If secondary education died tomorrow, what would its epitaph be? This question was used as a springboard by school administrators in the Netherlands to rise above the distraction of today’s pressing needs and spur innovative ideas on what tomorrow’s schools should look like. Schooling for Tomorrow: Think Scenarios, Rethink Education points out that today’s educational thinking profoundly influences the lives of individuals and the health of whole communities for decades to come, yet much decision-making tends to deal with immediate issues.
Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that. Five years ago a study by the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) proposed six forward-looking scenarios of how schooling might develop, and the potential role of policy to help shape these futures. The models range from a robust bureaucratic archetype where change is resisted to a “meltdown” scenario in which a lack of teachers and sliding standards brings schooling to a crisis. In between are market-oriented schools, the school as community centre, a focused-learning scenario that prioritises quality instruction, and the school as part of a high-tech networked society.
Five years later, CERI’s Schooling for Tomorrow: Think Scenarios, Rethink Education looks at how different countries have adapted these scenarios to their own needs. For instance, Canada’s Vision 2020 asked what impact each CERI forecast would have on francophone school governance and, specifically, on a French-language school. With the participation of students, young parents and teachers, Vision 2020 created a seventh scenario for a French-language School of the Future. The Netherlands’ Slash/21 project envisions schooling based on two core concepts: the rise of the knowledge society and increasing individualisation. England’s FutureSight programme asked if a school can operate without timetables or subject-based curricula.
Other questions have been raised: Who “owns” education? What do children want to learn, and what must they learn? How can schools educate world citizens? Schooling for Tomorrow: Think Scenarios, Rethink Education–which will also appear as a chapter in the forthcoming Education Policy Analysis– explores how educational planners may expose the values and assumptions that influence their thinking. In the words of one planner, this may help avoid “redesigning a school which was created 30 or 40 years ago.”
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©OECD Observer No 255, May 2006
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