Anticipating the future is something we do all the time, which is why it’s hard for me to say:
What teenagers learn today – will likely become irrelevant by the time they’re 40.
Assumptions about the future shape of education, from students and parents’ everyday decision-making to the grand plans of government, means there’s no traditional model anymore, a moment where you learn and retain knowledge and then keep it for the rest of your life. That’s all gone.
Liberals have forever agonised about an ideal educational model. Our best efforts have left us still with an uneasy sleep. But when we wake up in the morning to our educational future, what do we all want to see?
There is one vision we can be sure of: all solutions might not be perfect but they do need to serve their age.
UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) understands this, tackling its own educational vision for the world in the face of technological acceleration and climate change. And they have just done a wonderful thing. Over a million educationalists around the world participated in UNESCO’s ‘Futures of Education’ process, a global collective intelligence that now forms the core of a new educational report, ‘Learning to Become Together’.
UNESCO is looking for more than a conversation and as the title suggests, it requires the full commitment of everyone. To UNESCO, Education now and in the future, will be like a sailor who must rebuild his ship on the open sea, never able to start at the bottom.
Knowledge, learning, and education are the foundations for all the changes we see in our world. Their power lies in connecting us with others, moving us beyond the spaces we already inhabit and exposing us to new possibilities and new ideas.
The human practice of education, across all cultures, of producing knowledge and supporting it, has resulted in vast, beautiful reservoirs. And this lapping ocean is one of our most valuable renewable resources – UNESCO has drawn from its waters.
After all, the development of language, numeracy, and systems of writing has facilitated the spread of knowledge across time and space.
UNESCO is acutely aware that the world will continue to change and computing that change itself must be built into the curricula – by intentionally cultivating learners’ capacities for problem-recognition and problem-solving.
Clever. Problem-posing education engages students in new, exciting projects, initiatives, and activities that require discovery and collaboration. Reframing what it means to be human by rebalancing our relationships with each other, with the living planet and with technology.
And we can do all this because young children possess a remarkable ability to attend to the world in ways that renew it. Few can see the world anew and afresh the way a child can. Children’s attention to the experiences of others and the curiosity they exhibit towards a world that is unknown and pregnant with possibility, provides us with an opportunity to expand and thrive across all ages.
In fact, the intimate embrace of the new and unforeseen, as taught early on in childhood education, should also extend beyond the child into all educational settings.
At the same time, UNESCO demonstrates how we can embed a commitment to environmental sustainability through education – showing how we can live within planetary boundaries by not compromising the natural ecosystems of which we are all a part.
And no vision for the future of education can be explored without considering the emerging job market. New professions are coined every day including some of the most esoteric, like virtual world designers. It’s an illustration of the chaos in life when even the slightest tic in technology can have fantastical effects on education.
As I write, a University of Europe has been established to focus solely on Motion Graphics Design and scenography to support emerging AI technologies (https://www.ue-germany.com).
Connected technologies underpin participation in ever-expanding areas life, learning, and work. Beyond supporting universal access to technology, education systems today are justifiably striving to develop the skills required to make meaningful use of technology. Unlike other disciplines in our educational history, there is nothing ‘native’ or ‘natural’ about the new skills that are emerging and so by necessity, they have to be constructed and refined in the present – through intentional educational interventions alongside various forms of self-directed learning.
This is a historical moment and all educational entities need to respond, pronto. It is marked by an acceleration of the technological along with the exponentials in biotechnology and neuroscience.
It has to be said, we’re only just getting started.
Education can be appreciated from so many different viewpoints. From that of the state, the teacher, the parent or indeed from younger minds like Greta Thunberg’s. Each contributing something significant to the ideal.
From the creation of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the United Nations – organisations like UNESCO are playing their part in these processes of common stewardship. They deserve our full attention and respect.
Given the urgency, a recommitment to inclusive engagement has become increasingly important. The seismic contributions to this report represent an educational blueprint for the future of humanity and the planet – a catalyst, and possibly even a provocation, for broad social dialogue across the world which starts here in with this blog. I highly recommend you read the report.
For no other reason than democracy is impossible without good education.
Often penning his work under the title ‘Significant Void,’ Christopher Templeton creates screenplays and social media content focusing on relatable stories. He incubates ideas, harnesses the power of activism and then matches his script output to a complimentary range of channels in education, film and technology.
He has a long list of documentary, radio, film and published credits and within the last year alone has produced documentary scripts on data privacy and climate change; the first reality TV mental health series; teacher toolkits on the subject of war and migration for US Schools; YouTube Channel content for influencers with 1m+ subscribers – all interconnected with the purpose of driving debate and disrupting the status quo.
What do you think about the future of education? You can share your responses to Christopher in the comments below.