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Students set to study responsible use of AI alongside A levels


4 min read Partner content

What is true? What is safe? What does it mean for society? Students will now be able to dive deep into key questions surrounding Generative AI in a significant move by Pearson – the world’s leading learning company.

For the first time, A level students across the country will be able to study the role and ethics of AI as part of a qualification, critically analysing trending tools like Chat GPT and their outputs while gaining key skills for the future.

Available from November, the new learning pathway offered within Pearson Edexcel’s Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), will see students able to lead investigations into the benefits and limitations of Generative AI across a range of real-life contexts and interest areas, including:

  • Could AI ever replace a sports coach and achieve better results?
  • Are AI-generated scripts capable of empathy when portraying loss and death in film?
  • Can generative AI provide advice, diagnosis and reassurance in the same way as an appointment with a medical professional?

Equivalent to half an A level in size and attracting up to 28 UCAS points, the ‘EPQ:AI’ pathway comes as AI continues to transform workplaces and behaviours. A recent survey revealed that a quarter of UK adults have used Generative AI with many doing so in the workplace, while SnapChat’s AI-powered chatbot is reported to have surpassed over 150 million users this year.

Sharon Hague, Managing Director at Pearson – the first exam board to encourage students to study and critique AI in this way – said: “This new pathway is just the first step in our collaboration with learners, educators, families and experts to help today’s students thrive in the AI-driven society of tomorrow.

“Generative AI is impacting learners’ lives today and as such, we believe there needs to be a space for them to critically explore its benefits and pitfalls now. In our recent Pearson School Report, 9 in 10 students told us that they want to feel prepared for their future in a digital world. By giving young people the choice to dive deep into AI, we hope they will learn to use these tools responsibly and effectively while gaining vital critical thinking skills.”

Representatives from examination boards, including Sharon Hague from Pearson, form a key panel in the newly created ‘AI in Education’, a not-for-profit, independent body that seeks to ensure that AI can be used in education to benefit students, teachers and society.

Sir Anthony Seldon, Head of Epsom College and founder of AI in Education, said: “AI is transforming education and all our lives, and it’s fantastic to see organisations, like Pearson, taking steps to support students navigate this. There is a real need right now to support AI literacy in schools and help prepare young people for a world where such tools will become commonplace in their personal and professional lives.”

16-18-year-olds who take the EPQ:AI pathway from Pearson will have access to materials that support them to critique Generative AI tools and outputs through the creation of an essay, field study, performance or artefact.

Sennen, a student in the South East said: “AI is a big part of our world and experiences already – especially on social media, with loads of young people I know already using chatbots for life advice. The chance to explore generative AI, especially understanding the risks, using it responsibly and applying what we learn to a project that supports our studies and future careers is really exciting.”

Pete Dring, Head of Computing at Fulford School in York, added: "Whilst tools like ChatGPT are still fairly new, their impact has already been huge and is growing rapidly: almost every teenager could name someone in their class who has used generative SnapChat AI or Bing to help with their homework. It's important that students understand the limitations of such tools and how to use them responsibly."

Support materials are also being provided to teachers alongside the project qualification. The 2023 Pearson School Report found that 1 in 2 secondary teachers expect to see an increased use of AI, like ChatGPT, in schools in the next 10 years, but what shape this will take is the focus of significant debate. Just next week the government is hosting its first AI Hackathon, where teachers and school leaders will explore how AI can be used effectively in education.

Find out more about Pearson Edexcel’s EPQ:AI


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