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A New Engine for Human Learning and Growth

Although recent advances in artificial intelligence have raised concerns about disinformation, deepfakes, and looming job losses, such risks must be weighed against the likely benefits. For a large, still-young developing country like India, the technology's potential to bridge current development gaps is difficult to overstate.

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA – In wealthy advanced economies, conversations about artificial intelligence tend to focus on the dangers posed by machine learning. But in India, the bigger and more pressing question concerns human learning. With its young and growing population – which is already the world’s largest, and not expected to peak until 2065 – India’s main economic challenge is to build human capital, as is true of many countries in the Global South.

Here, AI already shows great promise. India’s education system is in crisis. Over half of fifth graders cannot read at a second-grade level, and merely a quarter can manage simple division. If these students had a personalized curriculum – taught in their native dialect, without caste-based or economic discrimination – they could catch up. While poor incentives for educators, state-level politics, bad curricula, and socioeconomic circumstances have stood in the way of this solution, AI could make such obstacles surmountable.

Imagine an AI tutor interacting with a student from India’s poorest state, Bihar, where learning scores are abysmal, in her native Maithili dialect. It would evaluate homework through images, correct pronunciation, teach other languages, integrate numeracy through games, and offer endless, patient repetition. The same approach also could be used to offer teacher training at scale, with large language models (LLMs), like the one that powers ChatGPT, aiding curriculum development in India’s 100-plus languages and more than 10,000 dialects, all at low cost.