Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton

Emeritus Professor Wendy Patton Chair of QCT Board

Welcome to 2018. I hope you’ve had a chance to relax, refresh and spend time with those you love during the Christmas and New Year break.

In an ever-changing professional landscape we are faced with many challenges, and I look forward to tackling some of them with you this year. One of the vexed topics currently dominating the literature in many professions is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

What will be the impact of AI on the work of teachers? Will robots with AI replace teachers? Some reports have suggested that 40-50% of jobs will be eliminated within the next 20-30 years – will teaching be one of them?

New research by both the McKinsey Global Institute and the OECD, which examines specific repetitive tasks rather than whole jobs, has challenged these drastic predictions. McKinsey’s work is based on a detailed analysis of 2,000-plus work activities for more than 800 occupations in the US and argues that focusing on whole occupations rather than single job-tasks might lead to an overestimation of job automatability.

The McKinsey report examines occupational sectors at high, medium and low risk of automation, concluding that the hardest activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve managing and developing people, and those that apply expertise to decision making, planning, or creative work. Further, the technical feasibility of automation is lowest in education (at least for now). While not underplaying the significant transformations being created by digital technology, the report acknowledges the essence of teaching is deep expertise and complex interactions with other people. The McKinsey authors assert that these two categories are the least automatable of the seven they identify.

Similarly, the OECD undertook an estimate of automatability of jobs for 21 OECD countries, also using a task-based approach. The report concludes that “on average across the 21 OECD countries, 9 % of jobs are automatable …The threat from technological advances thus seems much less pronounced compared to the occupation-based approach” (p. 8). Incorporating this perspective, a new report from the Foundation for Young Australians comments that by 2030, there will be a reduction in routine manual tasks in work, and an increase in the time workers are engaged in focusing on people, solving strategic problems, and thinking creatively.

Suggestions of teachers being replaced by robots have been criticised by strong advocates of the complex people work of teaching. Writing in the July 2016 Australian Teacher Magazine, the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel commented that nothing can replace a dedicated teacher, adding, No matter how technologically sophisticated our world, children work harder, see further and achieve more when there is an inspiring human being to spur them on”. Similarly, the principal of King’s School in Sydney wrote in The Australian in 2012 about the six Ps of the ideal teacher. He emphasised that five of these six Ps relate to specific interpersonal skills essential to the ideal teacher: Personable, Partner (in learning), Performer (in a performance based system), Parent, and Physician (the sixth was Progressive).

While many tasks of teaching are, and will continue to be, changed by digital technology, many facets of the role will not be. Paradoxically, humans are more important in an era of robots – in my view teachers will be even more crucial to guide and support students through these changes.

Future blogs will look at how teachers can use AI and how the curriculum needs to adapt. For now, our jobs are safe!

I look forward to reading your comments and thoughts throughout 2018.


Arntz, M., Gregory, T., & Zierahn, U. (2016). The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries: A Comparative Analysis. OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 189, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Foundation for Young Australians. (2017). The new work smarts: Thriving in the new work order.

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Maremadi, M., Bughin, J., George, J., Willmott, P., & Dewhurst, M. (2017). A future that works: Automation, employment and productivity. McKinsey Global Institute.

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  1. dpblomme says:

    It is obvious that AI will impact on the work of teacher and robots will replace Primary, Secondary and Tertiary teachers.

    Firstly, Ai focuses solely on content driven curricula and not just checking learning outcomes which are ideological or politically driven. So, mastering knowledge in Maths, Sciences, Languages and other fields are number one priority. Also, learning computer programming at an early age in Schools helps not only to master the content but also the process of doing things in a correct way.

    Secondly, robots do not have feelings or express emotions. They are not influenced by students’ attitudes or teachers’ preferences of even by their gender in assessing learning outcomes. For example, Primary/Prep Schools ate dominated by female teachers while male teachers are not welcomed in the classroom because they are perceived as suspicious when surrounded young kids.

