European level such as through Digital Europe, Horizon Europe and the National Recovery and Resilience Facility.      

Lastly, due to the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities in STEAM fields[1], ETUCE sees a risk in the emergence of biases when developing and training AI system. Consequently, providing further sustainable investment to encourage diversity in the STEAM sector should be a priority.

ETUCE member organisations are encouraged to use the ETUCE position to provide their feedback on this legislative proposal that is open to public consultation until 6 August 2021.


Read more:

Public Consultation on Regulation for Artificial Intelligence

The ETUCE position on the EU Regulation on Artificial Intelligence can be found here


[1] STEAM fields are the areas of science, technology, engineering, the (liberal) arts, and mathematics.