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Japan eyes AI robots in classrooms to boost english proficiency

The country has sought to use the help of robots to solve one of its major skill gaps

English-speaking AI robots will be helping out in about 500 Japanese classrooms from 2019—as a measure of the country seeking to improve its English language skills among both children and teachers.

The education ministry has planned a pilot project costing around $227,000 in the effort to improve Japanese students’ infamouslt weak oral and written english, told an official to AFP.

“AI robots already on the market have various functions. For example, they can check the pronunciation of each student’s English, which is difficult for teachers to do,” added the official in charge of international education, who requested to be unnamed.

He also referred to AI robots as ” just one example of the trial and we are planning other measures”. These included using tablet apps and having online lessons with native speakers.

This move comes ahead of a change in the overall national curriculum in two years that will require children from the age of 10 to start learning English.

Japanese schools often struggle to find qualified teachers for English classes, and generally lack the requisite funds to hire trained language assistants. A lot of primary and middle schools have alread turned to technology to bolster English teaching, and have introduced English-speaking AI robots in the classroom.

English classes are currently compulsory for Japanese students aged between 12 and 15 but the starting age will be lowered to primary school children in 2020.

-GBO Correspondent

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