The International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Education drew to a close in Beijing on May 18, 2019. The conference was jointly organized by the MOE, UNESCO, the China National Commission for UNESCO and the Beijing municipal government. Around 500 representatives from more than 100 countries and 10 international organizations attended the event and passed the Beijing Consensus as a guiding document for the future development of global education.
Entitled “Planning Education in the AI Era: Lead the leap”, the conference consisted of opening and closing ceremonies, a high-level Ministerial Roundtable, 5 plenary sessions and 12 group meetings. It provided a unique platform for representatives from countries and international organizations, and leaders in AI industry and academia to share their ideas and practices on a wide range of topics, including the future of education, policy-making for education, provision and management of educational resources, teacher capacity building, learning assessment, curriculum development, lifelong learning, ethics and security, and promotion of educational equality and inclusiveness.
As an outcome of the conference, the Beijing Consensus calls on countries to introduce policies to promote integration of AI and education, boost AI’s role in building open and flexible educational systems, and facilitate universal accessibility to fair and quality lifelong learning opportunities.
The Consensus proposes that the lifelong learning system should be underpinned by AI platforms and data analysis techniques. It also stresses the need to support research on frontier issues related to AI technologies, as well as exploration of effective strategies and practices to facilitate educational innovation.
The conference received positive responses from the international community. It was attended by Jernej Pikalo, Slovenia’s minister of education, science and sport, Lee Byong-Hyun, Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board, and Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education.
Pikalo said at the closing ceremony that the conference had allowed officials to evaluate the impact and potential of AI technologies for learning. The Beijing Consensus showed that countries had the will and capability to integrate AI and education, using AI to drive development in the education sector. It also laid out the principle of inclusive and equal use of AI technologies for the benefit of the general public.
Giannini said that the conference represented a new milestone for cooperation between China and UNESCO, and allowed a consensus to be reached among UNESCO members on future strategic directions and solutions to key challenges regarding AI. She said that UNESCO agreed with President Xi Jinping’s proposal to use AI as a tool to accelerate the development of lifelong, equitable, appropriate, open and flexible education for all. UNESCO would continue to promote dialogue, partnership and resource exchanges regarding AI- and education-related policies, and fulfill the Education 2030 Agenda.
Tian Xuejun, Vice Education Minister and Chair of the China National Commission for UNESCO, said that new conditions and issues would continue to emerge as humanity entered the age of intelligence, and the international community must be responsible and cooperative in its approach. China was willing to further deepen cooperation with UNESCO and its members, create new platforms for global exchange on AI and education, and build more inclusive, fair and higher-quality educational systems. These would in turn help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals and build a community with a shared future for mankind.