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Japanese educators want to allow students to use robot substitutes to attend school

42 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

The Kumamoto City Board of Education is worried about the number of elementary and middle school-age children within the city who aren’t attending classes. According to the board’s statistics roughly, 2,760 kids within those age groups weren’t at school during the 2022 academic year, double the number for 2018.

So what’s the board’s latest plan to address this problem? Robots.

At a city council meeting held on September 4, the board presented its proposal to place robots in classrooms that can be controlled remotely by students who haven’t been attending classes. The robots are equipped with cameras, microphones, and speakers so that the students controlling them from home can see and hear what’s going on in the classroom, and also express themselves verbally during lesson-related discussions or when communicating with classmates. What’s more, the robots, which are roughly one-meter in height, are mobile, and can be piloted around the campus to participate in school activities held outside the classroom as well.

The goal of the project is to help pave a smoother path by which students who are not attending class due to stress, anxiety, or other social, psychological, or emotional issues can eventually return to in-person learning and social interaction with their peers. “There are some students who have trouble communicating, but have not rejected it entirely,” said a spokesperson for the board of education. “These robots provide a way to lower the hurdle to participating in quasi-experiences [with their classmates], and we hope that will then encourage them to take the next step [towards returning to attending class in person].”

The new proposal comes on the heels of a “virtual classroom” program that the board introduced in January, in which lessons are streamed over the Internet for non-attending students to see.

The goal of the robot plan is admirable, and educators looking for new ways to help children who are dealing with serious mental health issues is commendable as well. One can’t help but wonder, though, about how much more self-conscious a student might feel representing themselves with a robot avatar. Especially early in the program, a robot mixed in among the desks in a classroom or cruising down a hallway is going to attract attention from other students, which seems like it would be the opposite of what a child with anxiety would want.

That said, the board of education isn’t going to force any non-attending kids to use the robots if they don’t want to, and the project is starting off small in terms of scale. Kumamoto City has a population of roughly than 735,000 people, but the board’s plan is to start off with just two robots, which will be dispatched to schools that request use of them on specific days. If the proposal is approved, the robots could go into service as early as November, with the board evaluating the results following the end of the current academic year in March before deciding whether to continue/expand the program.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun

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© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
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Remote Robotic learning.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

This seems quite logical because the want human students to be robots anyway.

-12 ( +9 / -21 )

Do they compete in sports day as well? Seems utterly stupid to me.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Make sure robots can say ohayouzaimasu, otsukaresamadesu and can also bow. That's all it needs, no need to actually think.

-11 ( +13 / -24 )

Want to raise a generation of hikikomori, coz thats how you raise a generation of hikikomori. Not to mention there are much more important areas of education they could be spending money.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Japanese educators want to allow students to use robot substitutes to attend school

Sounds like the set-up for the next hit anime series.

"V-Tube! Tokimeki Heartbeat Classroom"

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

That said, the board of education isn’t going to force any non-attending kids to use the robots if they don’t want to, and the project is starting off small in terms of scale. Kumamoto City has a population of roughly than 735,000 people, but the board’s plan is to start off with just two robots, which will be dispatched to schools that request use of them on specific days. If the proposal is approved, the robots could go into service as early as November, with the board evaluating the results following the end of the current academic year in March before deciding whether to continue/expand the program.

Right, and just who is going to pay for it all? This is a waste of time, money and resources, better used elsewhere in the education system!

Kids can participate now with online classes, just as they did during the pandemic, and having a robot is just a distraction to the other students too!

Personally speaking, not just no, but hell no! What happens when the rest of the kids who are "borderline" realize that they dont have to go to school either.

Going to school isnt just about "lessons", it's about social interaction and learning, through trial and error how to communicate with other human beings!

Your system is screwed up if you think a robot is going to assist with changing it!

7 ( +10 / -3 )

"Spend money on trying to help these students by focusing on the underlying reasons for their anxiety?..."

"Nah."

"Instead let's spend 10 times the amount on a fix that will certainly work."

"Send in the robots!!"

S

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Are you serious with this? Man! Too fand pretty sad on many levels. You can't make this up. So, soon, if this catches on, students will use machines to do the talking for them. Man! Talk about subtracted learning. Soon, humans will not be humans at all; just hiding behind machines. I'm sure the cromagnons from the prehistoric years are turning in their graves now.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think this is a good idea! Many students don't like school because of bullying, anxiety issues, or some type of psychological issues.

Until Japan makes changes in its education system, this could be a good option.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

If this is the best the Japanese Ministory (sic) of Education can come up with, I'd say fire the lot, and rewrite the curriculum from the ground up to fit students for life and not for exams.

I'm not surprised students don't want to attend class. With teachers droning on and on through the day and more of the same at a Juku in the evening. Utterly useless information that they have to memorise for no other reason than "that's the way we've always done it!"

