China’s use of facial recognition technology is going beyond the search for wanted criminals and is now making an appearance in the classroom, ensuring that students are paying attention to their lessons.

Installed in a classroom just above a blackboard are cameras to monitor students in an unnamed primary school in Hangzhou, China. The cameras, working in conjunction with a software system, can register students' facial expressions and use that data to determine if students are focusing on their lessons or not. Likewise, the system can also distinguish among student facial expressions including those associated with feeling happy, neutral, sad, disappointed, angry, surprised and scared.

Recognizing that a student isn’t focused on the teacher’s lesson, the system will report that information to the teacher.

One child in the classroom said: "Previously when I had classes that I didn't like very much, I would be lazy and maybe take a nap on the desk or flick through other textbooks. But I don't dare be distracted since the cameras were installed in the classrooms. It's like a pair of mystery eyes are constantly watching me."

Despite earning criticism from some within the education community, Mr. Ni, the school’s headmaster, credits the technology with improving education.

"It's the same as teachers having an assistant, and it can improve the quality of teaching," said Mr. Ni. "Some have said it can infringe the privacy of students, but it only records students' movements, rather than filming activities in class. And those who focus on lectures will be marked with an A, while students who let their minds wander will be marked with a B."

Although the technology is only used in one classroom for now, it is expected that facial recognition technology will be used in classrooms throughout the school come summer.

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