Facial recognition technology has become a fixture in many Chinese cities, and has even found its way into university classrooms as a way of verifying student attendance.
Most people who’ve made it through school have a story or two about skipping class and the creative little avenues they took to avoid getting caught. The days of students successfully cutting class (and getting away with it) are coming to a close, however — at least they are in China.
At the beginning of the school year, Shen Hao, a professor at the Communications University of China in Nanjing, told students in his six undergraduate courses that their attendance would be tracked with state-of-the-art facial recognition technology. The software — which was built on Chinese tech giant Baidu’s open artificial intelligence platform — runs on Shen’s personal tablet, and has dramatically increased the efficiency of pre-instruction housekeeping.
“The traditional way of tracking attendance is through a roll call,” Shen explains. “The new system saves time and reduces the workload of teachers.” This efficiency boost is incredibly valuable, especially in a university setting where class sizes can climb into the hundreds.
The Proliferation of Facial Recognition Tech Throughout China
During every class, students are asked to stand in front of Shen’s tablet to have their picture taken. The pictures are then cross-referenced with the student ID photos in the university’s administrative database, and once a match is found, the student is marked “present.” This entire process takes just a few seconds per student, and Shen claims that the program has proven to be remarkably accurate, even as students make significant changes to their makeup or hairstyle.
School are the only place you’ll find this tech in China — both railway stations and airports in multiple cities have started using facial recognition systems to confirm passengers’ identities, streamlining a process that has traditionally caused a great deal of congestion in the country’s megacities. The city of Wuhan is trying to use facial recognition cameras to shame jaywalkers out of their bad behavior by projecting high-definition snapshots of offenders on screens located at the intersection where the infraction takes place.
An Alternative to Facial Recognition
As innovative and efficient as Shen’s attendance protocol may be, it isn’t likely to make its way into American schools anytime soon. For one, the right to privacy is more firmly embedded in American society than in Chinese society (although advocates of Shen’s system insist that it’s fully secure). Secondly, most public school districts in the United States are already struggling to find enough funding to integrate new technology into the classroom as it is — the money for facial recognition attendance systems simply isn’t there.
That being said, for American public schools, closely tracking student attendance is a critical part of securing full funding. It’s also an effective way to keep track of students who may be at risk of bad educational outcomes. Research suggests that only 17% of students who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are able to read at grade level by third grade, compared to 64% of students who attend school regularly. What’s more, students who are chronically absent for even a single year between eighth and twelfth grade are 7.4 times more likely to dropout of high school than their peers.
For schools that aren’t comfortable with facial recognition systems, a powerful, easy-to-use educational data verification tool like Vinson’s CheckPoint EMIS platform represents a highly effective alternative.
CheckPoint processes and organizes massive amounts of data, including attendance records, in a fraction of the time it would take to do so by hand. The platform also provides building-by-building breakdowns and analyses, helping district administrators in the state of Ohio easily and confidently validate their data before submitting it to their state Department of Education.