A high school in Hangzhou, China, uses facial recognition technology in the classrooms to make sure the children are paying attention. The system scans the face of each student every 30 seconds to determine their emotions and actions. The high school, Hangzhou No. 11 High School, scans and records the student’s facial expressions and categorizes them into happy, angry, fearful, confused or upset. Apart from recording the facial expressions, it also records actions like reading, writing, raising a hand, and sleeping at a desk. According to the government-run Chinese news website Hangzhou Network, the system is called the “intelligence classroom behavior management system.”
The system also tracks student’s attendance and those student’s faces as well who are used to pay for canteen lunches and borrow items from the library. According to a school official, “The system is advanced enough to capture the subtle facial expressions in class […] This data system can be used to analyze the behavior of the entire class. And, of course, this is a very efficient way to check attendance.” The system makes roll call unnecessary since it can crosscheck its database of student’s faces to determine who is present and who is absent in less than a minute. In response to the concerns over privacy, the school principal, Ni Ziyuan said that the privacy of their students is protected because the technology saves and stores the faces on a local server instead of putting it on the cloud.
This is particularly important after the news of data breach that occurred last year by a Chinese company Qihoo 360 shut down hundreds of surveillance live streaming channels after privacy concerns. The channel streamed live camera footage from several public locations including locations like swimming pools, restaurants, and classrooms which were protected only by a single password. Despite the criticism, the vice principal insists that the facial recognition technology will have a positive impact on the overall educational experience. He said, “With the aid of this management system, it is equivalent to having one additional teaching assistant for teachers, which can improve the pertinence of education and the effect of classroom teaching.”
He also assured that the cameras are monitoring the performance of teachers so that they can adjust teaching methods based on what seems like working. This is not the first time facial recognition technology has been implemented in China. Previously, this technology has also been used to increase efficiency and improve policing. When it comes to surveillance in schools, China is not the only country which is using the technology to monitor its students. Earlier this year, Delhi, India confirmed that it would be implementing surveillance cameras in all the government schools. The technology will also allow parents access to streaming footage of classrooms in real time.