What schools for
Futures thinking and leading for uncertainty
Traditionally, the year 2020 has held great allure for future thinkers. One hundred years ago, at the turn of the 20th century, the 21st century and the symmetrical date of 2020 in particular, inspired many dramatic predictions – from flying cars to living on distant planets (though still apparently living in traditional nuclear families).
In real life, as we now know, the year 2020 was shocking for a completely different reason: the global COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic, physical and social disruption. It was a painful and-all-too real reminder that comfortable assumptions about the future can change in an instant. In fact, there are always multiple versions of the future – some are assumptions, others hopes and fears. To prepare, we must consider not only the changes that appear most probable, but also the ones that we are not expecting.
This paper argues that futures thinking
is an essential component to leading education systems in increasingly uncertain times. Building on the Four OECD Scenarios for Schooling (OECD, 2020), which I wrote with my co-author Marc Fuster, it connects foresight and futures thinking to work on complexity and systems-thinking in education. It argues that we need to build long-term strategic thinking in education, and reinforce futures thinking to help identify potential opportunities and challenges and stress-test against unexpected shocks. Using the ideas generated in active discussion with a broad set of stakeholders, it can help us to better prepare and act now.
Overview & Preview
The author discusses how there are always multiple versions of the future – some assumptions, others hopes and fears – and argues that, to prepare, we must consider not only the changes that appear most probable, but also the ones that we are not expecting. Arguing the need to encourage informed dialogue on educational futures with analysis on complexity and systems-thinking, she focuses and comments on the four scenarios she co-authored via the OECD. She joins the international call for insisting on education as a public good and highlights a series of tensions inherent in strategic thinking and planning for the futures of schools and schooling that must be discussed to take action now.
About the author.
Tracey has authored numerous articles, reports, books and book chapters, including most recently Trends Shaping Education 2022; Back to the Future of Education: Four OECD Scenarios for Schooling; Education in the Digital Age: Happy and Healthy Children and Educating 21st Century Children: Emotional Well-Being in the Digital Age.
Previous to her time at the OECD she conducted research on language acquisition in children and newborn infants and was an award-winning lecturer on child development. Tracey holds a BA from McGill University, Canada, and a PhD in experimental psychology from Northeastern University, United States.
This paper argues that futures thinking is an essential component to leading education systems in increasingly uncertain times.
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