artificial intelligence, future technology and business concept

AI’s Learning Curve 

The Unintended Consequences of AI on Education

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools have rapidly transformed how we live and work. This is evident in both developed and developing countries. AI has become an integral part of our daily lives, from self-driving cars to virtual assistants. Even though Ethiopia has yet to reach that stage, more advanced countries are already experiencing such transformative changes. However, the impact of AI tools is only sometimes positive. The emergence of ChatGPT, an AI-powered language model developed by OpenAI, capable of generating human-like text based on context and past conversations, has raised concerns among academic experts and professionals in education due to the possible hazards of ethical issues in schools like cheating and motivating students to put out the least amount of effort. In this article, EBR’s Eden Teshome assesses AI’s advantages, drawbacks, and limitations in the education sector.  

Since the November 2022 launch of the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT, the technology has demonstrated the influence and power that AI may have on our daily lives. The CEO of Open AI, the company that created ChatGPT, Sam Altman, acknowledged that he was “a little bit scared” of the powerful technology that his business is developing. Despite Altman’s claim that artificial intelligence “will eliminate a lot of current jobs,” he believes the technology would ultimately benefit people since it can revolutionise fields like education.

Education will need to adapt, Altman said. “However, it has happened with technology a lot of other times. The way we tested students and how we taught math both wholly changed once we got a calculator.

ChatGPT is a chatbot with artificial intelligence that primarily aims to mimic human speech. It is a preferred assistant and widely used by users worldwide to send emails, debug computer programmers, answer homework questions, play games, and write novels and music lyrics, among other things.

On ChatGPT, big businesses have different opinions. While some companies, like Netflix, have used the technology to enhance the user experience, others have flatly forbidden ChatGPT in their ecosystems due to a lack of information and the degree of uncertainty it caused.

Ethiopia’s education system has significantly progressed recently, but challenges remain massive. The government has prioritised education as a critical driver of development and has implemented various initiatives to improve access and enhance the quality of education. Efforts have been made to increase enrollment rates, even though the outcome was different, especially for girls, and expand educational infrastructure across the country. However, there are still disparities between urban and rural areas, with limited access to quality education in remote regions.

In terms of quality, Ethiopia faces issues like overcrowded classrooms, a shortage of qualified teachers, and outdated teaching techniques. The curriculum is criticised for emphasising rote memorisation rather than enhancing students’ ability to critical thinking and equipping them with practical skills. The lack of resources, including textbooks and other educational materials, hinders effective teaching and learning systems.

With a net enrollment of 88.7 Pct in the school year 2021/22, Ethiopia has recently made considerable strides towards achieving universal primary education.

According to some research, even though most kids enrol in school, many drop out; only 33.1 Pct make it to secondary school. With 90Pct of 10-year-old youths in the country unable to read or comprehend an introductory phrase of text, Ethiopia has a way to improve the quality of education. Particularly in rural areas, the likelihood of children attending school, remaining enrolled and performing well is much lower than in urban places.

According to UNICEF, 13 million children are not in school in Ethiopia due to COVID-19, violence, and climate change. This has long-term repercussions on the future of their lives. Other obstacles, including traditional gender norms, a heavy household labour load, particularly on females, and far commutes to schools, exacerbate the influence of emergencies on schooling. In most cases, children not in school come from communities of pastoralists, internally displaced people, or refugees. And due to the various conflicts in the country, such vulnerability is evident in many parts of the country.

Rural education systems can overcome some difficulties, like a lack of infrastructure, competent teachers, and resources, by utilising AI technologies to improve student learning outcomes. As the potential for AI to change rural education systems becomes more evident, interest in the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and education in rural areas is fast expanding in many countries. In particular, in rural places where access to quality education is limited due to the absence of qualified teachers, the application of AI has the potential to revolutionise students’ learning experience, teachers’ roles, and the way schools run.

Artificial intelligence helps developing countries by allowing individuals who previously had no chance to do so to access education. With the majority of the 750 million adults worldwide unable to read and write, AI can significantly improve their quality of life.

