Futures Thinking offers ways of addressing, even helping to shape, the future; it is not about gazing into a crystal ball. It illuminates the ways that policy, strategies and actions can promote desirable futures and help prevent those we consider undesirable. It stimulates strategic dialogue, widens our understanding of the possible, strengthens leadership, and informs decision-making.
What is Futures Thinking?
Futures Thinking is a method for informed reflection on the major changes that will occur in the next 10, 20 or more years in all areas of social life, including education. Futures Thinking uses a multidisciplinary approach to pierce the veil of received opinion and identify the dynamics that are creating the future.
While the future cannot be reliably predicted, one can foresee a range of possible futures and ask which are the most desirable for particular groups and societies. A variety of methods - qualitative, quantitative, normative, and exploratory - help illuminate the possibilities, outline policy choices, and assess the alternatives.
Why Futures Thinking?
Futures Thinking offsets the short-term thinking in the public and private sectors, governments tending to focus on the next election and businesses on quarterly performance.
Futures Thinking looks beyond immediate constraints. It helps people remember that existing attitudes and frameworks, which often seem immutable and insurmountable in the short term, are ripe for change in the long term. Futures Thinking creates an environment for deeply informed decision-making with a sustainable balance between short- and long-term policy goals, smoothing the transition toward a positive future.
Why is it pertinent to education?
Educational policymaking now consists primarily of short-term efforts to solve immediate problems or improve efficiency. The institutional culture tends to look back at the past rather than forward to the future. Futures Thinking seeks to address this problem by clarifying and deepening understandings of the dynamics of change in education systems, schools and communities. However, despite the fundamental, long-term impact of education on individuals and societies, Futures Thinking has been neglected in education compared to policy sectors such as energy, the environment, transport, and even pensions.
Long-term thinking is imperative given the rapidity and complexity of change today. OECD countries are rapidly transforming into knowledge societies with increasing demands for education and expectations for citizenship. To prepare the youth of today to meet the challenges of tomorrow requires making strategic decisions, not merely to reform, but to reinvent, education.
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