The aim of the Futures Review was to provide a context for the early phases of Beyond Current Horizons, and to help us ask: ‘What are the really big questions for education in the context of social and technological change?’
The paper gives an overview of the futures studies field, summarises some previous futures work from organisations such as the UN, Shell and the UK Ministry of Defense, and begins to explore some of the implications this work might have for education.
The full version of the Futures Review can be downloaded as a pdf – see link above. On this page you will find the paper’s introduction.
Purpose of this paper
This paper aims to provide a context for the early phases of the Beyond Current Horizons programme, which is tasked with producing:
a long-term and challenging vision for education in the context of socio-technological change to 2025 and beyond.
The paper is intended to stimulate debate about the principles, methods and focus areas that should structure the programme going forward. Essentially, this paper is intended to help us ask: ‘what are the really big questions for education in the context of social and technological change?’
It in no way presents a ‘settled’ view of educational and technological futures that we ‘predict’, but is, instead, intended to encourage a mapping of the broad fields with which the programme may choose to engage.
It is intended for use primarily by the Beyond Current Horizons programme team and partners in developing the programme, by the Expert Advisory Group in choosing the five challenges and by the Technology, Education and Social Responsibility Group in advising the programme in its earliest stages.
Content of this paper
How do we ask questions of the future?
In contrast to many popular conceptions, ‘the future’ is not determined solely by developments in science and technology, but by the ways in which these developments interact with social and cultural contexts and trends. The invention of a jetpack, as many commentators from the 60s will attest, is no guarantee of widespread adoption or changes in social practice.
Similarly, education will not be changed simply as a result of a given invention or discovery, but by the ways in which these developments are incorporated into social life (changing our values and goals for education) or into educational practice (changing the methods and tools we have available to education).
As such, this paper does not start with an account of technological developments, but with a wider range of trends and issues as identified by respected futures research. It is only by developing a complex picture of the potential relationships between technological, scientific and socio-cultural development, we argue, that we will develop a picture of possible educational futures that is robust and which avoids the realms of science fiction. Only having first explored these diverse social and cultural trends do we then go on to talk more specifically about the potential role of technological and scientific developments in these contexts, and their consequent potential implications for education.
The review therefore covers four areas.
First, we discuss some of the different methods to studying the future currently in use as a rapid introduction to readers to the range of approaches in the field.
Second, we present summaries of some ‘previous futures’ and draw out areas of shared concern and attention. These future scenarios are drawn from a range of different sectors: from government, industry, not-for-profit and international organisations.
Third, we explore the place of technology in these and other futures, we discuss the complexity of the relationship between social and technological change, and we identify three categories within which we feel technological innovation may offer challenges or insights for education in the coming years.
Finally, we identify a set of potential organising questions which might provide raise provoke rich discussion about the potential future choices offered to education in its response to, influence over and exploitation of socio-technological change.