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South Korean robots teach kids English

Soon, the proverbial apple to for the teacher may be a thing of the past. In fact, the actual teacher may also be a thing of the past, at least in the traditional sense of the word. A new pilot program in South Korea has done away with the pesky human bodies that have traditionally been associated with the title of teacher, and replaced them with fatter versions of R2-D2 that look as if they have swallowed a Caucasian woman.

The Engkey robots are the first step in what may be the wave of the future when it comes to teaching.  In schools across the southeastern city of Daegu, South Korea, 29 of the robots have usurped the position of their human overlords, and are currently teaching South Korean children the English language.

The robots stand at 3.3 feet high, and each feature a TV displaying the facsimile of a Caucasian woman. Behind the face, the robot is actually being controlled remotely by teachers in the Philippines who can see and hear the students. When the teachers react, their facial expressions are then represented by the robot’s digital face.

“Well-educated, experienced Filipino teachers are far cheaper than their counterparts elsewhere, including South Korea,” Sangong Seong-Dae, a senior scientist at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology–the group responsible for developing the robots–told the Associated Foreign Press.

According to Physorg.com, the robots speak English to the students, read books to them, and dance to music by moving their robotic head and arms, something the children enjoy, apparently.

“The kids seemed to love it since the robots look, well, cute and interesting. But some adults also expressed interest, saying they may feel less nervous talking to robots than a real person,” Kim Mi-Young, an official at Daegu city education office said.

Kim claimed that one of the primary reasons for the robotic teachers would be to send the teacher-bots (our word, not theirs) to rural areas of Korea where English speaking teachers are rare, and most are unwilling to relocate. The robots are still in the testing phase, but Korean officials have already shown interest and claim that if the controls are streamlined and the costs are lowered, many robots might go on the payroll, so to speak.

“Having robots in the classroom makes the students more active in participating, especially shy ones afraid of speaking out to human teachers,” Kim told the AFP.

Kim also stressed that the robots would not be considered as a replacement for teacher, just as an addition to them. At least until the next time a teacher demands a raise…

So far the four month experiment, which was sponsored by the government, has cost around $1.37 million. The current English teacher-bots have also been used to teach math, science and other subjects at different levels. The report claims that each robot costs around $10 million won, or roughly $8,750. No word yet on who will pay for years of therapy after a generation of maladjusted Korean children who were raised by automatons reaches maturity.

Please feel free to insert your own jokes below. They may range from American version of these robots packing chainsaws in unruly high schools, to the fun filled years of damage that children may face when much of their day is spent taking orders from a robot.