To facilitate Futures Thinking in education, Schooling for Tomorrow invented six scenarios ranging from stable bureaucratic systems to complete system meltdown. They have been extensively used to inform policy debate and professional development in many countries, and can be adapted, combined or totally reinvented.
What are they?
The scenarios were designed to explore possible futures for schooling and sharpen the understanding of the potential role that policy-makers and professionals can play to help shape these futures. They cover organised learning from the primary through to late secondary education, but they are not rigidly demarcated. The scenarios are set around 15 to 20 years in the future – long enough for significant change to occur, but not so far off as to be remote to any but futurists.
Proposing several scenarios underlines that there is not one pathway into the future but many. The SfT scenarios are “outcome-based” snapshots of the future, depicting possible end states of specific development paths. These outcomes might give rise to new developments, becoming starting points for new futures. The focus on education, rather than broader social or economic scenarios, has been deliberately chosen to give educators tools using variables with which they are familiar.
All the scenarios combine different elements – trends, plausible inter-relationships between clusters of variables, and guiding policy ideas. They share the same five-dimensional framework, so that one can look at similar issues in different futures. The scenarios are “ideal types” that are not expected to occur in pure form in the real world. They deliberately exaggerate features to clarify options and choices. This makes them sometimes provocative, even alarming, and helps to galvanise attention.
What they are not
In addition to understanding what the Schooling for Tomorrow scenarios are, it is also important to understand what they are not. They are not predictions seeking to forecast futures as accurately as possible. Long-term planning based on specific predictions runs a high risk of failure, and this is not the aim. The value of Futures Thinking is in opening minds to consider new possibilities and to deal with change.
Second, these scenarios are not prescriptive visions for an ideal future, though others may use them to clarify their own visions. They are descriptive of possible futures, including those we may not like as much as those we may. Thirdly, they refer to learning systems (schooling) not schools as organisations. They are pictures of the entire education system, not close-ups of the “school of the future”.
Lastly, the Schooling for Tomorrow scenarios do not spell out all the steps that might lead to these futures.
Each of the scenarios is described in detail in 'Scenarios for the Future of Schooling' (see below). You can access an overview of their key characteristics scenario by scenario here:
And explore the framework each scenario shares with the others here:
CERI/OECD University futures scenarios