Bots become teaching assistants in Japan
To tackle the surge in absences at schools, a city in Japan is welcoming assistant robots that officials hope will encourage students to attend classes remotely – and eventually in-person.
Two robots equipped with microphones, speakers and cameras are expected to appear in classrooms in November in Kumamoto, south-west Japan, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, as reported by the Guardian.
The idea is that the one metre-high, self-propelling bots will help children overcome their anxiety and give them the confidence to return to class.
Teachers will remain present but students connecting remotely will join the robots via their laptops allowing them to take part in discussions, the Mainichi said.
Local education authorities said that the bots will be free to roam school premises and take part in school activities.
According to the Mainichi paper, the board enacted the measure amid a concern in the amount of children truanting.
It said 2,760 children of primary and junior high school age in the city were not attending classes in the 2022 academic year – the fourth consecutive annual rise since 1,283 students were listed as absent in 2018.
At the beginning of this year, teaching assistants in Kumamoto taught virtually and the feedback from students suggested it helped the with their self-esteem and reduced their anxiety.
“Aside from letting them view the classes, the robots allow students to move freely in the classroom space and communicate with their classmates,” a board official told the newspaper. “Hopefully, this can help lower the mental hurdles for truant students.”
The education ministry said that Japan is plagued with truanting students at present. A record 244,940 primary and junior high school students refused to go to school for 30 days or more in the 12 months up to the end of March 2022.
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