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ChatGPT in Indonesian education: A risk or game changer?

First published at The Jakarta Post (14/02/2023)


Last November, ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform, quickly garnered attention for its ability to generate detailed answers to a wide array of disciplines (or multi-disciplines) of knowledge within seconds, through prompt commands.


The development of ChatGPT has had a mixed welcome from the general public as it has been dubbed the “biggest threat” to the job market and the education sector given its potential to revolutionize how we learn and perform our jobs.


There are practically no limits to what ChatGPT is capable of. It can generate ideas for business concepts, solve math questions, and even complete important academic obligations, such as writing essays and answering exam questions.


Many governments and schools around the world have responded to the dawn of ChatGPT. School districts in New York City, Los Angeles and Baltimore in the United States, as well as schools in Australia have banned the platform as it is perceived to have a detrimental effect on students’ learning. Science Po University in France recently enacted a ban on the use of ChatGPT without lecturers’ supervision, citing the plagiarism threat of the site and its dire consequences for offenders, which include exclusion from French universities.


At the time of writing, concerns over the utilization of AI-powered platforms in Indonesia’s education sector have been minimal, as indicated by the lack of reported responses from academia or teachers in the mainstream and social media. The Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry has not specifically responded to ChatGPT or similar platforms either.


Even before the rising concerns over AI-assisted plagiarism, academic misconduct had been prevalent in Indonesia.

Even before the rising concerns over AI-assisted plagiarism, academic misconduct had been prevalent in Indonesia. Academia, including students and lecturers, have often been accused of plagiarizing, whether on purpose or unintentionally, due to a lack of awareness and understanding of the standards for academic writing.


Moreover, platforms offering academic task services in Indonesia are easily found online through simple keywords, such as “joki ujian” or “jasa tugas kuliah.” Such practices became even more lucrative during the pandemic as learning moved virtually.


Therefore, even if universities or schools in Indonesia are to introduce specific policies on AI, a strict ban may not solve the root issue as irresponsible people will inevitably find ways to indulge in academic misconduct.


The government has repeatedly shown its support for the development of digital skills. It is predicted that Indonesia will require at least 9 million digital workers to accommodate the rapid advancement of technology by 2030.


Moreover, the education ministry has expressed support for the development of digital talent in AI, especially at the higher education level. For instance, the ministry has established collaboration with the private sector on accelerating digital talent in AI. AI-related training and internship programs are also offered on the Kampus Merdeka (Freedom Campus) platform. This demonstrates the government's commitment to making AI more accessible to students and educational institutions.


In terms of combating the rising misuse of AI in academia, it is up to the lecturers or institutional authorities to creatively explore ways to assess academic performance and detect plagiarism. For instance, a number of universities want to reconceptualize the way they measure students’ academic performance by giving more weight to fieldwork, oral exams and lab activities over written assignments.


Given that the number of users of ChatGPT and other similar AI text-generating platforms is likely to increase in the coming years, the education sector has no choice but to adapt to the technological changes, which probably include integrating AI in their classrooms. For instance, some lecturers are considering allowing their students to use AI while increasing the grading standards for essay writing.


On the other hand, academia has also noticed the lack of depth of ChatGPT-generated answers and even how it provides biased and heavily discriminatory information. This shows that the users still need to critically evaluate the information provided by AI, further demonstrating the importance of critical and digital literacy skills among users.


According to consultancy firm PwC, the contribution to the economy by AI could amount to US$15.7 trillion globally by 2030, surpassing the current output of both India and China. Meanwhile, the growth of AI is predicted to contribute around $366 billion to Indonesia’s gross domestic product in the same year. This highlights the growing integration of AI into industry, leading to increasing demand for talent in working with AI. As a result, the current workforce may need to be familiar with or even able to proficiently utilize AI in a productive and meaningful way to support their professional careers.


Disruption by AI is inevitable and the education sector must catch up with it given the concerns over ethics and how it can dramatically change the teaching and learning environment.

Disruption by AI is inevitable and the education sector must catch up with it given the concerns over ethics and how it can dramatically change the teaching and learning environment. Academia and teachers may need to brainstorm and look into global trends in an attempt to incorporate AI into their day-to-day learning activities.


While Indonesia still grapples with the ongoing issues of the digital divide and the lack of digital literacy skills, the government, educational institutions, teachers and lecturers, as well as parents may need to start to consider the appropriate use of AI tools like ChatGPT in the classroom.


Critical thinking skills should become a priority to develop from an early age as a foundation for navigating rapidly changing technological development.


Nevertheless, AI platforms like ChatGPT are merely tools. Although it has the potential to facilitate illicit activities, how it is utilized still depends on the user’s intention and capability.


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