Is APAC education ready for global AI challenges?

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For many academic institutions, the COVID-19 pandemic was a learning curve, testing their adaptability and resilience. In Asia-Pacific, survival strategies varied due to diverse factors such as geography, access to technology, and regulatory environments.

Armed with these lessons, the region’s education sector is now poised to meet the demands of a changing world — one increasingly influenced by AI. Today, classrooms in APAC have not only reopened; they have become borderless.

To explore further, Frontier Enterprise investigated three academic institutions at the preparatory, tertiary, and postgraduate levels in Vietnam, Philippines, and Japan, respectively.

Prep work

In Vietnam, there has been a marked increase in the shortage of teaching personnel, following significant teacher resignations, as noted by the Ministry of Education and Training. As the government addresses this issue, parents are increasingly concerned about their children’s learning and development.

This gap presented an opportunity for YAHO LAB, an edtech company founded in 2021, to assist by connecting parents with after-school tutors for their children.

Seonhee Yoon, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, YAHO LAB. Image courtesy of YAHO LAB.

Seonhee Yoon, Co-Founder and COO of YAHO LAB, observed that they had onboarded 6,000 registered tutors, over 4,000 of whom are alumni of top Vietnamese universities.

“The technology integrated into our platform recommends the most suitable tutors for children based on specific needs and preferences indicated by parents. Our tutors are trained for various services we offer, including play care — blending fun and education; homework care — providing subject-specific homework assistance; and the Eye-Level programme, in partnership with Korean education firm Daekyo, covering English and mathematics,” Yoon explained.

To keep tutors current with their students’ progress, YAHO LAB’s platform offers a solution for managing schedules, reviewing booking details, viewing child profiles, communicating with parents, creating lesson plans, and writing notes. Additionally, a progress check system keeps parents informed on their child’s learning, tracking accomplishments and areas needing improvement.

Like many other learning platforms, YAHO LAB employs AI to refine a recommendation algorithm that uses data collected from parents about their child’s interests and personality, as well as the child’s evolving needs and ongoing feedback from tutors after each session.

“This data helps identify the child’s learning patterns, preferred activities, and strengths. Our algorithm analyses this information to recommend tutors and educational programs suitable for each stage of a child’s development,” added Yoon.

Looking ahead, YAHO LAB plans to implement AI in creating customised lesson plans, further simplifying and enhancing tutors’ work.

“In Vietnam, we face a projected shortfall of 55,400 kindergarten teachers by 2030. YAHO LAB seeks to address this challenge by offering a platform for parents to find tutors,” the COO said.

Future-bound

In the Philippines, while many tertiary institutions still focus heavily on theory-based learning, CIIT College of Arts and Technology is actively exploring practical academic applications of generative AI.

Michael Pajanil, the school’s edtech coach, shared that there was significant student concern in 2023 about the potential threats posed by platforms like ChatGPT and Gemini to their creative pursuits.

This concern arose when a company partnering with CIIT for its internship programme specifically sought students skilled in writing AI prompts, initially leaving students disillusioned.

“The students fear generative AI because they are entering a school where the primary program is multimedia arts. Being artists, digital artists, filmmakers, and animators, they question the value of their education if the industry favours AI-generated artwork. They wonder, ‘Why pay for education to become a better artist when a robot might take over my work in the future?’” Pajanil explained.

In response, CIIT conducted a series of consultations to develop a school-wide AI use policy, culminating in three main principles for responsible AI usage:

  • Cogent human oversight
  • Technological elevation of humanity
  • Technological equitability

“Cogent human oversight means maintaining meaningful human control, where ultimate decision-making rests with human experts,” Pajanil clarified.

Under the technological elevation of humanity principle, the approach to AI should be people-first, the educator added. Tech-driven tools are intended to complement and elevate human roles, not replace them.

Michael Pajanil, Educational Technology Coach, CIIT College of Arts and Technology.

“Let’s consider our Registrar’s office as an example. We employ five registrar staff, and when new technology was introduced that could perform their tasks, we didn’t consider replacing them. Instead, we focused on training them to excel beyond what the technology can achieve,” Pajanil said.

Under the technological equitability principle, it’s crucial to mitigate biases, discrimination, unfair representation, or prejudice in the acquisition and access to technological systems and tools. Institutional systems and tools must be designed to improve access for marginalised or vulnerable stakeholders.

While students’ fears about generative AI are valid, there are also benefits to using the technology — such as transcribing interviews, improving grammar, and summarising content. Nevertheless, concerns persist among teachers about AI-generated essays.

To address these concerns, CIIT has integrated plagiarism and AI detection software, CopyLeaks, into their Canvas learning management system. This step is just one part of a broader strategy to address the challenges, the edtech coach admitted.

