A glance at the future with education in mind

Within the UNESCO initiative Futures of Education, NEPC organised a focus group with educational experts from all over the vast NEPC region to discuss the role and features of education in the future considering the unprecedented global challenges.

The discussion about the hopes and concerns for the future is mainly the discussion about how to face global issues. While talking about what they are most hopeful about in 2050, the visions of the future world that emerged from of our experts is a world where borders have minimal impact on people’s lives, a world where people know how to meaningfully cooperate with and understand each other, where they take care of their heritage, take a socially responsible approach to the use of technology, think about their future in advance, take an interdisciplinary approach to science, a world where consumerism is not the societal imperative.

This world can only be realised if we recover our relationship with the environment, renouncing to conquer nature and start perceiving ourselves as part of nature.

Our participants recognise three agents of change that may also describe the process of changes: (who) the young generation; (how) the bottom-up approach and (why) human nature.

The young generations are considered to be the ones who by reinterpreting the economic imperatives can play a key role in preserving our planet. The bottom-up initiatives and numerous grassroots organisations focusing on the community changes on a smaller level provide bottom-up solutions and may represent a key factor in addressing global challenges. The driving force may be found in human nature and our deep need for stability and a feeling of belonging to counterbalance the decades of rapid change.

When discussing reasons for concern in 2050, we can recognise four major streams of concerns:

The polarization of society that brings division, raising populism and raising inequalities that are not only a threat themselves but are also preventing society from finding a common response and provide solutions to the current major global problems focusing on security. The responses to global issues guided by the above-mentioned phenomena could jeopardise or limit personal freedoms.

The climate crisis mentioned by most of the participants (climate change, consumerism, pollution, waste of resources, rising insecurity) represents a double risk because it represents a huge issue per se with its consequences but also for the meaning behind the lack of global political responses.

Participants reported concerns regarding the role and perception of knowledge in the future. They are concerned about the further relativizing of knowledge, science and facts, the ‘rise of a mediocre kind of thought, not aiming for the high’ and the tendency of focusing only on one segment of humanity when it comes to knowledge. Finally, the gadget dependency of the population has been mentioned for its alarming consequences on physical and mental health.

The next ten years will decide how our future will look; our responses to the burning global problems will determine the future in 2050 and education is a major tool that can help us and show the right path.

If we recognise education as a driving force in reimagining the future, then we might need to (re)think the collective purpose of education: our participants emphasised several levels of collective purposes of education but also discussed the understanding of the collective education purpose.

future with education in mind

Even though education should not divert from the mission to help every individual, no matter their background, to reach and fulfil their individual potential and to contribute to the general wellbeing of society, in the current contexts we must explore how education can contribute to the transition from the imperative of economic growth to social responsibility and sensitiveness towards others. Education systems should be built around the pillars of mutual understanding, social sensibility, self-respect, human dignity, and develop the skills of sustainable problem solving, ethical decision making and critical thinking with ethical underpinning.

The sustainable problem solving will enhance learners ability to provide future-oriented solutions but it must be guided by ethical decision-making. Contemplating the large variety of influential factors and their implications such as artificial intelligence or machine learning requires critical thinking with ethical underpinning. We have witnessed the dangerous interpretation of science and history under the label of critical thinking; it can be an opportunity if exercised within an ethical framework and dangerous without it.

The collective purpose of education may also mean the coexistence of different epistemologies and different purposes of education. The collective purpose should allow the diversity of purposes being an exercise in respectful coexistence.

The education systems should support the young generations’ initiatives and movements to address the global issues by supporting them in formulating their demands and encourage those human characteristics that have often demonstrated the power to change the systems: creativity and innovation.

Education should contribute to defining productivity beyond what capitalism entails to ensure learners explore the meaning of their life beyond the current understanding of work.

The education systems should be perceived and conceived as intergenerational and as a human process: beyond schooling, curricula, subjects and learning outcomes, and focus on learning together, based on a holistic understanding of human being instincts and needs: to learn, to grow, to feel, to participate but also to move, to smell, to be creative…

Considering the rapid changes that we have experienced in the last decades, it is difficult to foresee the how, what and where of the learning process without knowing who will be recognised as a teacher in the future and who will be seen as a student.

We may imagine teachers to be individuals who have something to offer the community rather than satisfying the requirements of qualification and the students to be learners regardless of their group divisions (age, abilities, and background). They interact in an education system where the learning process acknowledges the power of playing and the arts and where learning about the world is not packed in boxes of subjects but encouraged through curiosity. Such a concept requires a deep revision of the existing division between STEM and humanistic sciences, the reflection on the abilities and inclinations of learners and the rejection of the assessment as it is today.

We can imagine education as a meeting point beyond walls, schools and institutions, however, the final aim must be to ensure equal access to quality education for all and this is possible only if we understand it as a public good that we all have the responsibility to support, take care of and protect.

Experts group:
Batuhan Aydagul, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mario Bajkuša, Forum for Freedom in Education
Maria Golubeva, Latvian Parliament
Dženana Husremović, University of Sarajevo
Elena Lenskaya, Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences
Radmila Rangelov-Jusović, Center for Educational Initiatives Step by Step

Nedim Krajišnik, Center for Educational Initiatives Step by Step

Watch also:

Futures of Education NEPC focus group: Hopes and concerns for the year 2050

Futures of Education NEPC focus group: What should be the collective purposes of education in 2050?

Futures of Education NEPC focus group: How should what, how and where we learn change in the future?

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