AI brings about the era of smart education
Deloitte China, Intelligent Education Special Committee of Automation Association jointly release Global development of AI-based education
Published: 12 November 2019
Deloitte China and the Intelligent Education Special Committee of Automation Association have jointly released Global development of AI-based education (hereinafter referred to as "the report"), making thorough analysis on the development, application, evolution, investment trends and future prospect of AI-based education in the country. According to the report, AI application in education can be traced back to late 1980s and is currently embracing multidisciplinary development, through integrating with deep learning-based technologies such as natural language processing, speech recognition and image recognition and leveraging big data. Intelligent adaptive learning is the most widely applied AI-based education technology, which stimulates human teachers' one-on-one teaching process, deeply personalized for every type of students. Though still at the initial stage in the application of intelligent adaptive learning technology, China has developed rapidly over the past decade, thanks to its large population and promising market.
Deloitte China Education Industry Leader Charlotte Lu says, "AI technology makes it easier to teach students in accordance with their aptitude, shifting the goal of education from high score to high quality. Through the application of AI technology, educational institutions can provide personalized solutions in alignment with the students' capabilities and needs, thereby improving their learning efficiency; give lessons without human teacher and review the students' performance and exam results based on big data and machine learning; and enable school wide connectivity, cross-campus resource sharing as well as remote access to advanced teaching resources. In a word, AI technology will disrupt traditional education from the three aspects of quality, efficiency and equality."
Regarding the commercial application of AI technology in China's education industry, the report points out that education giants are investing in or independently developing smart education products, while start-ups are providing more targeted solutions, penetrating into different market segments. With data, AI changes the way people study and the channel they access learning materials, understands diversified customer demands and provides customized services. Besides, AI application has led to the trends of mobility, product diversification and online-offline integration in education industry. AI application in education is transforming the roles of players in the industry and creating opportunities for new entrants. AI-based education, with more application scenarios being created and users expanding from students and the employed to organizations such as tutoring centers and schools, becomes the investment focus of relevant industries for the next stage and attracts start-ups to take advantage of innovative technologies. In addition, AI technology is changing the role of both governmental and non-governmental education supporting organizations, which are sparing more efforts to build smart campus.
With a promising future, AI-based education is drawing the attention of global capital market. The report indicates that, based on rough statistics about investment in AI-based education across the world from 2016 to Q1 2019, US companies obtained approximately half of global investment in this sector, i.e. over USD2.3 billion. The number of AI adaptive learning companies, being the mainstream of AI-based education, has exceeded 100, of which 52 were from the United States. AI-based education companies are largely located in countries or regions with advantages in AI technology including India, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Israel and China.
The report also includes analysis about investment in Chinese AI-based education companies. As Charlotte suggests, "Although China is a late-comer in AI-based education, its unique advantages in application and implementation make it one of the most popular regions of investment in AI-based education globally. According to the statistics about AI-based education investment in China from 2016 to Q1 2019, AI-based education companies located in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the developed tier-one cities, have obtained the most investment. Meanwhile, more capital is flowing to tier-two and tier-three cities."
K12, education informatization, language and quality-oriented education are the most popular segments for investment in AI-based education. Early childhood education and vocational education companies adopting AI have also raised certain amount of funds. AI-based education start-ups obtain early-round financing the most frequently (79 times). The frequency drops rapidly at the transitional stage (41 times) and rises slightly at the growing stage (50 times). The investment of leading players in AI technology is inclining towards more mature start-up projects. VCs and PEs are more rational with a focus on projects with strong technology and implementation. Education giants are accelerating their plans in the white space, bringing about the era of extensive investment and M&As of giants.
The development of China's education sector is approaching towards an intelligent era. Nevertheless, AI-based education is still faced with significant challenges. "Data and algorithms are the core of AI-based education. However, the absence of a closed loop of learning data in the education sector with certain important parts still missing is the key barrier for efficient AI-based evaluation to improve learning performance. We need to rethink the role of AI and education in society. When AI plays the teaching role, human teachers' job changes from "teaching" to "education" as well as communication on an emotional level. Additionally, AI is expected to eliminate some jobs while creating new ones. Thus, we should focus on how AI can enrich industries and jobs of the future, and disrupt existing rules and policies as well as our own culture to quickly adapt to opportunities brought by AI technology", concluded by Charlotte.