Guidance for Generative AI in Education and Research: A Humanistic Approach

Author: Amr Reda Abdullatif

Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) models have revolutionized various sectors, including education and research. However, their use has raised several ethical and societal concerns. These include the potential for digital poverty, reduction in the diversity of opinions, lack of real-world understanding, unexplainable model outputs, and the use of content without consent. These issues highlight the need for comprehensive guidance and regulation in the use of GPT models, particularly in the field of education and research.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a global leader in education, has taken the initiative to address these concerns. UNESCO’s top priority is to provide inclusive and equitable quality education for all, aligning with the Education 2030 Agenda’s goal to eradicate poverty through 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

In line with this, UNESCO has released its first global guidance on generative AI (GenAI) in education. This guidance aims to support countries in implementing immediate actions, planning long-term policies, and developing human capacity. It assesses the potential risks GenAI could pose to core humanistic values such as human agency, inclusion, equity, gender equality, and linguistic and cultural diversities.

The guidance proposes key steps for governmental agencies to regulate the use of GenAI tools, including protecting data privacy and considering age limits for their use. It also outlines requirements for GenAI providers to enable ethical and effective use in education. Educational institutions are urged to validate GenAI systems for their ethical and pedagogical appropriateness.

The guidance is anchored in a humanistic approach to education that promotes inclusion, equity, gender equality, and cultural and linguistic diversity. It calls for the consideration of the longer-term implications of generative AI on knowledge, teaching, learning, and assessment. The guidance emphasizes the need to regulate GenAI in a human-centered manner and to address controversies such as digital poverty, regulatory adaptation, content use without consent, unexplainable models, internet pollution, lack of understanding of the real world, reduction of diversity of opinions, and the generation of deepfakes.

The potential uses of Generative AI highlighted in research are numerous. They include co-designing uses of GenAI for research, supporting teachers and teaching, acting as a 1:1 coach for the self-paced acquisition of foundational skills, facilitating inquiry or project-based learning, and supporting learners with special needs. These potential uses highlight GenAI’s ability to enhance and support various aspects of the learning and research process, providing new opportunities for creativity, personalization, and collaboration.

In conclusion, UNESCO’s guidance emphasizes the importance of a human-centered approach to AI in education and research and the need to redefine new horizons for education in the digital era. It is crucial that GenAI becomes a tool that genuinely benefits and empowers teachers, learners, and researchers in education. This includes addressing controversies, developing policy measures, and implementing regulations to govern the collection and use of data, protect human agency, and promote inclusive access to learning programs.