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Madhya Pradesh to Introduce AI as subject from Class 8, Ropes in Microsoft

Madhya Pradesh to Introduce AI as subject from Class 8, Ropes in Microsoft

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The Madhya Pradesh government is all set to introduce a course in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for students class 8 and above—an initiative Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan claims would make the state the first in the country to do so.

First in India?

It would be the first time AI will be taught as a subject in schools. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) too had introduced AI as a subject in schools. But the board is only teaching it for nearly 12 hours which does not get it the green signal to label it as a subject. MP, on the other hand, will dedicate at least 240 hours toward teaching AI making it the first state in the country to introduce it as a subject.

The initiative is being overseen by the state’s Minister of School Education Inder Singh Parmar and the MP State Open School Education Board (MPSOSEB). The state is aiming to start teaching AI from July this year when the new session will begin.

“We have selected 53 schools in which Artificial Intelligence will be taught as a subject in classes above 8. This will be a nearly 240 hours long course and MP will be the first state in the country to teach AI as a subject in school. For now, we have selected 53 schools but we will add more to the list gradually,” Parmar told indianexpress.com.

The state has also “arranged 40 computers for children in every school (where this initiative is being brought in place),” said Parmar.

Collaboration with Microsoft

For the first year, this subject will be taught by experts from Microsoft. The tech giant has signed an MoU with MPSOSEB, a senior official told indianexpress.com on condition of anonymity. “Teachers have already been trained to some extent, and for the first year, experts from Microsoft will teach this subject while school teachers will observe the classes, as a part of their training. From next year onwards, school teachers will take over their classes,” the official said.

Microsoft confirmed the partnership to indianexpress.com and added it has also shared student and faculty handbooks on AI along with teaching reference material. “The collaboration also involved teacher training around enabling hybrid learning on Teams and exposure to various collaborative tools for assessments, accessibility, and learning how to use AI features in Microsoft Office. Microsoft also conducted Education Transformation Workshops for 52 school principals across MP state,” said a Microsoft spokesperson, adding the 53rd school is in trial mode.

“Teachers were enrolled in Microsoft Educator Center to start their online learning journey and earn Microsoft Innovative Educator badges, which exposed them to pedagogical innovations. The effort led to a positive impact reaching out to over 1,000 teachers and overall, 45,000 users in the education segment in the state,” added the spokesperson.

The teachers who are being trained both online and offline by Microsoft experts have been nominated by the state government and the training courses are being funded by the tech giant. “The ‘master trainer’ teachers train other teachers in the schools… In addition, in FY 22, the teachers would go through training on AI curriculum as well as Minecraft – learning through gamification,” said the Microsoft spokesperson.

‘Need of the hour’

Local schools have welcomed this move by the state government. Mamata Divedi, the principal of Narayana e-Techno School in Indore, said she would be willing to introduce AI as a subject in her school as “it is the need of the hour, and understanding the fundamentals of AI will be very beneficial to students”.

Similarly, Anamika Magarde, the principal of Podar International School in Bhopal, said that students are very “keen and interested”. “They feel that it will ease them to decide their subjects in higher classes. Parents also find the future of their children bright if they opt AI as this is the era having a lot of scope in AI.” She added that since this is a skill-based subject, “practical approach like the involvement of work experience and internship should be given more emphasis by the teachers to make the subject more interesting.”

Words of caution

While Microsoft is training teachers, some experts have been doing so for the past few years and said teachers should make it interactive. “While teaching AI to kids, they need to make it very interactive and make the students understand the concepts and applications first by connecting them with real-world examples,” said Rajeev Tiwari, the co-founder of STEMROBO Technologies.

Some teachers also said it is important to break down even the simple concepts, rather than simply assuming that all students will understand everything related to this skills-based subject. “With the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in education, the method of teaching is important. Imparting the students with the necessary and required information while at the same time making sure that it does not burden them is important. Simplifying the information and then giving it to the students will help,” said Ranjana Shrivastava, a PRT teacher in Madhya Pradesh.

Students should have prior “knowledge about the basics of computers, a basic programming language,” cautioned Sarman Singh, a PGT Computer Science teacher at Seth Anandram Jaipuria School in Lucknow.

Sanjay Goel, the Director of Engineering and Technology at Jaipur’s JK Lakshmipat University, said, “Rather than introducing a separate subject for it, we should integrate it while teaching other subjects like Science, Mathematics, Social Science, and even arts and languages”. “If we introduce it as a separate subject, it would be another added burden on students. This way if we keep adding separate courses to the curriculum, the timetable will not have enough space for separate courses.”

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