“If you demonise generative AI inside the classroom, students will use it covertly. That’s why we’re actively discussing with teachers how to improve assessments and teaching methods. This ensures that when students use AI tools and submit their work, the evaluation focuses on their comprehensive skills rather than just the tool itself. ChatGPT can initiate discussions, but it’s not going to be the basis for determining final grades. Instead, it should serve as a launchpad for higher-level discussions,” Pajanil remarked.

To demonstrate the technology’s application, Pajanil taught his class how to code interviews for data analysis using ChatGPT.

“In teaching research, I generated mock interviews on ChatGPT based on our research questions. I then showed the class how these interviews could be used to train them in coding, using what they’ve learned about qualitative data analysis,” he shared.

A higher purpose

After college, many students pursue postgraduate degrees to upskill and advance to higher positions within their companies. One school in Japan is helping students find their personal mission, or “kokorozashi,” using AI.

Starting with just a single course and 20 students in 1992, GLOBIS Management School gained a licence to offer MBA programs and was rebranded as GLOBIS University in 2006. Since then, the university has expanded significantly, now enrolling over 1,100 students annually.

Having launched campuses in Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok, and San Francisco, GLOBIS recently expanded to Manila, as Filipinos represent the largest group of non-Japanese students. At a media launch in Manila, Yoshito Hori, the school’s Founder and President, shared his goal to transform business education in the “technovate” era.

Yoshito Hori, Founder and President, GLOBIS University.

“I coined ‘technovate’—a combination of ‘technology’ and ‘innovate.’ Working with start-ups and tech companies showed me that their management styles vastly differ from those of large corporations. This realisation led us to develop a new MBA program focused on technology-driven courses like digital marketing. We needed a distinctive name, hence ‘technovate’,” explained Hori.

Before the advent of ChatGPT, GLOBIS had already secured two AI patents: one for GAiL, or GLOBIS AI Learning, and another for GAiDES, or GLOBIS AI Document Evaluation System, both emerging from the GLOBIS AI Management Education Research Institute (GAiMERi).

GAiL is a content-based digital learning tool that enables students to apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios. It uses natural language processing to identify patterns in students’ responses, making dynamic adjustments to help them find new perspectives.

GAiDES, on the other hand, initially assesses students’ application essays and reports before they are reviewed by human evaluators.

“We began using AI before ChatGPT in our curriculum to enhance fairness, as professors often vary in their judgments. We believe AI can deliver a more consistent and fair assessment,” Hori said.

In addition to GAiL and GAiDES, GLOBIS University developed GAiChaL, or GLOBIS AI Chat Learning, an interactive system that leverages ChatGPT. This platform aims to facilitate the learning of business administration concepts through dialogues in natural language.

Solving tomorrow’s challenges today

For working parents with young children, time management is a major challenge. Approximately 74% of families in Vietnam are dual-income, leaving little time for parents to oversee their children’s educational needs, according to YAHO LAB’s Soon.

“We see more of these families turning to after-school programs to address this challenge. Particularly given the country’s strong commitment to providing quality education for their children, where families allocate 47% of their household income to private education, Vietnam is well-prepared to benefit from the services we offer,” she observed.

One thing is clear: Technology plays a key role in bridging these educational gaps.

“From the introduction of AI-powered tools for automated grading and feedback to virtual or augmented reality tools that extend learning beyond the traditional classroom, technology has significantly improved the educational experience for students, teachers, and parents. In APAC, there is a rapid uptake of these technological solutions, especially as governments prioritise such advancements,” said Soon.

Meanwhile, at CIIT, blended learning is becoming increasingly standard.

“Students can now access their courses on Canvas at their convenience, and classroom time is dedicated to more practical, hands-on application. We’re actively training our teachers to adapt to this tech-centric approach, moving away from the traditional notion that all learning must occur within the classroom walls as the pandemic is over,” Pajanil said.

Looking ahead to 2025, CIIT plans to establish the CIIT Innovation Centre to fast-track the transformation of student ideas into real-world use cases.

“Imagine a centre where students’ projects with practical societal impacts are not only funded but also brought to market, potentially sold to NGOs or companies. This initiative aims to extend the impact of our students’ work beyond academic settings, fostering a real-world impact akin to a Silicon Valley ecosystem,” the edtech coach stated.

For graduate students of GLOBIS University, technology is only as good as how it’s being used. To Hori, technology without a greater purpose is useless.

“We’re not only teaching skills, which are very important, but also how to use those skills effectively. Even though you have the skills and knowledge from an MBA, if you don’t know what to do with them, you won’t create value. We teach our students the importance of taking risks. Without risk, there is no value, and without value, there is no return. We are always telling our students to embrace risk-taking,” he said.

To support GLOBIS students in taking these risks, Hori, through his venture capital firm GLOBIS Capital Partners, funds promising business ideas.

“Now, with over US$2 billion under management, I wear two hats: founder and president of the business school, and founder and managing partner of the venture capital firm. We are actively creating an ecosystem to revolutionise business education,” he concluded.