Has 2020 ushered in a new era of ‘intelligent education’?

  • Huawei’s Anthony Xu talks to Tech Wire Asia about how ‘intelligent education’ IT has become vital to students’ distance learning needs

Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion students have had their educations disrupted this year. And some parties, including the United Nations, feel that prolonged school closures at critical ages could lead to a “generational catastrophe”.

“We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” said UN chief Antonio Guterres. “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have a lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”

An estimated 40% of the world’s poorest countries failed to support learners at risk during the COVID-19 crisis, and UNESCO forecasts that 23.8 million additional children and youth (from pre-primary to tertiary) may drop out or not have access to school next year due to the pandemic’s economic impact alone.

Ensuring learning continuity during the time of school closures became a priority for governments the world over, many of which turned to technology for a solution. 2020 marked the largest ever shift towards new learning tools and outcomes outside of the classroom. Anthony Xu, the president of the education segment of Huawei’s Global Government Business Unit told Tech Wire Asia that while the ICT adoption at this scale was a challenge, adapting ‘distance learning’ approaches had always been complex.

“Traditionally, the educational departments and institutions faced some similar challenges, such as inefficient management of scattered schools, difficult sharing of educational resources, and education inequality,” said Xu, who oversees the strategy and execution of Huawei’s ‘smart education’ solutions.

Around Asian countries, education development levels are diverse, but connectivity is always a challenge for most of these countries. Addressing the widening educational equality gap with more disadvantaged communities such as minorities and displaced students.

Quality internet accessibility has taken on new importance during this period, particularly throughout Asia where internet quality can vary greatly even with the wider availability of mobile internet. “It indeed requires high quality of networks and put a strain on network upgrade,” said Xu.

“Now governments are more and more concentrating on providing higher speed network services such as 5G and Wi-Fi 6, so it is also a chance to facilitate the construction of our IT infrastructure.”

Xu says the application of transformational technologies like AI, cloud, and big data would profoundly add to the current learning environment, just some of the benefits of leveraging data-driven insights and improved connectivity.

“5G will provide us [with an] unprecedented learning experience. Students’ learning and growth statistics can be monitored precisely and improved efficiently. Premium resources can be shared more extensively. Educational content will also become interesting and vivid. Personalized education can be achieved easily.”

The first overseas campus opened by major Chinese university, Xiamen University Malaysia in Sepang, Malaysia had “high requirements for network capacity, indoor wireless coverage, and high-bandwidth access, with an additional need for an advanced data center.”

Education ICT is not restricted to only improving network and on-campus performance, either. “Well-designed ICT solutions can be used to share resources, bring rich knowledge to students, enhance teachers’ practices and students’ performance, improve school management, and support data-driven policymaking,” said Xu.

These innovations allow virtual teaching to becomes easier and more efficient. For example, educators could create original, diverse content using multi-media tools, and their classes can be carried out anytime via the internet. And the availability of big data and cloud technologies will allow teachers to immediately get teaching statistics and make precise self-adjustments to their curriculums.

Xu thinks a blended learning ecosystem might take root, and embellish intelligent education IT even further and “make up for shortcomings of traditional teaching.”

“Generally smart education involves 3 categories of elements,” continued Xu. “The first one is IT infrastructure which aims to connect each learner and educator, provides intelligent devices and data storage.

“The second one is the platform and applications which can provide smart tools for teaching, managing, and analyzing in the whole process of education. The third one is the digital content which is provided by ministry and teachers.”

Xu believes the education IT convergence will remain relevant long after the pandemic’s effects have faded to the background. “ICT innovations is changing our daily life, as well as education. Intelligent education is not only about technologies – it is also about the people who are using these technologies.

“People is the critical part of this education revolution. So please be open to the unknown, and embrace the new era of intelligent education.”