Book Review: The Fourth Education Revolution by Sir Anthony Seldon

Sir Anthony Seldon's new book The Fourth Education Revolution
Sir Anthony Seldon's new book The Fourth Education Revolution

Sir Anthony Seldon’s latest book on how artificial intelligence will impact on education is an engaging and agreeable read on the history of learning and the current issues regarding how we teach our children, writes Sam Dean.

The University of Buckingham’s vice-chancellor says that after the passing down of knowledge (effectively the development of language), the creation of organised learning and the printing press, AI promises to usher in the next significant change in education.

Sir Anthony bemoans the current one size fits all approach to teaching and says we need a more individual focus - “stage not age”.

He believes that the end of year exam “will be dead in 25 years,” predicting instead “continuous online assessment” and that we should be more focused on creativity.

He believes that AI not only demands that we prepare for a different world but also acts as the enabler for it.

However, the book is not the peer into the future the reader might be hoping for.

Educators have long been calling for a change to rote learning and syllabuses have been adapting to new technologies for decades.

The real innovation in education from AI, as in all other areas such as medicine and warfare, will likely come from super AI or AGI (artificial general intelligence).

The book acknowledges that “authoring content in a way that is fully optimised for a student” may need the arrival of AGI.

But Sir Anthony does not believe that general intelligence will ever appear and this acts as a frustrating roadblock to the development of some of his more interesting ideas.

This is never more apparent than in the final chapter of the book, which is largely a consideration of the future of AI, where potential threats posed by general intelligence are dimissed largely on the grounds that we will never get there.

Sir Anthony’s book certainly contains some innovative ideas for the near-term advancement of our education system, with technology at the forefront.

Whether the book has the right answers or even the right questions for the long-term is less clear.