Artificial intelligence is here, and our overseeing bodies have recognised that there is little hope of preventing its use among students. They have instead introduced guidance on its use.

The march of technology and more specifically, the advent of the AI chatbot, has brought us to a crossroads in education, with the potential of considerable implications.

If used correctly, AI has the potential to improve all aspects of school life. The flipside is misuse as a flawed research tool for students, who would be able to search results in a fraction of the time, with no ability to verify the results. There is also a very real risk of pupils simply using a chatbot to write for them.

UNESCO is so concerned about the educational ramifications of such a tool that the organisation has published guidelines for its effective use in education. The International Baccalaureate organisation has sanctioned its use by students in their work.

UNESCO’s guidelines on the use of AI

UNESCO published its first response in 2019, which has subsequently been revised. Its current advice reads:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to address some of the biggest challenges in education today, innovate teaching and learning practices, and accelerate progress towards SDG 4. However, rapid technological developments inevitably bring multiple risks and challenges, which have so far outpaced policy debates and regulatory frameworks. UNESCO is committed to supporting Member States to harness the potential of AI technologies for achieving the Education 2030 Agenda, while ensuring that its application in educational contexts is guided by the core principles of inclusion and equity.

 UNESCO’s mandate calls inherently for a human-centred approach to AI. It aims to shift the conversation to include AI’s role in addressing current inequalities regarding access to knowledge, research and the diversity of cultural expressions and to ensure AI does not widen the technological divides within and between countries. The promise of “AI for all” must be that everyone can take advantage of the technological revolution under way and access its fruits, notably in terms of innovation and knowledge.

Furthermore, UNESCO has developed within the framework of the Beijing Consensus a publication aimed at fostering the readiness of education policy-makers in artificial intelligence. This publication, Artificial Intelligence and Education: Guidance for Policy-makers, will be of interest to practitioners and professionals in the policy-making and education communities. It aims to generate a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges that AI offers for education, as well as its implications for the core competencies needed in the AI era.

As one would expect from an organisation designed to support all children, the drive is to use AI to reduce inequality in educational provision. Unfortunately there has not been a great track record of this happening when new innovations are introduced without considerable additional support. In fact, as the impact of COVID demonstrated with the shift from school-based to home-based education, the situation often becomes worse.

To counter the potential for students to use this material and claim it as their own, on March 1 2023, the International Baccalaureate published this response to the use of AI.

Statement from the IB about ChatGPT and artificial intelligence in assessment and education reads:

Latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI) software that can write sophisticated essay responses have generated a great deal of interest and discussion. The IB will not ban the use of AI software. The simplest reason is that it is an ineffective way to deal with innovation. However, the use of AI tools should be in line with the IB’s academic integrity policy. We expect all our schools to discuss the various types of academic misconduct with their students. 

The IB believes that artificial intelligence (AI) technology will become part of our everyday lives—like spell checkers, translation software and calculators. We, therefore, need to adapt and transform our educational programmes and assessment practices so that students can use these new AI tools ethically and effectively. The IB is not going to ban the use of such software but will work with schools to help them support their students on how to use these tools ethically in line with our principles of academic integrity. 

Students should be aware that the IB does not regard any work produced—even only in part—by such tools, to be their own. Therefore, as with any quote or material from another source, it must be clear that AI-generated text, image or graph included in a piece of work, has been copied from such software. The software must be credited in the body of the text and appropriately referenced in the bibliography. As with current practice, an essay which is predominantly quoted will not get many, if any, marks with an IB mark scheme.

We have not as yet found out how other public examination boards intend to respond, nor do we know the regulation for its use by teachers and school leaders in gaining their professional qualifications.

We hope you found our brief encounter with AI interesting. We are sure many of our readers are well versed in understanding its use and harnessing it for the benefit of their students. If this is the case, we would like to hear from you.

Take care and stay safe