The solution is NOT robots. That is utterly STOOPID!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

This story is brought to you by the Japan Robot Manufacturers Association

6 ( +8 / -2 )

This absolutely sounds like it is straight from The Onion. Surely this idea is not real.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Until the Japanese education system wakes up and actually design curriculums that make attending school attractive to students, the status quo will prevail. Encourage the kids to participate in active learning, not just "sit down, shut up and listen."

0 ( +1 / -1 )

At all costs, children must not be taught nor encouraged to question anything. That will spell the end of Japan as the world knows it. So if they don't question what the '*+?/ they're doing attending classes vicariously through a robot, I guess the status quo will be safe.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Oh for the love of god, please tell me this is some sort of prank right?

”Mum, I’ve just put my substitute avatar robot in your shopping cart, went for the blue one. Yoroshiku! “

Yes! no more school. Like every kids dream ever.

How can any group of educators give kids the option to make it ok to step out of the world and into reclusive living. Do you want to encourage hikikomori?? An absolute ridiculous notion, no matter how good the intentions, but psychologists have known for years you need to gently push people struggling with social anxiety to take one small step at a time back TOWARDS the world , not away from it with a bleeding robot. You foster courage through care and stern dialog. Back in our day not going to school was simply not even an option, soft parents caving into weak kids will never end well.

Sorry guys, this is an epic fail.

If you wanted to be go hard with the criticism of this idea, I guess a system that pretty much is designed to produce robot like humans, then the next step of replacing the kids with robots ain’t that big a jump. Starting with only two robots will make them such a novelty that it’ll plant the seed in any other kid that may be having some trouble or anxiety , which is pretty much every kid at some stage of their life, that they now have the perfect option ‘Out’. Try dealing with the interpersonal issues better at school, stop plying the kids with an ‘all about the test’ ranking system that puts the poor little sods against each other and have the difficult conversations when the obvious need arises! Sort the system out ! Come on Kumamoto, sort yourselves out.

These are not the droids we are looking for!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Presenters of the idea have the their hearts on the right place, but his would only create more hikikomori.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japanese educators want to allow students to use robot substitutes to attend school

riiigghht....

Whatever happened to, if you don't show up for class for so many days, you fail the course?

Or students being held back?

Or truant officers?

Tell these kids to cut the crap and get their behinds to school!

When I was a kid, there were no excuses.

Unless you were puking your brains out, you went to school and hated it like everyone else.

If you skipped so many days, you were screwed and were in danger of either repeating the grade or summer school.

No wonder kids are so weak these days.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Elementary and middle school children using robots to attend class?

Understood that there are other extremely negative issues that could be avoided like bullying through this method of teaching. But college and career (adult) society won't be as accommodating, I'm sure. I don't envision these remote, robot-connected learners suddenly changing their mentality for high school. And if forced to attend, it (high school) will be even worse. This would be a new level of otaku I think.

I think there's got to be a better way to reach the missing students that won't have the significant potential to affect their ability to interact with society later in life. Maybe reduced attendance and separate after hours group focused instruction. "Group" as in these specific kids......

But, I wish them the best in any case!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Early April joke I must assume.

Or some brown envelopes passed on to those decision makers.

How about changing the Japanese education system first?

Would definitely come much cheaper and make more sense.

Just my opinion after having taught 32 years at public Japanese schools.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Robots like AV1 are already being used in some countries but usually only for sick students. School boards and government agencies will need to develop protocol and policies on how they can be used and which students can use them else nobody will actually physically go to school anymore.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Just mailed a mate down in Kumamoto and he says there’s a massive robotics company down their called Hirata.

And there you go…. These are the droids we are looking for?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Down THERE! Need my own robot spell checker innit!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

How about replacing the Kumamoto City Board of Education  with robots as well. One thing though, will the school robot/children still have to wear uniforms.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

This is a great idea. Who likes school ?

I hope they can create other models for everyday social interactions. I could send one to my friend's BBQ's to interact with Americans if the sarcasm function could be switched off.

If it was a cold, rainy day, instead of saying "I forgot to be bring my speedos" it would say "Aaaawwww maaaaan, it's like sooo cold and rainy today".

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

so that kid who can't sit still will now be an unstoppable 200lb robot who refuses to sit in its designated area

0 ( +0 / -0 )

so that kid who can't sit still will now be an unstoppable 200lb robot who refuses to sit in its designated area

and the kid with the bumfluff moustache and briefcase will be bodged together from cornflake boxes, a casio calculator and roller skates. and smell of talcum powder.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Is this another way of increasing Japan's birthrate? Have robots in school to replace kids, soon they'll be for non-existent kids too.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

So far in theory. What comes next , the whole planet's population sending instead themselves only their robotic copies into workplaces and other private activities and maybe even into bed with formal partner at night? That is ridiculous and a strange future scenario. No, take those few special kids out of their comfort zones. They should be put into real schools, exposed to real education and later work life as adults like everyone else is. They can cry or complain individually their little and mostly only imagined fictitious problems in the rare free time after massive homeworks, not like now the whole day long, playing around with phones game computers or like in this weird 'project' with robot remote controllers. Ok, one exception granted, when they already have completed all studies and can develop such a robot all by their own knowledge and capabilities. Then they are of course free from an obligation to visit a school in person any longer and may send their robotic double as replacement.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Sakurasuki

Please read the content before commenting which content has nothing to do with it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I hope this idiotic idea doesn't go anywhere.

