The Future of Education: Statesmen, Hackers, Elders and Enablers?

On Thursday night we looked at various possible futures for education as part of the Perth Social Impact Festival. It was the festival contribution from enkel U, the school for changemakers within enkel.

Thinking about the future in a structured process

We used a very basic three-step framework for the night’s discussions, based on the generic foresight process (Joseph Voros, A Generic Foresight Process Framework, 2003), shown in the diagram here.

Joseph Voros, A Generic Foresight Process Framework, 2003

Things happening.

The first stage, inputs, is normally done in a rigorous environmental scanning exercise in order to get a broad view of factors that impact on a theme or issue. As this was a short session, we instead quickly scanned the brains in the room and pulled out about 25 scan hits from the participants. We were lucky to have academics, teachers, education start-ups, charities, consultants, career advisors, government reps and more in the group, and with expertise ranging across many disciplines. Some scan hits were for ex;

  • Automation of the workforce
  • Confusion among potential students due to oversupply of education. What new things have value?
  • Who’s the teacher these days? Kids often know more than their teachers in some subjects.
  • Formal recognition no longer as important
  • MOOCs, massive online open courses were initially praised to be the democratic solution to the inequality in accessing education. Are they really?
  • Artificial intelligence will augment our learning
  • Old educational institutions invested in overheads, assets, staff — i.e. very vulnerable for disruption by online education.
  • An expectation that education is free, as much of it already is these days on the Internet (Wikipedia, Khan Academy, Youtube instruction videos, MOOCs, TED talks etc)
  • Increased gap between haves and have-nots, which can possibly be bridged by tech innovation.
  • Co-design and co-production of learning.
  • Declining student engagement in high school (Gallup, 2017)
  • Digital nomads learning whatever they want, at any time, anywhere.

What seems to be happening?

These observations were clustered in a PESTEL analysis, where we mapped them under Political, Economic, Social, Tech, Environment and Legal themes. Most of our scan hits were under the social; perhaps expected as this event was part of the Social Impact Festival.

What’s really happening?

We then used a causal layered analysis to dig deeper into our findings. What were the underlying drivers, structures and systems here? And what were the values and mindsets that had created these? Could we identify any shifts in our collective myths and stories around education?

There were many insights and a few deeper themes came out:

  • Wisdom vs collective knowledge. The wise elder is less regarded by the young, as the internet and its collective intelligence produces much knowledge these days. But is intelligence and wisdom the same? And is this a theme which goes through all our institutions — not only education?
  • The Master and Apprentice. Is this concept relevant today? In some areas of education it disappears, while it’s strengthening in others.
  • Citizenship vs. me-ship. Education for societal progress or education for my own benefit?

What might happen?

Two of these critical uncertainties were crossed in a so-called “cross-swords” model, to generate four scenarios.

Here we imagined four archetypes of learning models with some examples as roughly outlined in the graph here below (thanks Dave McGinniss for drawing this up!)

Four archetypes for the future of education (enkel collective, @DMc_Gin)

For us in enkel U who are in the process of designing an education for the 21st century, this session was very valuable. We’re normally looking at the Network / Social fulfilment (citizenship) quadrant, but all quadrants here have its merits.

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Thanks to all participants who joined us! For more info about upcoming masterclasses and workshops, sign up to our newsletter here.

Collective in Perth, Western Australia with the mission to create a new generation of changemakers.

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