AI is revolutionizing education in China
AI is unstoppable. It’s the driving force in all major applications and businesses and is now being used to streamline efficiency in education. One company revolutionizing academia through artificial intelligence is Squirrel AI. We at Cybernews Academy wanted to give our readers a brief overview of Squirrel AI, how it works, and what the company encapsulates.
What is Squirrel AI?
Squirrel AI, created by Yixue Group, is “a K-12 EdTech company specializing in intelligent adaptive education.” Adaptive learning is an educational technology that reacts to a student’s interactions by providing the learner with individualized support. Squirrel AI utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to tailor lesson plans to each independent student. According to the Squirrel AI website, the AI system simulated teacher gives the student these lesson plans and one-to-one tuition more efficiently than traditional methods.
What does it offer?
This service provides “high-quality after-school Chinese, Mathematics, English, Physics, and Chemistry courses.” The program focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) while providing language lessons. Squirrel AI appears to target teaching areas that are conventionally hard to grasp. According to the Squirrel AI website, this service offers “personalized and high-quality after-school tutoring at an affordable price.” In the MIT Technology Review, the author mentioned how the academic competition in China is ferocious. “10 million students a year take the college entrance exam, the gaokao. Your score determines whether and where you can study for a degree, and it’s seen as the most significant determinant of success for the rest of your life. Parents willingly pay for tutoring or anything else that helps their children get ahead.” Therefore, one-on-one tutoring is extremely valuable and beneficial for those looking to pass this college entrance exam. Equally, Squirrel AI claims that the price of learning is affordable, which may ultimately open up opportunities for a diverse range of students.
How does it work?
Squirrel AI works with teachers to target the most intricate knowledge points to identify learning gaps. According to the MIT review, Squirrel AI's "engineering team works with a group of master teachers to subdivide the subject into the smallest possible conceptual pieces." The author provided an example of how these knowledge points function. “Mathematics is broken into over 10,000 knowledge points such as rational numbers, the properties of the triangle, and the Pythagorean theorem. Each point is linked to related items, forming a ‘knowledge graph.’ Each knowledge point is addressed using videos, examples, and practice problems.” Conversely, a textbook might only address 3,000 knowledge points, and Squirrel AI addresses more knowledge points than textbooks and some of its competitors. All students participating in the program will take a ‘diagnostic test’ to identify what attributes are lacking in their learning. In addition, Chinese researchers have access to the world’s largest student databases, which are used to train AI.
Who is Squirrel AI for?
Squirrel AI is a Chinese-based company that supports students' learning from Kindergarten through to 12th grade. These lessons support learners through school by assisting them with subjects mainly related to STEM. However, some language classes are also available.
What is it addressing?
Squirrel AI claims to address the “burning needs in education,” which include:
- Lack of personalized attention in traditional classrooms
- Unequal distribution of educational opportunities
These are critical points to address. Due to the high student-to-teacher ratio, it’s difficult for many students to engage with the content in traditional classroom settings. In addition, the unequal distribution of educational opportunities for underprivileged children is a growing concern across the globe. Therefore, Squirrel AI has created centers and a platform where children and teenagers can learn at an affordable price.
How is Squirrel AI unique?
The program addresses crucial issues in a student's learning by delivering diagnostic tests that help identify gaps in a person's learning. This allows personal, student-centered learning rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Yixue Education Inc. collaborates with leading institutions like Carnegie Mellon University, the Stanford Research Institute, and UC Berkeley to bring about the latest adaptive learning research using AI, machine learning, and cognitive sciences. Additionally, the Chief AI officer at Squirrel AI is Tom Mitchell, a world-renowned machine learning expert and the former Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Mitchell is currently co-directing the CMU/Squirrel AI Laboratory on Personalized Education at Scale, which aims to utilize artificial intelligence to revolutionize personalized education for years to come.
Working with universities
Not only is Squirrel AI working with students in the classroom and online, but they are also working with world-renowned experts in artificial intelligence. One of the various universities the company has been working with is Carnegie Mellon University (CMU.) In 2019, Carnegie Mellon released a statement stating, "Yixue Education Inc. and Carnegie Mellon have announced a new multi-year partnership highlighted by a comprehensive artificial intelligence research lab.” The CMU-Squirrel AI Research Lab on Personalized Education at Scale aims to develop contemporary ways for AI, machine learning, cognitive science, and human-computer interface technologies to enhance the learning experiences of Kindergarten to 12th-grade students. Carnegie Mellon University cites the interim dean of CMU’s School of Computer Science: "The CMU-Squirrel AI Research Lab on Personalized Education at Scale provides unique new opportunities for CMU faculty and students to partner with Yixue and its scientists and engineers to extend the frontiers of adaptive learning theories, technologies, and practices."
In the CMU article, Chairman Derek Haoyang Li expressed excitement about the partnership. “We're thrilled to be partnering with the exceptional faculty and students at Carnegie Mellon, which has established itself as the leading institution for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and adaptive learning technologies." He continued by stating that Carnegie Mellon University has “a proven record of research and development in the science of learning, we will be able to expand the frontier of adaptive learning theories and practices to improve student engagement, efficiency and learning outcomes for all kids around the world.”
Squirrel AI is revolutionizing the way that children learn in China. Currently, Squirrel AI has over 3000 learning centers, with over 10 million students registered for the program, in more than 200 cities across various provinces and regions in China. With advancements in AI technologies, artificial intelligence will inevitably permeate all corners of our lives. Education is one of the places in which artificial intelligence could be used to boost students learning by providing one-on-one tuition that enhances efficiency and aids in content retention. The future of Squirrel AI looks bright as the leaders of Yixue look to expand the business into after-school clubs and even integrate the program into school curriculums.