There are a lot of reasons that kids might not be attending school. Almost none of them are going to be helped by having a robot attend in their physical place.

This feels like one of those technical solutions that is in search of a problem. Some company has developed a robot but is having difficulty finding a market for a robot that performs the specific tasks it is designed for. At some point they hit on the idea of trying to sell them to schools. Schools don't need robots. But with a lot of hard work by the salespeople they come up with a pitch to sell the robots as a highly convoluted and completely illogical "solution" to whatever problem they are having, which in this case happens to be truancy. Most school boards reject the stupid idea, but eventually they find one credulous enough to take the bait. Not saying that this is what happened in this particular case, but it would fit a well established pattern if it was.

Also, lets give a second thought to these statistics:

According to the board’s statistics roughly, 2,760 kids within those age groups weren’t at school during the 2022 academic year, double the number for 2018.

Gee, its almost like some big event happened between 2018 and 2022 which caused a lot of people to stay home more and avoid crowded places like classrooms. And maybe if that mysterious thing, whatever it was, went away by some magic method, like the government declaring in April that the thing was no longer something everyone needed to worry about as much and we didn't need to avoid crowded places like classrooms anymore, this "problem" would more or less resolve itself without the need for putting expensive, dystopian robots into the nation's classrooms.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If this is the best the Japanese Ministory (sic) of Education can come up with, I'd say fire the lot, and rewrite the curriculum from the ground up to fit students for life and not for exams.

Be helpful for people to actually read articles before commenting. Not to mention commenting about how "utterly STOOPID" it is, your words not mine, when MEXT had nothing to do with it.

That is utterly STOOPID!

Now who's the "stoopid" one?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sarcasm not your strong point, Yubaru? Both spelling “errors” were deliberate and an exaggeration, I believe. That’s why Bertie wrote “(sic)”.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

dagonToday  07:38 am JST

Japanese educators want to allow students to use robot substitutes to attend school

Sounds like the set-up for the next hit anime series.

"V-Tube! Tokimeki Heartbeat Classroom"

There is, in fact, a Japanese movie from 2005 about this very thing. "Hinokio", a story about a boy who uses a robot to go to school! Now in his case, he uses it because he is physically disabled. But the story does warn us that using the robot (understandably!) turns him into something of a recluse.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In other words, the solution advocated by some so-called educators to the problem of youth suffering from alienation and problems relating to socialization caused by devices and AI is to supplant the education system with more AI. This does not make any sense.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I don't think anyone would notice the difference.

Terrible standard of passion for their subjects from so many staff and students in Japan. Most students care more about their phones, silly Idols or their club activity/circle.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Children must go to school and socialize in person. This proposal will only increase the decline in Japan's population. If they are sick or incapacitated, a robot substitute for a limited time would allow a uninterrupted education as much as is possible, otherwise, they must attend in person, learn to interact and develop relationships as well as to become educated.

Japan must start making decisions that will help improve population growth, even if it is a harder option. Taking the easy way out will just make things worse when it comes to people interacting together in person.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It would be a very unhealthy and anti-social practice if introduced.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What? Robots? Instead of students? In schools? Japan?

Have you gone topsilly- turvilly- crazilly- Kranky ! Japan?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Good idea. The reality is that resources are limited, so even if this experiment is ruled a success, it's unlikely the scale of issue will grow to more than 1 per class (1 in 40) in the near future. Any student who wants to use one will be in a tough race to demonstrate he is most in need of said robot of an entire class. Even if the school allows private substitutes, they probably cost a piano each, so it'd be an uphill fight to convince all but the very richest parents to pay a million yen for a private robot.

The other 39 students are going to have to tough it out and go to school as recommended by the naysayers. And for the one student who's most in need out of 40, who's to insist that's not the best available solution for them. 

No, take those few special kids out of their comfort zones.

OK, Sven. If those "special kids" die from suicide or suffer any other harm, it'd be assessed as your fault. Still willing to say that? What? Not fair to put the blame on you? But that's one of the problems facing the schools and boards above them - if they force the special kids to school in the 21st century and they die, parents are very liable to sue the involved school. Any strategy they suggest will have to take this fact into account.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

opheliajadefeldtSep. 8  10:48 am JST

How about replacing the Kumamoto City Board of Education with robots as well. One thing though, will the school robot/children still have to wear uniforms.

That's one factor in turning students into robots already. Something has to change one way or another. The old education systems everywhere are not suitable or workable in today's world anymore.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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