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Chinese School Uses Facial Recognition to Monitor Students’ Attention in Class

Students at the No. 11 Middle School in Hangzhou, China, may want to think twice before dozing off or getting distracted in class as a new facial recognition system will be scanning their faces every 30 seconds to make sure they are paying attention.

Called a “smart classroom behavior management system”, the new monitoring solution recently installed at Hangzhou’s No. 11 Middle School is made up of three high-tech cameras positioned above the blackboard that constantly feed information to an AI-powered software that analyzes the students’ facial expressions and general behavior and assesses whether they are enjoying lessons or if their minds are wandering.

According to Chinese media reports, the AI is able to pick up seven different emotions, including neutral, happy, sad, disappointed, angry, scared and surprised, and will send a notification to the teacher to take action if it detects that one or more students are distracted during class. The date gathered by the surveillance system could also be used to evaluate teachers’ performance. So far, it has only been installed at this school in Hangzhou, but if results turn out positive, it could be rolled out across China.

“Installing this management system is mainly to show kids where they are concentrating the hardest, and where the problems are.” one of the teachers at No. 11 Middle School told RFA. “It will indicate their levels of concentration in class, and in areas where they’re not concentrating, it will make it easier for the teacher to go over sections again.”

“Maybe some kids think that it will be watching them the whole time, but they are maybe making too much out of it, because they will feel pressured, but that’s not the point of it,” he added. “It’s about getting the children to learn properly the whole time they are in class.”

One thing this teacher is definitely right about is the kids being freaked out by the high-tech cameras recording their every move and facial expression. Some are already changing their behavior because of this.

“Previously when I had classes that I didn’t like very much, I would be lazy and maybe take naps on the desk, or flick through other textbooks,” one student told Hangzhou.com. “But I don’t dare be distracted after the cameras were installed in the classrooms. It’s like a pair of mystery eyes are constantly watching me.”

You might think that that’s a good thing, but you have to factor in the stress and the kids’s ability to really concentrate in stressful conditions. And then there’s the issue of privacy.

The school’s vice principal told Chinese media that after a long-month trial, the stundents have started to get used to the surveillance system. Chinese social media users still have a hard time getting used to it though:

“Is this a concentration camp? They are kids, not the target of dictatorship,” one person wrote on Weibo.

“If I was still at school, I would not be able to concentrate on anything but that watching eye!” another Weibo user commented.

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