ERNIE-Tiny : A Progressive Distillation Framework for Pretrained Transformer CompressionDownload PDF


08 Mar 2022 (modified: 05 May 2023)NAACL 2022 Conference Blind SubmissionReaders: Everyone
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Paper Type: Long paper (up to eight pages of content + unlimited references and appendices)
Abstract: Pretrained language models (PLMs) such as BERT adopt a training paradigm which first pretrain the model in general data and then finetune the model on task-specific data, and have recently achieved great success. However, PLMs are notorious for their enormous parameters and hard to be deployed on real-life applications. Knowledge distillation has been prevailing to address this problem by transferring knowledge from a large teacher to a much smaller student over a set of data. We argue that the selection of thee three key components, namely teacher, training data, and learning objective, is crucial to the effectiveness of distillation. We, therefore, propose a four-stage progressive distillation framework ERNIE-Tiny to compress PLM, which varies the three components gradually from general level to task-specific level. Specifically, the first stage, General Distillation, performs distillation with guidance from pretrained teacher, gerenal data and latent distillation loss. Then, General-Enhanced Distillation changes teacher model from pretrained teacher to finetuned teacher. After that, Task-Adaptive Distillation shifts training data from general data to task-specific data. In the end, Task-Specific Distillation, adds two additional losses, namely Soft-Label and Hard-Label loss onto the last stage. Empirical results demonstrate the effectiveness of our framework and generalization gain brought by ERNIE-Tiny. In particular, experiments show that a 4-layer ERNIE-Tiny maintains over 98.0% performance of its 12-layer teacher BERT on GLUE benchmark, surpassing state-of-the-art (SOTA) by 1.0% GLUE score with the same amount of parameters. Moreover, ERNIE-Tiny achieves a new compression SOTA on five Chinese NLP tasks, outperforming BERT by 0.4% accuracy with 7.5x fewer parameters and 9.4x faster inference speed. Source code for this paper is available on
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