The worlds and scenarios presented here are stories of possible futures, between twenty and thirty years from 2009, based on the research carried out for the Beyond Current Horizons programme. They describe possible social and technological changes that might take place, and what these changes might mean for education. Each of the three worlds describes a different possible future, with its own particular goals, challenges and opportunities for educators. Within each world, two scenarios describe different ways in which the education community might respond to these goals, and the sort of education structures that might arise as a result.
These different possible futures offer the opportunity to consider assumptions about the values, institutions and social structures that affect how education works, and to think about the ways in which these assumptions might lead to outcomes that are desirable, or undesirable. They are grounded in current social research, though at the same time deliberately paint a picture of society with a broad brush, in order to make comparisons between them easier and to bring them to life more readily. We hope that these scenarios will act as a catalyst for discussion and provoke debate, and be useful tools for groups thinking about their future plans, through considering what has been omitted from them as much as exploring what has been included here.
All three worlds have been developed through a consideration of the ways current demographic, environmental and technological trends might intersect with different predominant social values. In world 1, “Trust yourself”, these trends play out in a world where society demonstrates strongly individual values, where people take charge of their own lives and the state accepts few responsibilities. In world 2, “Loyalty points”, these trends develop in a world where there are tensions between individuals and the groups they belong to, where relationships between people, employers and the state are managed by contracts and personal reputations are carefully managed. In world 3, “Only connect”, these trends interact in a world where people see themselves as members of society first and individuals second, where it is recognised that everyone is interdependent and risks facing one group are faced by everybody.
In each of these worlds, there are two ways in which the education system might respond to the particular challenges it faces. The speed and coherence of the sectors’ possible response have been considered, alongside its capacity to recognise social inequalities and the extent to which it develops skills and attributes that support society, and two scenarios produced that each specifically describe a possible education landscape.
Together, they make a set of frames that can be used to examine assumptions and beliefs about education and the way it interacts with currents in society and technology. We hope that they inspire, challenge, and offer a reason to look at the present-day world differently.
You can read a more detailed description of the scenario architectures, and how they were developed, in the final report 2009.