Futures, Trends and Innovations in Education -First Thoughts

I started writing this post several weeks ago, but the pressure of work meant that it did not get completed and published until now.

I recently started co-teaching an MBA course called Emerging Trends and Innovation in Education which has led to me reflecting on education and its relationship with time. It strikes me that the future is part of the raison d’être of education, for without a future of some kind there would seem to me to be little point to education. I think this holds true whether you define education and its purpose more broadly or you use a more narrowly defined characterisation that focuses on formal schooling. One aspect of the pandemic has been that it has made visible the many important functions and roles that teachers and formal schooling play in society. In my view is that this is a good thing for parents, employers and politicians to appreciate that the role of teachers and schools is not limited to the delivery of a curriculum.

Although there are those who lobby for tradition and the “maintenance of standards”, often harping back to some imagined golden age when things were better, it is still their desire to transmit this golden past into the future. So although backward looking, the overall aim is recreate this ‘glorious past’ in the future.

As I am often stating, the question then arises of whether we see the role of education as that of maintaining the status quo, of continuing the world as it now exists or, if the objective is to change the world in some way. If it is the latter, then a wider debate emerges of what that change looks like. It is for this reason that I often become frustrated with those who simply call to improve education and make it better. Better for whom and it what ways? Improve how and for what ends? Without clarity these are just empty platitudes. This is also one of the reasons why I believe that education is always political, not in a party political way, but in terms of whether the objective is stability or change and if change, then what type of change.

Postcard by French commercial artist Jean-Marc Côté in 1899 to commemorate the 1900 world’s fair, “Exposition Universelle,” in Paris. This is his vision of education in the year 2000. The postcards were later published in a book with Isaac Asimov in 1986.

Education has a long history of trying to predict the future and I have no doubt this will continue. As I write this post there are countless projects trying to predict what “post pandemic” education, schools and universities will look like, all with various interest groups vying to push their own agendas. Therefore educational leaders and teachers need to be aware and mindful of of those who are trying to create these futures and frame the narrative. This does not mean we should resist all change or be cynical, but it does mean engaging critically in the debate.

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