Department for Education ‘assessing risks’ of ChatGPT

Ministers says new technology also provides opportunities to widen access

Credit: Markus Winkler/Pixabay

The government is “assessing the risks” that could be posed to the education system by the growing sophistication of large language models – as exemplified by ChatGPT.

Developed by Silicon Valley firm OpenAI, ChatGPT has attracted a great deal of attention in recent weeks as the program has been made openly available for public use as part of a testing and feedback-gathering process. Users have tasked have tasked the program with creating letters, poems, and stories – and been impressed with the results.

Some academics, meanwhile, have reported setting the same assignment to ChatGPT as they set to their students, and found that the AI-generated reports and essays they received were worthy of high marks – and indistinguishable from human-authored work.

Baroness Barran, minister for the school system, said that the Department for Education is reviewing the potential dangers posed by large language models – but also believes that such systems could offer benefits to schools and colleges.

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“The department is assessing the risks and opportunities of recent developments in large language models. The new technology has the potential to improve access and outcomes across the education system,” she said. “The department will continue to work with the Office for Students, the Office for AI, and Ofqual to build our understanding and inform future plans.”

The minister added: “Schools, colleges and universities have policies in place to identify and respond to cheating in assessment. The department expects schools and colleges to ensure the integrity of their assessment processes and take action if any student is found to be cheating. Schools, colleges and universities are best placed to decide what technology they need to meet their requirements in relation to their educational contexts.”

Barran, who was answering a series of written parliamentary questions from Conservative peer Lord Baker of Barking, indicated that the department will continue to keep tabs on technological developments and their implications for education institutions.

“The department will keep its programme of measures under review to ensure the best means in addressing the risks and opportunities AI presents are identified, including continuing to establish a strong evidence base for technology in education,” she said.

Sam Trendall

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