fbpx
Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
Help shape the future of international education at the ICEF Monitor Global Summit London, September 23rd 2024
20th Dec 2023

Global survey says English teachers are both enthusiastic and concerned about AI  

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • A British Council survey of English-language teachers in 118 countries finds that most teachers are already using some kind of AI-powered tool
  • Teachers believe AI offers benefits in terms of their instructional capabilities and also students’ ability to learn, but they are also concerned about over-reliance on AI
  • Most do not feel they have been provided enough training to incorporate AI into their work

A new British Council study sheds light on English-language teachers’ use of, and attitudes toward, artificial intelligence in their work. Informing the study was a survey of 1,348 English-language teachers from 118 countries, who provided feedback on how they are using AI, what they consider its benefits to be, and what role they believe it will play going forward in English-language instruction and learning. The sample included teachers working at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary level at various types of institution.

The study, written up in a report called Artificial intelligence and English language teaching: Preparing for the future, set out to find the answers to questions such as:

  • What impact will AI have on how our learners gain knowledge and develop skills?
  • What impact will it have on how we recruit and train our teachers?
  • Will teachers ultimately be replaced by technology?

These are important questions, given that, as UNESCO says, “emerging [AI] technologies present immediate – as well as far-reaching – opportunities, challenges and risks to education systems” and that English-language learning is expected to be the educational niche most likely to be affected and changed by AI.

The British Council says that as a result, “English language teacher education and training must include a focus on AI literacy.” At this stage, they say, there isn’t enough deep engagement with the immense impact that AI will have on the sector, despite some resources such as blogs and how-to guides now available to teachers.

Part of their study involved an extensive review of research focused on the topic, which led to conclusions such as:

  • “Teachers need to develop their learners’ AI literacy so that they can understand the limitations and risks of AI and discuss the ethical issues around its use.
  • Practitioners should carefully consider how models are chosen, as AI may carry messages about language use and exclude certain groups/varieties of English.
  • AI can provide a conversational partner, provide language practice outside class and alleviate learner anxiety about speaking. However, more evidence is needed on whether the gains persist independent of such AI tools.
  • Accessible and unambiguous ethics statements for AI in ELT should be developed and committed to, along with clear systems to ensure data privacy.
  • Practitioners should be realistic about the current limited capabilities of AI and cautious about the hype.”

Survey insights

Three-quarters of surveyed teachers already use AI in one form or another, as illustrated in the following chart. The most common tools being used are language learning apps (48%), language generation AI (37%, and chatbots (31%).

Significant proportions of teachers are using AI-powered tools. Source: British Council

The most common reasons for using AI are to create learning materials (57%), helping learners to practise English (53%), and creating lesson plans (43%).

Teachers are incorporating AI into numerous tasks. Source: British Council

Teachers were asked if they thought AI could help learners in four related realms of English-language learning (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) and there is broad agreement that it can. More specifically, teachers are most excited about AI offering “innovative tools for learning, real-time editing, the ability to adapt to learners’ levels, and providing engaging reading materials.”

Teachers do see downsides as well, however, including “AI’s lack of human emotions and inability to fully grasp language nuances like humour.” They also expressed concerns about over-
reliance on AI. The report notes:

“Many of the 129 written explanations provided expressed concerns about dependency, noting that learners might ‘misuse’ AI or ‘rely on it more than their natural abilities’. Quotes like ‘What’s the point in learning English when AI can speak for me?’ and ‘Students will rely [too] much on AI, resulting in a lack of confidence’ illustrate the perceived risk of over-reliance.”

Overall, teachers feel that AI-powered tools and content “should complement, rather than
replace, existing methods [of instruction].” The British Council found a “consistent emphasis” across respondents “on the irreplaceability of the unique human touch in teaching, highlighting the emotional, cultural and social facets of ELT.”

Asked directly about whether they believed that by 2035, “AI will be able to teach English without a teacher,” about half (51%) of teachers disagreed compared with 24% who agreed. But, as the British Council points out, 26% remained neutral, indicating significant uncertainty about the potential of AI in this area.

The survey revealed that most teachers do not feel they have received enough training to incorporate AI into their teaching. As shown in the following screen shot.

“I have received enough training to incorporate AI into my teaching.” Source: British Council

Final thoughts

In the concluding section of the report, the authors express some skepticism about the potential of AI to fundamentally transform education. They write:

“Steve Jobs famously said, ‘We’re here to put a dent in the universe’, but institutional education remains stubbornly dent-free. Whether new technologies will bring the widespread systemic change that matches the AI hype is an ongoing debate. A reading of the history of educational technology would say otherwise.”

For additional background, please see:

Most Recent

  • Australia moves to curtail onshore “visa hopping” Read More
  • ICEF Podcast: The outlook for international education in the USA – live from NAFSA Read More
  • Canada’s Immigration Minister signals that changes are coming to post-study work rights Read More

Most Popular

  • Comparing student visa proof of funds requirements across 20 study destinations Read More
  • Canada: More provincial cap numbers announced; IRCC moves up end date for post-graduate work for partnership programmes Read More
  • Lessons from Denmark: The downside of limiting international student flows Read More

Because you found this article interesting

US ELT sector continues a gradual recovery Intensive English programmes (IEPs) in the United States are reporting more modest growth for 2023, after a post-pandemic...
Read more
Market snapshot: A guide to international student recruitment in Brazil FAST FACTS Capital: Brasília Population: 218 million (2024) Youth population: 44% below the age of 30 Median age:...
Read more
UK ELT posts another year of growth to reach 75% of pre-pandemic volumes in 2023 The UK’s English Language Teaching (ELT) sector continued its post-pandemic recovery last year, enrolling more students and delivering...
Read more
Survey of Japanese agents indicates significant recovery in outbound student numbers for 2023 The annual survey of The Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS) has just been released. This year’s survey...
Read more
ICEF Podcast: Start-ups in international education: disrupters or innovators? Listen in as ICEF’s Craig Riggs and Martijn van de Veen break down the latest developments in Canada’s...
Read more
ChatGPT for international education marketing: What is “Prompt Engineering?” Many international education marketers are now using ChatGPT, whether it’s the free version (GPT-3) or the paid version...
Read more
Canada: Ontario’s cap implementation plan allocates nearly all study permit applications to public colleges and universities On 26 February 2024, the Government of Ontario – Canada’s most-populous province and host to just over half of...
Read more
New Zealand’s international enrolment continued to recover in 2023 New Zealand’s international education sector welcomed significantly more students in 2023 than in 2022, according to data released...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links