The emerging use of artificial intelligence-aided analysis in public school classrooms has raised alarm. Last June, the Globe and Mail reported on public fears of a new form of state surveillance over facial recognition cameras trained to recognize students’ emotion at a Hangzhou high school, and this March Sixth Tone reported on students protesting by disabling similar cameras at a Beijing secondary school ahead of final exams. This month, in an MIT Technology Review article on China’s wider experimentation with an “intelligent education” system allowing algorithms to curate specialized tutoring, a Harvard professor “cautions that cameras and other sensors could also be misused to judge a student’s emotions or state of mind, applications that have little grounding in science and could lead to over-surveillance.”
[AI Enters Elementary School: It can record whether students wear a smile, greet their teachers, take the initiative to pick up trash, or line-up neatly] Recently, the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine-affiliated Minhang Qiangwei Primary School began constructing an intelligent classroom behavioral analysis system, which uses posture assessment, facial expression and language recognition, thermal analysis of teacher trajectory, and other techniques to analyze the classroom learning process. If students are smiling, greeting their teachers, taking the initiative to clean up trash, lining up neatly, or engaging in other good behavior; or if they are wrestling, fighting, crowding, or engaging in other dangerous acts, can be captured by artificial intelligence.
Additionally, AI can also gather information on students’ seated disposition, hand-raising, standing, yawning, and other classroom behavior to analyze the status of a student’s learning process, their classroom efficacy, and their interest in learning. Various types of image capturing have already been installed on campus, and in conjunction with AI technology, there is room to utilize and improve on this data. [Chinese]
Many netizens responded with alarm. CDT Chinese has archived a collection of horrified netizen reactions to the story, several of which are translated below:
@T******菲: Feels like surveillance, scary
@L******星：Prisoners aren’t even monitored this closely. If this type of surveillance continues sooner or later they’ll go mad.
@思**m: I hope this doesn’t kill childhood tendencies, that these kids can enjoy a happy childhood, and that they don’t live every day in fear of AI.
@杨*******的：This is an overt infringement of human rights
@信***L：Terrifying! Like the plot of a science fiction movie. […] [Chinese]