    Finally, less intelligent and unsettled students will be eliminated from the education system. Therefore, the Government will have to deal with major educational issues in very divisive society in order to rectify the unbalance between the ones having jobs and the jobless.

    Dr Paul Blomme
    Airlie Beach, Queensland


  2. Adam Whistler says:

    “Firstly, Ai focuses solely on content driven curricula and not just checking learning outcomes which are ideological or politically driven….”

    A few of “Dr” Paul Blomme premises need some serious fact checking!


  3. dpblomme says:

    This a comment made by the vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham among several others. He believes that school teachers will lose their traditional role and effectively become little more than classroom assistants.within 10 years. Technological revolution will sweep aside old notions of education and change the world forever says Sir Anthony Seldon who is an Economist.


  4. dpblomme says:

    The comments below illustrate that AI and robots are already being used in the classroom to reduce costs and has transformed teachers’ work in France. There is a threat that a large number of French teachers will have no jobs.

    Please note: This is an Automated Translation from French to English using © 2018 Microsoft Privacy
    Where are we with the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in France and around the world?
    A letter published by Marie-Estelle Pech of the Ministry of Education is titled: ‘’When Artificial Intelligence (AI) replaces teachers in France’’. She testifies that computers make it possible to compensate for the lack of language teachers in high schools. She also proposes to extend AI by 2012 and confirms that it reduces operating cost in areas of low-staff disciplines. AI has since been recognised by principals and generalised at 22 high schools in Nancy-Metz. Students do their computer work in their institution and are always supervised by a tutor who checks their constant attentiveness shown towards their work.

    Since 30 October 2017, AI is also proposed by Magued Maaboud who is the Director Advisor of the French Education Council. He says that in a context where student diversity is growing, education needs to evolve and take into account the new emerging needs. The same course, taught by the same teacher, is not perceived and assimilated in the same way by each pupil. It is also not possible to extend the skills and availability of teachers infinitely to meet the magnitude of these new needs. So there are more and more schools investing in AI.

    In other countries, the University of Manchester has also demonstrated the advantages of using machines to translate into the classroom since 1980. It worked very well according to the opinions of the students. Another evidence is the Georgia Tech University in the United States that replaced one of its teachers with a robot without even the students noticing it. And, if the United States is precursors, Europe is not spared by this robotic revolution. In France, robots have allowed sick students to take courses with a robot.

    Today, more and more Lorraine students benefit from the AI in Latin, Italian, Chinese but also Greek and Spanish. It works very well. Students speak more languages than in a traditional class of 30 students, the heads of schools say.

    As a first step, the AI is already assisting teachers in their tasks, whether they are pedagogical or disciplinary. Indeed, an ultra-efficient robot can customise the learning paths of each pupil, according to his/her needs and his/her aptitudes that the machine will have analysed beforehand in a database. On the question of discipline, there is no doubt that a robot will be able to tackle recalcitrant students without taking the risk of being suspected or accused of bias, negligence or authoritarianism.

    Very quickly we see now another scenario to develop: after cohabitation with a robot, what will happen to the teacher? Will the teacher be able to compete with an artificial colleague skilled by repeating the same lesson a thousand times or even differently to recalcitrant students without ever being exhausted, able to keep its calm in any situations, never being ill and never being on strike?
    If robots take the place of teachers, it means obviously that more than 800,000 teachers in France will find themselves without a job. Will it therefore be a question of paying them a universal minimum income? What to do with this useless workforce? The question is not confined to the area of education alone, but virtually no human activity will avoid AI reports the famous doctor and surgeon Laurent Alexandre.

    For the past two years, other institutions have replicated the idea in Haute-Normandie, Lozère and Franche-Comté. But, Brittany thinks about it because Bruno Lamour the secretary general of the teachers union says: ”We will ensure that French or Mathematics are not affected.’’

    The above explanations come from several articles and my experience.
    Kind regards
    Paul Blomme


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