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Chinese students are using digital gardens to learn AI

Artificial intelligence firm SenseTime starts new program in 40 schools

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Learning a foreign language was once the hot new thing for students in China. Now it’s AI -- and it’s popping up in classrooms across the country.

The latest attempt to get kids on board with this booming field sees them swapping out textbooks for robots. There’s even gardening via cloud computing.

Run by China’s leading AI company -- the controversial SenseTime -- in partnership with East China Normal University, it’s all part of China’s plan to be a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba -- an investor in SenseTime.)

The idea is that by getting kids involved in practical things like growing plants they have “real experiences through AI technology,” according to SenseTime’s CEO Zhang Wen.

It’s actually a pretty big shift in how Chinese kids are taught, which is still largely focused on exam-oriented rote learning.

The program is still small, with only about 40 high schools in Shanghai on board.

But with the Chinese government estimating that demand for AI professionals will hit 5 million over the coming years, the big question is: will it be enough?

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.