Schools have been urged to teach children how to use AI from the age of 11 as the technology threatens to upend the jobs market.
Rather than wait for pupils to take up computer science at GCSE, the British Computer Society (BCS, The Chartered institute for IT) said all youngsters need to learn to work with tools like ChatGPT.
The professional body for computing wants a digital literary qualification to be introduced, with a strong focus on artificial intelligence and its practical applications.
An understanding of AI should also become a key part of teacher training and headteacher qualifications, it added.
Julia Adamson MBE, director of education at the institute, said: “Young people need modern digital skills, like understanding how AI chatbots can help them in their life and career.
“But these aren’t covered in the current GCSE, which is highly theoretical.
“The digital literacy options available need to change immediately, so the UK’s teenagers don’t get left behind.”
‘Everything’ will need AI knowledge
Research from education company Pearson suggests while AI will touch all corners of the economy, office and administrative jobs will be among those most impacted.
Repetitive tasks like scheduling appointments or answering and directing calls could easily be done by AI, it said.
Ms Adamson said before long, “everything from marketing to law is going to require pretty strong knowledge of generative AI” and schools have to keep up.
Earlier this year, headteachers warned large language systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT were developing “too quickly” and guidance on how classrooms should adapt wasn’t keeping up.
These models are trained on huge amounts of data, so they can understand and respond to prompts.
They have generated everything from convincing essays to speeches, and some schools and universities in other countries have already banned them.
Is AI the ultimate homework cheat?
The Department for Education acknowledged the need for students to be taught how to use AI “safely and appropriately” in an updated policy paper last month.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has not hidden his enthusiasm for the potential of AI, and has proposed it could provide “personalised learning” at school.
He has said it could also “reduce teachers’ workloads” by assisting with lesson planning and marking.
According to polling by YouGov for BCS, almost three quarters of parents support a wider IT skills qualification to compliment the current computer science GCSE.