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AI Education Driving China Towards Becoming a Leader

DIGITAL VENTURES April 04, 2019 6:58 PM


Previously, Digital Ventures discussed several technology developments in China. Today, we will share the fundamentals of tech development which is “education”. The scope of education that China is focusing at the moment is Artificial Intelligence, an area that China is aiming to be the world leader. China has established a “plan” for education that will solve problems and drive the country towards its goal. In this blog, we will explain China’s problems and solutions that are leading them towards becoming an AI leader.


Two main reasons that turned China’s attention to education

We once shared about China’s “New Generation AI Development Plan”. This plan will lay the foundation for AI R&D in every aspect and aims for a tangible goal to raise the AI industry market value to 1 trillion RMB or about 5 trillion THB by 2030. This scheme is part of the “Science and Technology Innovation 2030”.


Such a goal requires action from different sectors. However, a critical element is the talents who are drivers of solution development. At present, China is faced with this problem due to 2 main reasons.

  • The number of talents isn’t enough to achieve the goal.

Innovation development requires talents with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) knowledge which is the basis of innovation development. In 2013, China dedicated effort and their talents increased 40%, 2 folds greater than the capability of the USA.

Nonetheless, quantity isn’t the main factor in innovation development. The proper culture and environment are the cause that slows down the innovative ability of Chinese talents. This is especially true for entrepreneurship skills for AI where China isn’t doing as well as other leading countries. 

As a result, China must attract AI talents from the USA and Europe. LinkedIn Global AI Talent reports that, in 2017, China welcomed more than 44% of foreign talents. Regardless of the great development speed in China, with foreign talents, they would still lack stability for long-term success.

  • High scores don’t reflect the readiness to innovate

China’s university entrance examination, the Gao Kao, is known to be one of the most intense exams in the world. Although the results provide universities with high-potential students, yet a great number of students lose the opportunity to learn AI, despite their interest and potential in the field.

Moreover, students compete in examination-oriented studies and aren’t familiar with the process of creating innovation that requires creativity and thinking out of the box. A survey among Chinese and South Korean students by Kyungpook National University in South Korea reports that students whose entrance examination scores are high will have lower creativity scores when compared to students with standard scores.

Thus, the more intense the exams, the greater effort it is for students to get high scores. As a result, a crucial skill for innovation development such as creativity has a lesser opportunity to shine.




Uplifting education: China’s sustainable AI development plan

From the aforementioned talent problem, China plans to “uplift” the education sector with curriculums that specifically focus on AI development in the primary, secondary, and university level.

  • An AI syllabus in basic education to sustainably tackle the root cause

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, states that China’s education system causes learners to lack entertainment, research, and experiment skills. These 3 aspects are the main factor in creating innovation. As a result, China views that AI should be accessible by everyone and experiments should be available in basic education. Thus, they have designed AI textbooks for grade school and high school students.

Professor Wang Ji Qing, the editor in chief and chairman of the teaching program at the East China Normal University, expresses the reason behind the textbook series for primary and secondary students. Wang mentions that in the near future, the young generations will be surrounded by robots and AI, they need the knowledge for the applications.

The series teaches students to understand the capacities of AI and basic experiments. Learners will understand and learn to apply them for further development according to their interests. The textbooks and curriculum are piloted at schools in Shanghai since 2018. 

  • Leading Chinese universities and their AI research institutes

Basic education can merely ignite students’ interests. In order to turn interests to tangible outcomes, universities must drive enough knowledge and skills for it to become a career. Surely, the government offers full support by announcing the plan for leading universities to launch AI research institutes.

In 2018, China’s Ministry of Education announced the operational plan to drive China towards becoming a leader in AI. The goal was for Chinese universities to be the leader in providing AI knowledge by 2030.

The plan created awareness among leading Chinese universities who launched dedicated departments and research institutes for AI. Some examples are listed below.

  • Two AI departments. In 2018, Nanjing University opened two new programs for Machine Learning and Data Mining and Intelligence System and Application. Zhou Zhihua, head of Nanjing University’s AI department, expresses the obligation for universities to open new AI curriculum as the current AI programs are too generalized. They fail to cultivate students who deeply understand or able to visualize AI applications in different industries.
  • Collaborations with the private sector for the actual use case. Aside from the programs, Nanjing University joined with giant e-commerce platform This provides students with hands-on AI experiment based on real problems and actual demand of the business sector.
  • AI+X, every subject is related to AI. Zhejiang university suggested the AI+X approach wherein AI is crossed with other majors that may enhance AI studies. This is likely to help set up 100 majors that combine AI and other subjects by 2020.


A Chinese proverb says “If you are planning for a decade, plant trees. If you are planning for a century, educate the young generations.” This saying is reflected in the education development plan in China, a country that aims to become an AI leader. Digital Ventures has more stories about technology development, follow us for more updates.

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