The project’s evidence-building activity was organised around five research challenges. Within these key overarching socio-cultural/socio-economic fields, the project explored:
- the ways in which trends in these fields may intersect with developments in science and technology
- the implications of such developments for the goals, organisation and methods of education.
The challenge activities – led by experts in each field, steered by the Expert Advisory Group and informed by public engagement activities – built a robust evidence base, which underpinned the development of the 6 Future scenarios.
What were the five challenges?
Challenge 1: Generations and lifecourse – understanding trends in demographics, family structure, intergenerational relationships and aging.
Challenge 2: Identities, citizenship, communities – understanding the development of cultural identity, citizenship and community in the context of globalising/localising forces.
Challenge 3: Knowledge, creativity and communication – understanding trends in the creation, circulation and communication of knowledge.
Challenge 4: Work and employment – understanding trends in work and employment.
Challenge 5: State/market/third sector – understanding trends in relationships between state, private and third sector provision of public services.
Key questions for each challenge
The challenges addressed the following questions:
- What are the key trends in each challenge area?
- What are the potential futures that might pertain as a result of these trends in the period 2025 – 2050?
- What are the potential implications of these different futures for education, with respect to educational goals/personnel/ institutions/methods of teaching and learning/resources/outcomes?
- What evidence do we have of existing interventions or developments (from education or other sectors) that would allow education to respond to these potential futures?
In exploring the potential implications for education of the key trends and potential futures in each challenge, the following ‘elements of education’ were considered:
Educational goals: In these different scenarios how will the ‘goals’ of education change? What demands for qualification, socialisation and subjectification will there be as a result of these trends and in these different futures? What implications would there be for assessment practices?
Educational ‘personnel’: Who will be teaching/learning/mentoring/ caring in the light of these trends and in these different futures? How will risk to each of these different groups be exacerbated or reduced in different futures?
Educational institutions: Given these trends and potential scenarios, how might education be organised and governed? What accountability measures could be considered? What organisational and institutional structures become possible?
Educational methods: Given these trends, how might learning best be supported? How might teaching best be enabled? How might we best assess the outcomes of these methods? What evidence do we have now that could be mobilised to respond to these trends?
Educational tools: In these different scenarios, what artefacts (material, conceptual, knowledge-based, technical) will we be able to employ in support of education and assessment? What interventions and practices that we see in education now could give us insight into how we might use these artefacts in future?
Educational outcomes: In these different scenarios who will benefit? Who will be at risk? What interventions could be designed to enable equity of outcome?
Beliefs about education: In these different scenarios, what views might the wider public have about the goals and aspirations of education? What different approaches to education might they more readily accept or reject?
A programme of cross-subject activities supported the research challenge leads, and ensured close collaboration and cross-fertilisation of evidence.
What were the outcomes?
Firstly, a set of research papers, which are all available in the evidence section.
Secondly, a set of 6 Future scenarios, which were informed by these research challenge outcomes.
How were the challenges selected?
The five research challenges were selected by the Expert Advisory Group, which was informed by:
- the vision for Beyond Current Horizons
- the Futures Review
- informal interviews and consultation with leading researchers and thinkers
- public engagement activities, including an online survey and face-to-face discussion events
- a set of papers that were commissioned from leading researchers on a long-list of challenges.