Launch of Futures of Education report
Education needs a new social contract to transform the future says report by UNESCO’s International Commission
UNESCO launched a new global report on the Futures of Education entitled Reimagining our futures together: A new social contract for education at its headquarters on 10 November 2021. Two years in the making and informed by a global consultation process engaging over one million people, this report calls for significant transformation in education to repair past injustices and enhance our capacity to act together for a more sustainable and just future.
Prepared by an International Commission on the Futures of Education chaired by the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Ms Sahle-Work Zewde, the Report is part of a flagship, once-in-a-generation initiative to rethink how knowledge and learning can shape the future of humanity and the planet. Launched before the pandemic, the Commission’s work is a projection of education to the year 2050 and beyond.
To navigate key disruptions relating to climate, democratic participation, digitalization and work, the report proposes a new social contract for education that aims to rebalance our relationships with each other, the planet and technology. This new social contract must be based on the right to quality education throughout life and strengthen education as a public societal endeavour and a common good. These universal principles must become foundational in education everywhere.
“At a time when climate, health and technological challenges are intersecting, rethinking education is more necessary than ever to give direction to the future,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “And we must do this together because tomorrow’s education needs to make more room for participation and contribution of the entire educational community and of society at large. This report proposes actions to forge this new social contract for our societies.”
The Report calls for pedagogies that move away from a focus on teacher-driven lessons to instead emphasize cooperation, collaboration, and solidarity. It urges that curricula shift towards ecological, intercultural, and interdisciplinary learning. It states that teaching should be further professionalized as a collaborative endeavour and teachers recognized as key figures in educational and social transformation. It calls for schools to be protected as indispensable sites to promote inclusion, equity and collective well-being, but also redesigned to encourage more collaboration and to become exemplars of sustainability and carbon neutrality. The Report makes a call for a collaborative research programme on the right to education throughout life and urges renewed global solidarity and international cooperation to expand educational opportunities across the human lifespan and across social, cultural and professional spaces. It affirms that the right to education needs to be broadened to be lifelong and encompass the right to connectivity.
“One of the key messages our Commission heard from all the consultations is that education is not only essential for individuals to live dignified and meaningful lives; it is also crucial for shaping our shared futures,” said President Sahle-Work Zewde. “This is why thinking about education as a form of shared well-being is a key idea running through the report. Our education systems need to better emphasize our interconnectedness, foster critical thinking, civic engagement and a consciousness of our shared humanity and planet. Forging a new social contract for education is a critical step towards reimagining our futures together.”
The Report calls for the new social contract for education to be taken forwards and realized by millions of people, institutions, and organizations around the globe, working in partnership and solidarity. UNESCO calls on educators, youth, researchers and decision-makers to commit to renewing education by discussing what we should continue doing, what we should abandon, what needs to be creatively reimagined afresh – and how to make this happen in their educational institutions and communities. It will encourage broad dialogue and action to harness the rich diversity of human creativity, ingenuity, and capacity for innovation to transform educational policy and practice. The Commission argues that never before has the potential to engage in such joint action been greater thanks to access to wide knowledge and collaborative tools.
Appointed by UNESCO’s Director-General in 2019, the International Commission is comprised of thought-leaders from the worlds of politics, academia, the arts, science, business, and education. The commission was charged with carefully considering inputs received through the different consultation processes and ensuring that this collective intelligence was reflected in the global report and other knowledge products connected with the initiative.
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