Submission to the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training

Submission to the inquiry into the use of generative artificial intelligence in the Australian education system

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the power to significantly transform the way we work, learn and live. Generative AI tools currently available to the public reflect the start of an AI revolution that, if properly managed, will lead to powerful tools to help educators across the entire education system, from primary education through to higher education, reduce their workload and motivate students to improve their learning. Generative AI may help educators to provide more comprehensive feedback, develop lesson plans, automate time consuming administrative tasks and improve assessment practices (Swiecki et al. 2022).

Given the novelty and possible risks of these systems, it is understandable that many educators and administrators have responded with trepidation. It is important that educational institutions properly consider how generative AI may impact student wellbeing, teaching, learning, assessment and administrative practices, and how to develop appropriate settings to get the greatest benefit from these emerging systems. It is equally important to acknowledge that these systems are already in use by both teachers and students. Responses such as banning generative AI systems in public schools are impractical and likely impossible to enforce, do a disservice to students and teachers, and will exacerbate the existing resourcing divide between public and private education. ATSE strongly urges against creating an AI divide that preserves the potential benefits of AI in education to a select few. Australian teachers and students, from primary school through to higher education, must learn how to engage with generative AI ethically and constructively to navigate the society and employment landscape of the future.

Generative AI is more convincingly human than any other technology or software system previously. As its sophistication increases there is a growing risk that generative AI tools are interacting conversationally with users around mental health and wellbeing. Appropriate human-led interventions will need to be in place to minimise harm from these interactions.

ATSE contributed to the National Science and Technology Council’s recent rapid report on generative AI (Bell et al. 2023). This submission further explores the need for regulation and policy for generative AI in education systems. To help students and educators to get the most out of the generative AI revolution, ATSE makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Reverse bans on generative AI systems in schools introduced by state education departments and establish institutional access licencing agreements across the education sector.

Recommendation 2: Introduce age-appropriate AI instruction in Australian classrooms, supported by appropriate educator training and purpose-built AI tools or institutional access licences for commercial AI products.

Recommendation 3: Provide professional development opportunities, supported by professional development leave and other incentives, to teach existing educators how to engage with AI both inside and outside the classroom.

Recommendation 4: Require the inclusion of AI literacy training as part of initial teacher training programs.

Recommendation 5: Encourage the development of assessment guidance by education departments that is both resilient to AI developments and embraces opportunities presented by AI.

Recommendation 6: Develop and provide ethics and AI data privacy training for educators.

Recommendation 7: Develop appropriate interventions to protect young people’s mental health, and deeply sensitive information.