Feature: The Internet Plus revolution in Chinese education

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-20 17:01:20|Editor: Lu Hui
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by Xinhua writers Guo Ying and Zhao Wanwei

BEIJING, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- More than 20,000 students from 31 junior high schools of Beijing's Tongzhou District have two teachers for each subject. One is the class-based teacher at their school; the other is a Beijing Excellent Teacher who offers regular tutoring and individualized tutoring online.

They benefit from Beijing's Middle School Teachers Online Tutoring Service Platform. Initiated by Beijing Municipal Education Commission and first adopted in Tongzhou, the project encourages core teachers from Beijing's public middle schools to offer real-time tutoring, for free, especially in less advantaged schools.

The project collects students' whole learning process data, diagnoses and analyzes learning problems, and models the knowledge and ability structure. It will present a personalized analysis report for students, teachers and parents.

Li Yi, deputy director of Beijing Municipal Education Commission, considers it a public service innovation thanks to the development of Internet Plus and big data technology.

"This is a very effective way to share high-quality educational resources and provide an accurate, personalized education service," Li said.

Information technology has been revolutionizing education development over the past five years. At a recent forum on technology and education, Deputy Minister of Education Du Zhanyuan said China will promote the application of information technology to advance education reform and ensure equitable access to education.

"In the past five years, Internet access rates in primary and secondary schools have risen from 25 percent to 90 percent and multimedia classrooms have increased from under 40 percent to 83 percent. The number of online learning spaces for teachers and students has soared from 600,000 to more than 63 million," said Du.

"Using information technology, we also solved the problem of insufficient course setting for more than 4 million students in remote and impoverished areas where there is a serious shortage of teachers."

Du said the application of Internet technology calls for cooperation between education and industry. Some education technology enterprises are integrating technologies and the Internet into education to give children a better learning experience.

Chinese firm TAL Education Group developed a "Magic Mirror System" based on facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence (AI). The camera captures students' facial expressions in class and analyzes whether they are concentrating and understanding. The system generates a learning report for each student. Student feedback data also helps teachers to promptly adjust teaching schedules.

Chinese Internet giant Baidu is also betting on technological innovation in education. Baidu Education has cooperated with more than 1,000 schools and more than 5,000 educational organizations. Recently it launched the Baidu Intelligent Class system to help educators explore student-centered teaching models and provide individualized learning resources.

"We will integrate Baidu's cutting-edge technology such as AI, big data, and cloud computing into educational applications," said Baidu president Zhang Yaqin.

Michael Moe, CEO of U.S.-based Global Silicon Valley (GSV) Capital, has watched education technology enterprises around the world. GSV Capital has invested in online education platform Coursera and organized the annual ASU-GSV Summit on education technology.

Moe said Chinese education enterprises have been stepping up appearances at U.S. education summits.

"Many Internet-based enterprises in China have carried out innovative exploration in education and China's education-technology industry stands at the forefront of the world," Moe said.

Moe cited VIPKid, an online English education company in China, as an example of China's potential in education-technology industry. "It's hard to imagine a young Chinese education starter growing like that in less than five years."

Moe believes that in the knowledge-based economy, education increasingly makes a difference to not only how an individual does, but how a company does, and how well a country does.

"China is a country that puts emphasis on education. I believe more successful education technology enterprises will emerge, which will change the education landscape," Moe said.