Artificial intelligence has benefits and drawbacks for global development. The adoption of AI has the potential to increase productivity overall and produce new products, which will stimulate the economy as it may also add jobs to the economy. PwC estimates that by 2030, the deployment of AI will increase global GDP by USD 15.7 trillion. Although AI can spur growth, its benefits might be unevenly distributed. According to an IMF working paper, real incomes would likely drop as more jobs become automated, and inequality would generally rise.

It is a growing concern. However, AI advocates argue that technology and innovations such as AI can, in general, improve human capabilities and aid in resolving challenging issues. However, critics adamantly highlight the adverse impacts of AI. If AI develops to a level that surpasses the brilliance of human beings, it may cause widespread unemployment and perhaps endanger humanity.

Atlaw Alemu (PhD) is an assistant professor of economics at Addis Ababa University. According to Atlaw, many undergraduate and second-degree students use AI technologies to complete assignments and research papers and even cheat on tests. In several cases, our testing programme produces results, some of which appear to be generated by artificial intelligence.

Selam Ketema is a Unity University student completing her thesis as part of her graduation class. Selam claims that using AI technologies greatly aided her while attending university. “I use tools like OCR, which converts images into text, chat GPT, and Quillbot. I firmly believe that using the tools has aided me in succeeding in my studies because they would generate a wide variety of things for me, including equations.”

Selam claims that AI is helping her studies by making things more manageable than they were. However, Atlaw states that AI prevents students from giving their work while allowing them to improve their grades by providing only the bare minimum, meaning they are just using it as a shortcut that will hurt the teaching and learning system. “But it would have had more advantages than disadvantages if students knew how to utilise it appropriately. Since they may compare their own work to what the AI produces and take ideas from it.” Says Atlaw.

AI has the potential to transform healthcare, transportation, and entertainment. Although a wide range of concerns have been raised concerning how the technology would affect our capacity of thought, the appropriate use of AI would increase productivity, resolve complex issues, and improve the overall quality of life. Of course, there are growing concerns that leaning too much on AI may cause a loss of creativity and critical thinking abilities.

Aklilu Bizuayehu, a software programmer, and network and infrastructure engineer who founded the tech start-up Tiguhlicious, has this thought to reflect. “The many advantages AI has typically come with some downsides things.” He says. “I use AI for various purposes, and it’s not bad that students have access to tools like Chat GTP because it will help them with their educational process,” Aklilu argues. However, AI use has ethical challenges, such as privacy and bias concerns. He discusses how we use AI and how we weigh its possible advantages and disadvantages will determine how it will affect the human capacity for thought.” he told EBR.

The ability to gather knowledge, curate it into a narrative structure, and enable individuals to learn about topics more quickly and in diverse ways are all great aspects of ChatGPT, according to Aklilu.

Aklilu further explains that he’s concerned that many students would use the tool to write papers and generate calculations instead of doing them themselves. “What does that imply for our systems of evaluations? What does that mean for Ethiopia’s education system, which has already encountered numerous plagues with issues, and the credibility of our academic institutions?” He questioned with concern. ‘I believe there will be significant consequences, and I doubt that we can currently foresee where they will lead.”

“As long as it is employed appropriately, there is no question that AI can benefit the educational system,” says Aklilu. “However, there will be students who may use technologies like Chat GTP to write their essays and term research papers, which will significantly impact the standard of education. The good thing is that additional AI tools have been developed with the capacity to detect AI-generated content to address such excessive use of AI. This AI is helpful and would encourage students to do more authentic research. But shortly, additional tools may emerge that can avoid detection or find a way to surpass detection. Aklilu shares his concerns.

Artificial intelligence has entered daily life in the industrialised world. From virtual assistants to recommendation engines, AI is already everywhere in the news, our homes, and our workplaces.

Much untapped potential exists in AI applications, notably in the humanitarian sector. Resources are limited in developing countries; therefore, the impacts can multiply. Businesses, nonprofit organisations (NGOs), and governments can employ AI to address life-threatening problems and raise the standard of living for local citizens in developing countries, according to a study by Data Conomy, a Berlin-based media portal for news, events, and expert opinion from the world of data-driven technology.


11th Year • August 2023 • No. 120 EBR

Eden Teshome

Editor-in-Chief of Ethiopian Business Review (EBR). She can be reached at eden.teshome@ethiopianbusinessreview.net


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