Pay attention at the back: Chinese school installs facial recognition cameras to keep an eye on pupils 

Pupil tells reporters he doesn’t dare let his mind wander after technology is installed in classroom to see who is paying attention

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 3:56pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2018, 4:27pm

A school in eastern China has installed cameras to monitor pupils’ facial expressions and attentiveness in class, an online news portal has reported.

A series of photos published on the Sina News website on Wednesday show three cameras installed on top of the blackboard at the 11th middle school in Hangzhou, capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang, to capture their behaviour.

The cameras, which the report described as “teaching assistants”, are part of the school’s “Smart Classroom Behaviour Management System” to give teachers real-time information on their students.

The school said it could use the cameras to analyse pupils’ facial expressions to determine whether they were enjoying lessons and whether they were paying attention. 

“Using this system we can see which classmates are concentrating in class and whose mind is wandering,” the school’s head teacher, Ni Ziyuan, was quoted as saying. 

The system also measures levels of attendance by using a database of pupils’ faces and names to check who is in the classroom.

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The technology will also be used to keep an eye on the teachers and the school argued it could help improve their classroom technique. 

“This kind of system is supervising both the students’ learning, and the teachers’ teaching,” deputy principal, Zhang Guanchao, was quoted as saying.

The report claimed the methods are having the desired effect.

“Beforehand in some classes that I didn’t like much, sometimes I would be lazy and do things like take naps on the desk or flick through other textbooks,” a student was quoted as saying. 

“Since the school has introduced these cameras, it is like there are a pair of mystery eyes constantly watching me, and I don’t dare let my mind wander.”

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The unnamed student added he felt everyone’s concentration had improved, the report stated.

China has been spearheading the use of cameras to monitor its population since 2015, when the Ministry of Public Security launched a project to build the world’s most powerful facial recognition system. 

Its goal was to identify any of the country’s citizens within three seconds, by matching someone’s face with their ID photo. 

So far the technology has been used to catch unlicensed drivers in the southern tech hub of Shenzhen, jaywalkers in Shanghai and criminal suspects at a variety of public events ranging from beer festivals to pop concerts.