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What would happen when robot teachers replace all human teachers?

Robot teachers are not new, but what is new is the growing number of robot teachers replacing human teachers in many countries. Even more interesting, children relate better to robot teachers than to human teachers.

Whatever that may be, experts say in the next 10 to 15 years robot teachers will be as common in the classrooms as human teachers are in today’s classrooms. So, the question is, what would happen to those children who will be taught only by robots during their formative years?

However, before we try to answer that important question we need to think why robots are replacing human teachers. There are several reasons. First, potential teachers find better paying jobs and less stressful jobs than spending time inside a school. In fact, fewer and fewer college students become teachers.

There is, of course, the issue of school violence, from the horrible massacres that, unfortunately, we are so used to see, to the bullying inside the schools, and to discrimination of parents, students, and teachers of minority groups. Many potential teachers are thus discouraged from teaching.

Of course, technology is part of almost every classroom and, if fact, of every aspect of life. So, teachers are being replaced by technology. I read somewhere (I don’t remember where) that many young college-age students in China don’t attend college because, thanks to technology, they already know more than their college professors.

There is yet another element: low cost. Will, a digital human teaching at schools in Auckland, New Zealand, is free. Kindergarten students can talk with Will from any device, at any time, and they don’t have to wait for the teacher to be free before asking a question. No human teacher can do that.  

And Keeko, a 2-feet tall teaching at 600 pre-K schools in China, costs around US$1500, just a fraction of the annual salary of most teachers in the United States. (Teachers, as we know, are not properly compensated). And, being a robot, Keeko doesn’t need vacations or days off, and it doesn’t get sick.

So, from a technological point of view and from the economic point of view, it makes sense for robots to replace human teachers in the classrooms. But, what will be the real price for such a transition?

I would like to know what Jean Piaget or Paulo Freire would say. Will robots help the cognitive development of the children and will those children go through the four stages of development listed by Piaget? Will we be able to move beyond a “banking” and oppressive pedagogy, as Freire wanted?

We can barely solve any of the current educational problems. Are we trying to delegate on the robot teachers the task of solving our educational challenges? We’ll see.

And one more question, what would happen to us, adults, who were never educated by robots? Perhaps it will be better not to think about it. At the same time, it would be good to prepare ourselves for that future before that future arrives.

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